Impressions of a first-time juror

Dylan Burke

GROSSMONT COLLEGE – It was a Monday and like many I too thought there was no chance I’d be picked to serve on a jury of 12. I was wrong.

On April 30th I woke up at 6 in the morning; I was to report to the Hall of Justice building (San Diego County Superior Court) at the jury lounge no later than 7:45 in the morning.

Parking on my first day was over priced at $16. Food for my lunch cost me an additional $7 and change. I waited patiently in the jury assembly room for a long period of time, hoping that along the way my name would not be called. Wouldn’t you know it?  I was in the last major group  called for voir-dire, the process by which potential jurors are questioned.

From a pool of four dozen people, 15 were questioned by attorneys for both sides and of those, 12 jurors and two alternates were settled upon.  To my surprise, I was juror 11 in a criminal case involving an alleged drunk driving offense.

I chose to drive and be reimbursed for mileage rather than to accept a free bus/ trolley pass offered by the court system to jurors.  As for meals, I chose to eat at Wendy’s twice, Subway once and in the Hall of Justice’s food court.

Although I was pleased to learn that jurors get a stipend of $15 per day and 34 cents on the mile, I have a radical idea instead; each juror should be provided one meal a day and free parking close to the courthouse.

I feel that one does not need money for driving to the courthouse. Treating jurors like VIPs is more appropriate considering they are taking time out of their lives to perform their civic duties.

At one point, as the prosecutor was making her closing argument, I needed to badly use the restroom. Embarrassed, I raised my hand to ask the judge if I could take a bathroom break and he replied, “Well, all right.” Like a bullet I jumped out of my seat and quickly walked toward the restroom. When I got back to the jury box, I saw that two other jurors had also tken the moment to do the same and then I did not feel as embarrassed.

The case, which started on Tuesday, May 1,   finished Thursday May 3.  The deliberating process took us a day and a half.  Eleven jurors thought the prosecution had not sufficiently proven its case against the defendant, but one juror remained steadfast in her conviction that enough evidence had been presented for a guilty verdict.   After four to five hours of discussion, we realized that we could not ever reach unanimity.  We sent word to the judge, and he declared a mistrial.

The judge dismissed the case along with all of us and that was the end of it. The prosecution has the option of refilling charges and seeking a new trial.

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Burke is news editor of the GC Summit.  He may be contacted at [email protected]