“I have the kind of backside that screams (figuratively), ‘yup. If you’re facing charges of rape, you definitely don’t want me on your jury panel.’”
I was summoned for jury duty last week. I turned up and spent most of the day twiddling my thumbs in what is essentially a large waiting room. In the afternoon I was finally selected for potential involvement in a rape trial, estimated to last two weeks. My number was called out in the courtroom; I was to be the final juror. The accused then objected to my inclusion on the jury panel, and so I was sent home.
The day had some amusing attributes, but on the whole it was a rather boring experience. My boss was kind enough to lend me his laptop, complete with wireless internet access, after I moaned about how boring it was likely to be. This is how the bulk of my previous post was written actually.
We, the jurors, checked in at 9.15 and got ushered to a large seating area, where at some point we got to watch a DVD on how jury things work. One main point I picked up from the DVD was that a local lawn bowls tournament is insufficient reasoning to excuse oneself from a trial. The other one was how the shortlisting of jurors takes place.
Jurors who haven’t been excused from the trial are randomly drawn from a ballot box. Their occupation is read out to the courtroom, and they must then walk past the accused on their way to the jury booth. The accused, with their solicitor’s guidance, decides whether or not they object to this juror being empanelled. If they do, they call out “challenge” and the juror is dismissed from the trial. The defence may object to the empanelling of up to six jurors without stating any justification.
The only thing that is known about a juror is their occupation. Everything else can only be inferred from their appearance. The privilege of challenging potential jurors is offered as a means of attempting to diversify the jury panel, although it seems that nothing would stop the defence from trying to homogenise it with the type of folk they feel will offer them an advantage.
In the case of this rape trial, I suspect that perhaps a bit of each was occurring. When half of the jury had been empanelled, there was a clear dominance of females. From that point forward, almost every single subsequent female was immediately rejected. Some males too (myself included) were subsequently rejected though, and the pattern there seemed to be education-based.
I don’t quite remember all of the selections now. A young bartender got through, and a 40-something plasterer with a heavy foreign accent took my place. I was selected after an older-looking “property developer” in a suit was rejected. I was wearing a suit too for lack of knowing what was acceptable court attire; the property developer and I were two of a very small handful dressed in such a manner.
In any case, no one wearing a suit made it to the jury booth. It would seem that the defence took suits as some sort of warning indicator. Upbringing? Conservativeness? Wealth? It doesn’t really matter. In fact, our choice of attire really could have had no play in it at all.
I managed to make it all the way to the jury booth before I was challenged. It took a good ten to fifteen seconds from me standing up for the defence to reach their decision on me, and they would have seen my suit at the very beginning of that time frame. So I continue to ponder what they may have seen in the last few seconds, or what caused them to hesitate initially.
Perhaps it was the way I walked, and carried myself. Perhaps it was my facial expression. Perhaps I inadvertently gave the defence a greasy as I walked past. In any case I was rejected, and quite frankly I was relieved by this. I didn’t really want to be stuck in a courtroom for two full weeks despite how interesting it may have been at times.
So those of us who were rejected or not even drawn from the ballot were returned to the waiting room, where we were told that since we hadn’t been empanelled and there’d be no more trials that day needing a jury, we were free to go and not return the next day. I picked up my cheque for $37, and headed to work to see if things were running smoothly without me.
Lamentably, that $37 isn’t additional to my regular wages. On the positive side though, my employer has to pay the difference of what I would otherwise have received had I been at work. So I haven’t been monetarily inconvenienced for my jury antics. My employer sure has though. Sucks to be them, I guess.