The “invitation” came about 6 or so weeks ago and to be honest it felt like I was in trouble. You see a letter from the Sherrif’s office waiting for you (as it was that night, when I got back from training, on a real high) and you immediately jump to the conclusion that you have done something wrong……especially when you open the letter and see words like “summons” and “failure to appear” and “fine of $1800 per day”…….I will admit it; it put a bit of a downer on my night.
March was shaping up to be a very busy month for me already without the added potential stress of being a Juror. However after looking at the circumstances which gave one the right to defer or decline it, it appeared I did not have a good enough excuse to do so. So I informed my family and my work and prepared myself emotionally and logistically. Neither of these things were easy.
Emotionally I was worried about how it would affect me (in an immediate and delayed sense) if I had to deal with something awful eg a murder or sexual assault case. I called a friend who was on jury duty before and she set my mind a little more at ease on this.
Logistically I had to arrange childcare for my young family for the days when I would normally not be at work and prepare my family for seeing me less and relying on me less (that including extra batch cooking so they wouldn’t have to live on baked beans for a month!). Arrangements have had to include the cooperation of various members of my immediate and extended family and friend networks as well as childcare and out of school hours care. I also had to arrange contingency plans for work since I normally have booked appointments and couldn’t do this as I would only find out the afternoon before if I was available or not the next day.
The first day arrived and I attended an orientation session with about 200 or so people who had been selected. We were told about what would be expected of us, shown a video of what happens in court, sworn in (in sections) and then shown a court room. To be honest I think I felt more nervous than reassured after all that. It’s a pretty big decision that rests on a jury really when you think about it. Your decision will affect the lives of many people which ever decision it it is.
Then came the first of a series of daily texts and emails stating appearance requirements for the following day. My section was called in on the first sitting in March. I attended as instructed and we were briefed on the case we would be required for. There were actually 2 sections (about 60 people) called to court and from this group a jury of 13 were selected. I was the second juror selected “unchallenged” by the lawyers and accused. (Jurors are selected by number out of a ballot box and the lawyers have a list with the names, ages, occupations and suburb address which they can refer to – your position on the jury can be challenged as you walk to the jury box…..this happened to about 10 others but not me). As I sat in the jury box I felt very strange. We had been advised this was to be quite a long (2-3 week) trial and the nature of the alleged crime was indeed very serious. And….there I was sitting facing the accused in the dock.
Once jurors had been selected, and the remaining people had left, the judge started the proceedings without further ado. It became more and more surreal as the day went on and then the following day and the next.
(to be continued)……
Note: Obviously I am not allowed to disclose any details about the case or anything related to it, but my next post will be a reflection of the experience of being on a jury.
NOTE: you can see part 2 in all it’s poetic glory here: https://sagiashidachi.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/being-courted-part-two-the-jury-rap-a-poetic-catharsis-of-the-trial-i-have-just-experienced/