Jury duty — a good experience

This month’s movie night is Friday, Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. The movie will be “Angry Birds 2.” As always, this is a free event and there will be popcorn.

Storytime is always at 10 a.m. on Fridays. There is an exception this month: NO Storytime on Nov. 29.

The Makerspace has been moved from the upstairs of the library to the downstairs. It is now open for use whenever the library is open.

The library will be closed Thanksgiving Day and the day after.

Jury duty

On Tuesday, Nov. 12, I got the privilege of being called up for jury duty in federal court. This means I had to go to St. Paul to see if I would be selected as a juror in a federal case. I’d like to tell you about the process in case any of you are wondering how this works.

Trial by jury is laid out in the United States Constitution. The founding fathers felt it would be better to be tried by a panel of your peers, than by a judge who may have a bias. Almost anyone between the ages of 18 and 70 can be called to serve on a jury.

In October I got a letter from the federal building in St. Paul, stating that I would be on call to serve on a jury for the months of November and December. I had to fill out a short questionnaire, stating if there were any issues that would prevent me from serving during this time. I also had to list any dates that I would not be able to serve. Issues that could prevent you from serving could be medical or physical. You can also show that you may have a hardship with daycare or work. Keep in mind your employer has to let you serve, they cannot deny you under penalty of law. So I filled out the questionnaire, knew there were some dates that wouldn’t work for me, and sent it back.

A couple weeks later, I got an actual summons that I would need to appear at the courthouse in St. Paul on Nov. 12. I was instructed to call a phone number after 5 p.m. on Nov. 11 to see if I still needed to show up. Things could have changed in the cases, such as a time delay or something may have been settled out of court. I called the number and was still required to show up.

Now, if you live more than 60 miles from the federal courthouse (there are four in Minnesota) than you have the option of staying over in a hotel the night before. This is what I chose to do. The federal government pays for your stay and mileage. The federal government will also give you an allowance for food and parking if you are one of the lucky 12 that gets chosen in the end.

I showed up at the courthouse at 7 a.m. It’s nice the hotel was right across the street, so I didn’t have to fight rush hour traffic. It took 40 minutes to get through building security, because there were a lot of other potential jurors and building staff that needed to get through. This was like going through airport security, but worse in my opinion.

Once in the building I checked in with the clerk and then we had to watch an orientation video. They did give us free donuts, coffee and water! After the video we were each assigned a number by random. I was number 56. Then it was on the way to the courtroom.

The first 36 people sit in what is called the well of the courtroom, right in front of the judge. The rest of us sat in the audience section. The judge then starts asking questions of the 36 people in the well. Depending on your answer you may be dismissed and allowed to leave and the next number would be up.

This case involved a police officer, so there were a lot of questions about law enforcement and how you felt about it. Questioning by the judge continued until after lunch. At this point each attorney (the defense and the prosecution) get 15 minutes to ask questions of the 36 individuals sitting in the well. After that more people may be dismissed and more are called from the audience.

In my situation, the judge got to number 50 before she declared that there was a good enough pool of candidates sitting in the well. So now those 36 had to be narrowed down to 16; 12 jurors and four alternates. This was the attorneys’ job. Basically they hand a piece of paper back and forth crossing out names until the magical number has been reached. This happened around 4:45 p.m. when all of us in the audience and those not picked from the well were dismissed to go home.

I will say that I was excited about the whole process because I like to learn about new things and have a better understanding of how they work. It did get long and drawn out and boring at times. I wasn’t glad I had to go to St. Paul. The trial that I could have been chosen for is still ongoing and could potentially not end until Nov. 22. In that regard I’m happy I wasn’t picked because I’d have had to spend that entire time, minus the weekend, in St. Paul away from family and work.

It was a good experience and I’ll be better prepared for next time. I didn’t know I was allowed to bring a book with to pass the time. I certainly will next time!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the library!