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Observations From the Jury Box

August 1, 2008 - Joselyn King
Everybody wants to judge, but it seems fewer want to be on a jury.

And that's too bad. If people are willing to state their opinions, they should also be willing to vote and serve as a juror when the judicial system calls.

I had the opportunity recently, and was among 54 prospective jurors called for a major trial in Ohio County. Unfortunately, only 51 answered the call.

"These people think their time is better than yours," said Judge Arthur Recht of those who failed to appear. He wasn't very happy with the truant residents, and the legal devices he has to punish them I'm sure will be put to use.

Those who did show up seemed to be friendly and good, upstanding citizens.Some even had good reasons for not being there.

One older gentleman with a walker answered the jury call, and Recht asked him if he could sit for long for long periods of time. The man replied that he couldn't. Recht allowed him to stand or sit at his seat as long as he wished, but the man ultimately was dismissed.

One potential juror explained a close relative had died only days before. Recht told the man it wasn't fair he should be there, and he was dismissed. Ironically, the potential juror next picked to replace the one leaving also was a relative of the deceased, and subsequently dismissed.

Another potential juror told of some upcoming medical testing that was necessary, and expressed some concern that the trial wouldn't be completed before the appointment. That person also was dismissed.

Recht asked many questions of the potential jurors, and one was if any had been a victim of crime, or had a family member convicted of a crime. Sadly, there were at least five who asked to meet privately with Recht in chambers to discuss this, and they didn't return to the courtroom.

There was some levity in the court as Recht asked if any of the potential jurors had read any newspaper account of the crime. Both myself and co-worker Linda Comins -- seated just three seats down -- raised our hands, saying it would have been hard for us as newspaper reporters not to have read about it, but that we didn't necessarily remember anything about it given the length of time that had passed.

As Recht read off the names of the participating counsel and those set to testify, yes, our hands continually had to raise when he asked if we knew any of them. Those in the courtroom seemed to find it amusing.

"I know no one, your honor," one prospective juror proudly said to laughs as her name was called to move into the jury box.

In the end, both Linda and I were dismissed from the jury by the attorneys -- likely because we had a daily work relationship with many of the law enforcement officials involved.

But 12 qualified jurors and one alternate were ultimately selected for the jury -- and it wasn't easy.


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