My Jury Duty stint was rather uneventful. I didn't get picked for a trial, so most of the day consisted of waiting around in a not-large-enough room with about 300 other randomly selected people. I didn't even get to watch movies like Soccer Dad does when he serves Jury Duty in Baltimore. Their one TV was tuned to the same local station all day, so not being a fan of the talk shows or soaps, there wasn't much there for me. Luckily I had brought a stack of books.
I was brought upstairs to a courtroom once, along with a pool of about 40 other potential jurors. It was a criminal case involving "robbery and aggravated assault" (translation: the guy mugged and beat up someone). They picked 14 of us to sit in the jury box and spent almost an hour going through a set of thirty or so questions. Could you make an unbiased decision, how do you feel about the police, were you ever the victim of a similar crime, do you have prior knowledge of this case, do you know the defendant, do you know the witnesses or lawyers, etc. (Interestingly, they did not ask if we knew the victim, though presumably such acquaintance would be even more prejudicial that the others.) After the general questions, they asked each juror to make a personal statement that included what they and their spouse did for a living, the number/ages of their children, where we got our news, and anything else we wanted to share.
After this process, the two lawyers went through their peremptory challenges in which they are essentially allowed to dismiss jurors for no apparent reason at all. Between them they knocked out seven of the original fourteen, and then, along with six others, I got my turn to sit in the jury box. The judge then went through the same thirty questions all over again for the new seven candidates, and had us make our personal statements.
Soon my turn came, and I faced the dilemma that's become so painfully familiar: talk about Aaron or not? He was so much on my mind that day, and it didn't seem right to ignore him and say I had three children. Yet it felt so piteous and awkward to bring up the loss in front of all those strangers. And I didn't want to get rejected for the jury on that basis; "let's all feel sorry for the poor pathetic bereaved parent". But I was just as reluctant to hide or fudge the truth, especially in such a setting. So when the moment came, I did mention him briefly, and quickly moved on to my other information.
After the long process completed for our group, the attorneys proceeded to dismiss six out of us seven, including me, plus one of the seven they had originally accepted! So they had gained no ground whatsoever from our round of questioning. We went back downstairs wondering how many more repetitions it would take until they finally had an agreed set of jurors.
As the afternoon wore on, it occurred to me that under all its pomp and solemnity, the jury duty system is essentially a big, inefficient bureaucracy, not much different than any other government enterprise. Beneath the surface glamour, spending a day in the jury pool wasn't that much different than spending the day at motor vehicles. Rather underwhelming, but I guess most things are, once you get to know them.