My New York City jury summons instructs me to report to 111 Centre St, Room 1121 on Wednesday May 23rd at 9 a.m.
So at about 9:10 a.m. Wednesday morning I arrive to the jury waiting room on the 11th floor of the court building. The waiting room is long, with rows of cushioned chairs and a few small TV’s mounted towards the front of the room. The TVs play a video explaining the important role a juror plays in the justice system. Every other seat in the room is filled with one of those important jurors, about 100 in total. Half watch the video, half just fidget with a phone and wait for something to happen. I find myself a seat and start to fidget with my phone.
The video ends and we wait some more. After a little while a woman arrives to the front of the room and starts talking. People shout out “here!” as she reads names of people who will be part of the first jury panel.
The rest of us wait some more. The waiting area has free wifi and vending machines and some desks with power outlets but not much more than that. People look bored.
After more waiting, a second group of jurors is selected. This time I am called and we are led down to the 10th floor where there are benches along a hallway outside the courtroom. We sit and wait some more. After a bit, we enter the courtroom single-file. Waiting for us are a prosecutor, defense attorney, defendant, judge, clerk and a stenographer.
After some instructions from the judge, twenty of us are picked to sit in and around the jury box for questioning. As we are directed to our seats, the judge writes our names on a board in front of her so she can address everyone by name to take notes about each of us.
A long, long list of questions begins to be asked of us by the judge.
She asks about our prior experiences with crime, with police, with the neighborhood the incident took place in, our neighborhoods and professions, our roommates’ professions, our education, our hobbies, and what newspapers or magazines we read. We’re asked about our interaction with the police and all confess to the date of our last speeding ticket. Some have relatives who have been arrested. Some have relatives who are police. I have neither.
Then both lawyers, first the proescutor and then the defense attorney ask us even more questions. They ask about our ability to follow the law, and about how we will interpret whether someone is telling the truth or not and about whether we would find someone guilty or not guilty in different circumstances.
Eventually we are released for lunch and told to report back at 2:30 p.m. We scatter out of the room, down the elevator and into Chinatown.
At 2:30 p.m. I am back on the benches outside the 10th floor courtroom to wait some more. The court officer calls us back into the courtroom to find out who has been selected for the jury. Of the 20 of us questioned, only four are kept. Another group is seated in the jury box to be questioned. The 16 of us go back to the jury room to wait some more.
After a shorter wait we get an announcement that they won’t be needing more jurors for the next few days and that our jury service is complete!