posted Tue, 05 Apr 2005
I keep saying to myself, “I am privileged to have the opportunity to serve on a jury. It is an honor and a responsibility of being a citizen of the USA to be part of this system of justice.”
But it is hard to get excited about the possibility of being on a sequestered jury! I don’t like being hotels even when I am on vacation. I certainly don’t want to be in one because I can’t be allowed to be in contact with the outside world.
At 4:30, Merle came into the jury pool room. “In 12 years, I’ve only had to keep potential jurors past 5:00 four times. This is the fifth time,” he told us. “They have been trying to seat a jury for this trial for two days now. The judge is determined to finish tonight. I need those of you whose names I read to stay in this room. The rest of you can go.”
He read my name.
He also read the name of David R, a fellow Rice alum whom I met through the alumni group I started here. David is an architect who does a lot of business in China, so we had interesting things to talk about, but even good conversation loses its sparkle by 6:00 in the evening when you know that two hours of work email still awaits you at home.
David had also been a prospective juror for a sequestered trial yesterday, but never made it to actually being questioned. Merle had told us that sequestered trials are rare. Not only did David and the others have to stay until 6:30 last night, they were ordered to be back in court at 8:00 this morning with packed bags. At least I got to leave at 3:30 yesterday.
Merle let everyone go except those of us on the list. Then he went to sit in the courtroom. “Sometimes the judge forgets to call me to let us know that they’ve seated a jury or gone home,” he explained. “I’ll let you know as soon as anything happens.”
Some of the other prospective jurors were hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the building. You can see the courthouse from there. They reported that there were a bunch of TV cameras and reporters in front of the courthouse.
Then someone said that the reason they are having such trouble choosing a jury is that the prosecution is seeking the death penalty.
Uff da. I have problems with the death penalty. Are my convictions strong enough to keep me from giving it? I don’t want to think I would say I am against it just to get out of serving on a jury. But I really don’t think I could give the death penalty. I could happily and easily put someone in prison for the rest of his life and throw away the key. But to sentence him to death? Although I might speak cavalierly about never meeting a horse that needed stealing and hanging ‘em high, if I really had to do it, I don’t think I could sentence someone to death. I really need to think about this.
At 6:15, Merle returned to the pool room. He told us that we all needed be back at 8:45 (45 minutes earlier than the rest of the pool) with our bags packed in case we need to spend the rest of the week sequestered. Oh man. If you’re sequestered, I’ll bet they don’t let you have internet access. If you don’t hear from me, that’s why.