A few weeks ago I received a summons to report for jury duty from the Oakland County Circuit Court. I promptly filled out the questionnaire and then forgot about it. As a matter of fact, I pretty much forgot about it until they sent me a follow up letter because I hadn’t returned the questionnaire.
Leading up to my summons date, I had been pretty laid back about it. The last time I had been called was a really quick and painless experience where I was dismissed within an hour of arriving. Though as someone pointed out, there was a good chance that must have been a day later in the week. Monday’s tend to be a busier day for the courts.
Last Monday, I arrived a few minutes early and was able to get a seat in the back of the large room that held the jury pool. I watched as the room filled with people. It wasn’t hard to notice that the majority of the people were white women. There were a few dozen white men. And even fewer people of color.
The first group of jurors were called by number and I watched them line up down the hall and be lead out of sight. Shortly after the intercom started calling out a second group of random numbers. Sure enough, about midway through, they called my number. We made our way up and had our badges scanned as we lined up in single file. A few of us took the opportunity to use the restroom knowing that it would be a while before we got the chance again.
I learned that there were 45 of us total. And in the gallery of the court room, it looked like a much more diverse group. We took an oath, and the judge introduced the prosecution and defense teams as well as the defendants. She asked if we knew anyone, and I laughed to myself when the man seated next to me stated he was an optimalogist and he thought one of the defendants could be a patient. He was not dismissed. I didn’t have long to get comfortable on the wooden bench, as I was the fourth person called to the juror’s box.
Voir Dire began. The Prosecutor was a professional, well spoken woman, who was very experienced. She was assisted by the lead detective on the case. She lead the questions at first, mainly wanting to know if we knew anyone involved in the legal system, what we did for a living, and if we had ever been a victim of a crime.
We learned that the case was involving the two defendants who had been arrested at a home during the execution of a search warrant. Each of the men were charged multiple times in relation to the possession and intent to distribute various controlled substances. They each had their own Defense attorneys.
Right from the start, I disliked one of the Defense lawyers. He was loud, animated, and very unprofessional. He acted too friendly with everyone. Even the Judge and Prosecutor gave each other looks of disapproval. I thought that I could be dismissed simply because I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes.
But I was not dismissed. At noon we took an hour lunch break. Upon returning, the selected jurors were dismissed and replaced one by one. Out of 45, minus our 13, only 11 people remained left in the gallery. People who were dismissed either knew someone affected by substance abuse, didn’t speak English as their first language, openly admitted that they were biased, or surprisingly, were engineers.
When all was said and done, our jury consisted of 10 white women, 1 white man, and 2 black women. I am not sure that is what was meant when they said a jury of your peers.