So I got a notice in the mail telling me that I’ve won the lottery– the civic duty lottery! Yes, for the first time in my life, I have been summoned to a jury selection. I was excited, but not as excited as I was when I heard that illustrator/musician Raymond Biesinger was also on the list!
We jury pals gathered in the Law Courts this morning, after passing a quick security screening (the usual metal detector/wand swipe). There were about 150 of us, and after having our summons form scrutinized by a bold blonde jury officer (Diane, I think her name was), we were seated in the courtroom. We were shown a video about the jury process, which was made in the ’80s complete with flashy cube-swipes, big frizzy hair and formal shorts that were wrong the first time they tried it. Our potential jurors were in a light mood– one particularly popular moment was when a squirrelly lookingman with a moustache was dismissed from the selection.
We were asked to leave the courtroom as they put away the AV equipment, and when we returned, we were ready for our selections. First, they took attendance. A clerk went down the list,calling names. We were to call, “Present” when we heard ours. I noticed that a young man had been seated in a box; this was the accused. Once we determined who was and was not there, the judge entered. We were asked to stand until the judge asked us to sit. He then asked the clerks to send a warrant for arrest for those who have missed their summons more than once; if this was the first time they failed to show, they were to be summoned again before July.
Then the clerk drew names from a little lottery drum. Twenty people were called, each one was given a chance to explain if they thought they should be excused. If they had no issues, they faced the two lawyers,who would state “content” if they were OK with the juror, or “challenge” if they were not. Six out of the first 20 made it onto the jury.
It was interesting to see who would get onto the jury. Some appeared immediately unsuitable– a few young men who seemed to have bad attitudes were obvious dismissals. But other times– a librarian Raymond recognized from the Strathcona library, for example– was sent back to the peanut gallery. 20 more names were drawn, and when they went through that list without filling the jury, a few more. At the last minute, a dude with a hipster haircut asks to get dismissed from the jury, and he is let go. And then another! So, on the edge of our seats, they go on to draw five more names. Of those, one is placed on the jury, so the judge asks for another draw.
It was exciting. Neither Raymond or I had our names drawn, much to our disappointment. The chosen dozen jurors and two alternates were led to a back room, for who knows what. They were to sit for three days starting on Monday. But it was a tantalising look into the judicial system. Someday, I’ll get past those doors…