I just finished Jury Duty. I was last called to serve in November of 2008. I truly believe in serving, for if you expect to receive a jury trial, one must be willing to serve on a jury. As far as I am concerned, Jury Duty and Voting are the two biggest responsibilities we have as citizens. In my opinion, his is one of the few times when the state ensures that you have a right to something that must be provided by someone else. Let me detail my experiences and thoughts:
First, they sent a jury summons to 200 people, and less than 110 actually showed up. Since Florida selects juries from Driver’s license records, anyone who is sent a summons and does not respond either doesn’t want to serve, or has an incorrect address on their license, and should have their license suspended until they contact the court. If after contacting the court, the citizen states that he or she is not willing to serve, then that citizen has voluntarily forfeited the right to jury trial for any charges or lawsuits that are brought within 24 months after he or she makes themselves willing and able to serve. There can be exceptions made for hardship cases, and asking to postpone jury duty for a period of not more than 180 days will not count as a refusal to serve. (this will allow people who have emergencies to take care of them without having to forfeit any rights). No one LIKES wasting a day on jury duty, but it must be done if you want a seat at the table.
I sat in a jury waiting room from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. We were held until the judges decided whether or not they would need a jury. I think this is inefficient and disrespectful to the jury pool. These cases are schedule months, weeks, and sometimes years in advance. There is no way to know a week (or even two days) beforehand how many jurors will be needed on a given day? (The case I went to jury selection for was 16 months in the making. Seriously- in 16 months no one knew that there would be a jury needed?) Maybe people wouldn’t complain as much if there wasn’t so much sitting around. Schedule, people. It isn’t hard. The only people who are worse at scheduling is the cable TV installer.
The next thing is: There were only two cases that day that wound up needing juries. 200 people summoned, 110 show (55%), 65 (60% of those who showed up) went to Voir Dire (jury selection), and 14 actually served on a jury.
Jury selection took 3 hours, and the questions asked and speeches made by the two attorneys during voir dire were jury tampering, as far as I am concerned. Here is how I think it should go: pick people at random from the jury pool. As long as they are not closely related to the participants in the case (family, neighbor, or boss/coworker), then you are on the jury. No excuses from anyone. You are it. I don’t want to hear about how voir dire ensures an impartial jury. The last thing those two attorneys wanted was an impartial jury. They were looking for advantage, not impartiality.
Eliminate the waiting and the voir dire, and the length of jury duty would be reduced by 11 hours. It would also eliminate scumbags lying to get out of jury duty by telling the attorneys that they think the defendant is guilty as soon as they see him.