In the United States, if you are a legal citizen and of legal age, you are eligible for jury duty. If you have a driver's license, or are registered to vote, your name is among those who may be chosen.
Just about everyone I know hates seeing the notice for jury duty arrive in the mail. Most people will do anything to get out of going, but unless you have a very legitimate excuse, chances are that you will have to report.
As someone who has been through this several times, I was just like everyone else. I tried to get out of going, but to no avail. The first few times I reported, the case was settled before they even started jury selection, so everyone was sent home. I was always thrilled when this happened. In time, my luck ran out. A jury was being selected and I was chosen to serve. The attorneys asked everyone a few specific questions and some people were immediately dismissed, while others were held over until they had chosen their entire jury. I went through this process a few times, but had never been selected.
My calls to serve had always been in circuit court. When I received a notice to report to federal court, I had the same negative attitude. By then, I knew the drill and had to go. I reported as required and went through the questioning, expecting to be sent home. However, this time, I was chosen to serve as a juror.
As the trial began, I quickly realized how interesting the entire trial procedure really is. The case being prosecuted was against a drug dealer who received drugs through the US Postal Service, which is a felony offense. The drug agents were waiting for him and when he arrived to pick up the package, they attempted to arrest him. While trying to escape, he deliberately tried to run down a DEA (Drug Enforcement Agent) with his car.
As I sat in the jury box, I found myself very interested in the procedures and especially the testimonies. Drug paraphernalia that was seized in the arrest was passed to the jury members to examine. This was my first (and only) close encounter with drugs and it was quite fascinating to listen to the testimony, look at the evidence and absorb all this information in my mind.
After an hour of actually serving on the jury, I realized I was enjoying myself. It felt good to be doing my civic duty and I wondered why I had dreaded it so much. Perhaps it was fear of the unknown. Whatever the reason, it is no longer an issue.
Since the first trial, I was selected to serve on a second jury. This time it involved a woman who had been severely injured in an automobile accident. The case wasn't nearly as exciting as the drug case, but I still found it very interesting and was determined to keep an open mind and be objective about the trial. When it was over, I felt a sense of pride for taking part.
It is understandable that many people can't serve on a jury because of health issues. Missing work or needing to find childcare could be difficult for a single parent. Though you do get paid for jury duty, it is hardly enough to pay for lunch, much less replace one or more days of lost wages.
The process as to who gets called for jury duty has always baffled me. I have been summoned repeatedly over the years, yet my husband has only been called once.
Sometimes, I think it would be a good idea to have a pool of names of people who don't mind serving. I would certainly put my name in as one who is willing. The jurors would be paid for their time and it would be a more reasonable amount than what is paid today. After finally being forced to serve on a jury, I decided that it would be a fun job. The pay wouldn't be great, but each day would bring something new and I'd be doing something worthwhile. I think I'd actually enjoy being a professional juror.
If you are summoned for jury duty, you might as well make the best of it. Take a book or something to keep yourself occupied because you may wait for several hours before you know if you are staying or leaving. Be open to talking to others; you never know when you might meet someone interesting. If you are chosen to serve, go in with an open mind and the determination to be fair. When it's over, you may find that you actually enjoyed the process.