Hey what's going on guys, it's been a little while since I've posted here...school's started back up and I've been a bit occupied. Anyways, I had a somewhat-scary experience in jury duty today and don't really know what happened.
I attend school in Boston and was summoned to Suffolk Superior Courthouse today for jury duty. For those of you who don't know, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts uses a "one day, one trial" system. I wasn't too worried because the common belief is that college students usually aren't selected to decide a trial. In fact, when I filled out the form in the jury room, one of the court officers saw that I was a student and suggested I let the judge know I'm a full-time student and I would probably be excused. So far, so good.
Within two hours (after they showed us a video and a judge talked to all the 200+ jurors on how the process works), I was escorted to a court room with close to 100 other potential jurors. The judge for the case enters, explains how "voir dire" - the selecting of jurors - works. After that, she outlines the case. We were dealing with...first-degree murder!
The judge then says the trial will take an estimated three weeks (most cases are usually a week at the most). I'm a little nervous, but feeling good...it's not likely a judge and the lawyers would pick a college student to serve a THREE-WEEK TRIAL because it would completely ruin their semester, right? Well, the judge then says that she doesn't consider the excuse of someone being in college/school
as valid (same goes for work, home, etc.). Eventually, it's my turn to speak with the judge. Because I've seen the judge ask the same question to several other people already, I know that the "Is there anything that would keep you from serving on the jury for this case?" question is coming up. Right before she gets to it, I explain (like the court officer suggested I do) that I am a full-time undergraduate student, I have tests/papers/projects within the next three weeks, and I would have serious trouble with my classes if I were to serve. Her response? "So...?" That threw me off a bit, but I persisted. I further explained that serving on a three-week case would cause tremendous stress on myself and my family because college costs are about $50,000 and there's no way I would be able to complete my 18 credits if I were to take three weeks off.
The judge FLIPS OUT, asking me, "So did you just pick a Friday so you can blow it off?" and, "Why did you pick a date where you knew you had all of these tests/papers/projects ?" I tried my best to nicely explain that: 1.)I am free TODAY, but not every day for entire three weeks, 2.) I didn't know what my current classes would assign way back in early July when I had to postpone my originally-scheduled jury duty and, 3.) that I'm a full-time student, which means I'm in school all year. She angrily says that I'm unavailable for this case, and that I must return to the jury room and immediately schedule another time to come back in the near future (as this wouldn't count as me doing my duty).
As the court officer in the room walks me out, he tells me, "Just go back to the room and hang out there." When I enter the jury room and find the court officer in the room, I begin to explain that I've been serving my "one day" so far of jury duty, the judge said I am "unavailable" for her case, and I'm not sure what the next step is. He immediately says, "Don't worry about it. I'll mark down that you get credit for the day for serving, I'll see you in three years."
A few other students who were in the same courtroom as me went through the same thing, though I think the judge lashed out at me more because I went after all of them. The court officer told us that, as we thought, college students usually don't end up serving on trials during the fall and spring due to the conflict with their studies. Soon after, everyone is dismissed from the courthouse and I go home.
My dad, who has practiced law for over 25 years, is livid with the judge's behavior. First, he considers the judge's conduct towards me, "very unprofessional and out of line," as she questioned my character and basically tried to force me onto the jury. He is considering writing to the courthouse about the judge's possible lack of professionalism. Secondly, he also feels that the judge should have been more aware of the fact that a three-week case is nearly impossible for a full-time college student since their semester (and all the tuition $$) would be for nothing. If the student had to serve for one day (like today...it's "one day, one trial") or a very short period, it's not really as big a deal.
What do you guys think? I'm not a law guy and don't know a whole lot about how this sort of thing operates, so your insight will really be interesting to read.