Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

Jury Duty 2012: I did NOT see that coming!

Today's foray out to the Criminal Courts Building in Riverhead didn't go at all as I anticipated. But unlike Owen Luke Wilson getting his arm hacked off in Anchorman, my jury service proceeded very smoothly.

I expected to be in the Central Jury Room for at least one hour, if not longer. Even though I had my iPad and the room was WiFi equipped, I still wasn't looking forward to it. But after only about fifteen minutes, the right number of prospective jurors arrived, and we were brought upstairs. The first thing we were told was that the proceeding at hand was a "summary trial," a relatively new concept in the New York courts. Most of the agreed upon evidence had been assembled into a single packet, and the only witness would be the plaintiff. The entire thing would wrap up by the end of the day. The case was a personal injury dispute; beyond that, I won't touch on the factual specifics.

I was selected to serve and assigned as Juror No. 1. The attorneys gave their opening statements, the plaintiff took the stand, and after a brief recess, closing arguments were given. Then the judge charged us on the applicable law; on this, he did an excellent job, as several aspects of that charge came up during deliberations. He said he was a "traditional person," and that meant that as number one, I would be assigned the role of foreman. We went back into the jury room, received our evidence packets, and started deliberating as we waited for lunch to arrive (the court ordered in for us). With the benefit of hindsight, I was impressed at how all six of us put aside our gut feelings and focused in on the evidence and merits of the claim. Opinion swung, as the outcome of the matter hinged on an interpretation of one particular word in the question central to the case. As we worked through lunch, we finally arrived at a verdict that we all felt fairly applied the law as the judge had given it to us. We did so knowing that either way we went, someone in the courtroom would be unhappy. This weighed a bit more heavily on me, since it would be my words that actually broke the news to the losing party.

After I read the verdict, I wondered if the jurors would be asked questions by the attorneys after court was adjourned. That wasn't the case. We were led out of the courtroom, and past the jury room to an elevator, and then back down to the Central Jury Room to have our juror cards marked off. I left the building and drove away from the Suffolk County Center without seeing either counsel again.

From the perspective of convenience to me, it could have been a lot worse. As I arrived, there was an Eyewitness News (WABC, Channel 7) cameraman and reporter, there to cover... something. I'm not sure what. Had I been selected for a case like that, I might have been spending a lot more time in Riverhead, and traveling to and from the county seat, and a lot more money on gas (it's nearly fifty miles each way). More importantly than that, the service itself was more substantive than simply waiting around to be called (as was the case the last time I was summoned, nearly ten years ago). Presuming I remain a resident of New York, I've discharged my service obligation for the next six years. All in all, I'll take this experience - although it would be nice if I could find my earbuds...

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