Friday, July 5, 2013

(empo-jooryst) Some TMI about the hazards of jury duty

During a criminal trial, a jury is restricted to basing its decision on the evidence presented in court. Jury members cannot go and research the law on their own, research news accounts on their own, or consider anything outside of the courtroom.

In the case in March for which I was an alternate juror, the judge reminded us of this constantly. As far as I know, we all honored the judge's request - even when it caused us difficulties to do so.

One afternoon, after a nice lunch with two other jurors (followed by a post-lunch coffee), I arrived at the courtroom in time for the afternoon session. I wanted to stop by the restroom, but didn't have a chance before we were called into the courtroom.

After some testimony, the prosecution was asked to call its next witness. At this point the prosecution said, as delicately as possible, that the witness may be in the restroom. The judge then ordered a brief break in which the jurors were asked to exit the courtroom, and were (as usual) reminded not to discuss the case with anybody.

This may have been a wonderful opportunity to take care of my personal needs, but there was only a single restroom on the floor - and a witness may have been in there! So I decided to wait a while.

Eventually the witness was located, testimony continued, and eventually we got to another break. The jury filed out (after hearing the judge's usual admonition) - and the spectators filed out also. I did not know who the spectators were, but they appeared to have some interest in the case. Were they friends or family of the defendant? I didn't know. Were they friends or family of the alleged victim of the crime? I did not know.

What I did know was that several male spectators took the opportunity of the courtroom break to head to - you guessed it, the restroom.

The story has a happy ending - eventually I took care of my own needs, and was not a victim of jury tampering when I did so.

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