Lessons from jury duty

Things I learned from three days of jury duty:

There’s free wi-fi at the St. Louis Circuit Court jury room and foyers. Which was very good while I was waiting for my number to be called from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. (There are very few electric outlets.)

At least one of the electric outlets in the jury room was missing a cover plate. That’s a no-no.

Morning news shows are awful. National, local, doesn’t matter. Awful. Mid-morning and early afternoon soap operas are equally awful.

Missouri still pulls juror names from its voter registration logs, as well as state identification (drivers license or other state ID). I think that’s a mistake — pulling names from personal property tax records would be more inclusive and wouldn’t “punish” people who register to vote.

A lot of people are unemployed. This is not new news, of course. The national unemployment rate is 10 percent; Missouri’s unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. I was part of a pool of 54 jurors, and five were unemployed. Three of them had been at their last jobs for at least 10 years.

A lot of people have been sexually abused, or know someone who was. From that same pool of 54 jurors, 22 percent fell into that category.

The pool of 54 was narrowed to 12 jurors and one alternate. There were 10 women and three men. The defendant was charged with seven counts of rape, sodomy and incest; the jury make-up seemed interesting.

In addition to the standard “don’t talk about this case” warning that the judge issues at every break before the case is actually sent to the jury, there was an additional warning: Don’t Twitter or Facebook it either. (That kind of amused me.)

Lawyers and judges do not Foursquare or Gowalla. The second day, I became the Foursquare “mayor” of the St. Louis Circuit Court.

The defendant is currently serving time in federal prison for selling drugs. The nonchalant “it’s a job” opinion of some jurors surprised me. And made me sad.

During deliberation, jurors felt the need to talk over each other and carry on two to four conversations at a time. That was very annoying. Others wanted to instantly bond. One juror shared photos of her recent ultrasound.

The trial ended with a hung jury: Eight jurors believed the plaintiff’s testimony, and four did not believe there was enough evidence to convict.

It is maybe a 10 or 12 minute walk to (and from) the court. Each morning, it was lightly snowing. Wednesday night, huge snowflakes were falling. It was rather mesmerizing. (And now I have a cold.)

1 comment

  1. I once covered a trial that got a lot of national media attention about a woman who fatally shot her preacher husband. In the back. It was well known that her attorneys were going to build her defense around abuse by her husband.

    I was shocked when the prosecution allowed two people on the jury who claimed they were either victims of abuse or knew someone who was the victim of abuse.

    I was not shocked when the woman was convicted of a much, much lesser charge than first-degree murder. She ended up with time served plus an extra couple of weeks.

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