My first jury duty voir dire

courtroomAround August 10, I got a notice in the mail for potential jury selection.

“The law requires you to complete this questionnaire. Please respond within 10 days.
“Your name was selected at random from voter, Department of Motor Vehicles, tax, social services or unemployment lists. This is not a summons. You are NOT required to appear for jury service at this time.”

I went through this seven years ago, but it’s modernized in that I can answer online:

Please enter your e-mail address so we may contact you concerning this questionnaire (2-5 is oui, 6-7 is non):

1. Date of Birth: Month: Day: Year:
2. Can you understand and communicate in English? Yes No
3. Are you a United States citizen? Yes No
4. Are you a resident of Albany County? Yes No
5. Are you at least 18 years old? Yes No
6. Have you been convicted of a felony? Yes No
7. Have you been a juror in State or Federal Court in the last 6 years or in Town or Village Court in the last 2 years? Yes No

TWO weeks later, I get the card saying I had to call in over Labor Day weekend to see if I had to report, and with a number 128, I was fairly certain I would, and I did, starting Tuesday.

I noted this on Facebook, and some folks misunderstood; I was not complaining about doing jury duty, I was frustrated by the TIMING. The week before, The Wife and The Daughter are not yet in school. The week after, they are both in school.

That Tuesday after Labor Day, however, the Wife is at work, but the Daughter doesn’t start school until that Thursday. I would have stayed home with the Daughter, but that proved not to be an option. So the Wife had to drive 75 minutes to drop off the Daughter at the home of the Grandparents, and pick her up the next day.

I report for duty. Virtually all the men have to take off their belts to get through the metal detector. The Commissioner of Jurors gives the overview of the process, and instructs us to fill out the demographic survey.

We’re all sent up to courtroom, and sit on benches, six or seven people per row, with the bailiff periodically reminding us to turn off cellphones and other electronic devices. We all stand and affirm to do the gig fairly. The judge, Thomas Breslin, one of three brothers who are involved in government in the area, presided.

All the numbers of the jurors present are put into some device that reminded me of a small version of the BINGO ball dispenser. They impanel 21 potential jurors, 7-1, 14-8, and 21-15. They had already taken three of six people on my row, when the clerk announced, “128, Roger Green” for seat 12.

The judge talks quite a bit about the obligations of being on the jury, not being biased for or against the police, presumption of innocence of the defendant , and the like. First, though, he had us give our names, what city we’re from, what we do, what our spouse does, the age of our children.

The asked if we had dealings with the police, and whether we had been a victim of a crime. I mentioned bicycles being stolen, but also the assault from 45 years ago. Had I thought it recently? Why yes, I talked with the primary witness just the day before.

The assistant district attorney and the defense lawyer only had 15 minutes each. The defendant’s lawyer asked me about the risk of being a police officer. I suggested that it was more risky than being a librarian. In answer to another question, I wished police officers well in getting home safely from their job.

All the potential jurors were directed out of the courtroom while the lawyers conferred with the judge. There were folks I knew weren’t going to survive, but thought that I might. But when we were reseated, the judge gave out a string of names that would not be serving. One was “Mr. Green.”

In hindsight, I should have known. I didn’t mention the case, but the defendant was accused of assaulting a police officer at 3:20 a.m. nearly a year ago. I was undoubtedly bumped by the defense attorney because I was still thinking about my victimization, AND because I was perceived, I’m thinking as too pro-cop. Not the way I see myself, but there it is.

In any case, I was there for less than three hours. I got my card stamped and signed. I’m off the list for six years. I put myself out there during a less than optimal week and survived.


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