I received a letter in the post requesting that I attend for jury duty. Today I attended court, this is my experience.
I waited in a large landing with about forty or fifty others, each as clueless as to how today would proceed as I was. I gleaned this from over heard conversations in which people expressed their lack of experience and knowledge in this situation and from watching others as they looked about them in search of a leader or some instruction.
Many serious looking men in suits passed through the waiting crowd, joking with their colleagues and exchanging pleasantries with one another. These men where no doubt the solicitors. The younger ones carried the paperwork, no easy task as there where mounds of them. I saw one hand a gown to one of the senior suits, gaining favor with his eagerness and will to please, much like a clever dog seeks to gain favor with his master by his pipe and slippers.
The accused criminals where easy to spot amongst the gathered people. They where the only ones apart from the solicitors talking freely. A Mother, a Husband and their son traveler decent passed by joking amongst themselves. This drew stares from the potential jurors, I don’t know whether this was caused by curiosity at their difference in behavior or by thirst. It was uncomfortable on the landing and the boy had four cans of coke which looked cold and heavenly in the too hot corridor.
We were called to enter the courtroom and we found seats, although there was not enough for everyone and they weren’t cushioned. I chose a seat on the balcony so I could see most all of the solicitors, typist and legal secretaries, but couldn’t see most of my fellow potential jurors. The solicitors sat at a large table in front of a raised area which the judge would soon occupy along with the court registrar and a typist who recorded the proceedings.
The registrar called out the names of everyone who should be present for jury duty and those who were replied with a yes. There where lots of people weren’t there, and there addresses where called out, presumably in case some sociopath wanted to teach them a lesson for not performing there civic duty.
There were four Gardai, two senior and two younger. The older lads were busy with paper work, while the younger two where acting as bailiffs. These two younger Gardai were quiet the comedy pair, one had a mono brow and quick eyes that where constantly roaming across the courtroom, the other had large protruding ears and his eyes were constantly roaming the room. Mono brow shared his gaze evenly across the room, never watching anyone for too long, while Big ears had eyes only for the ladies, only looking away to when his line of sight to one was broken, and immediately sought another female to ogle.
The judge entered from his chambers and we were all instructed to rise for the honorable judge, which I did, albeit reluctantly. What a man that commands this control over a room full of strangers. Maybe it says more about me that I immediately felt uncomfortable with his assumed or enforced authority, naivety or something, I don’t know. The judge, addressing the jurors, explained that the case was expected to continue for 5 weeks and if there was any reason that you couldn’t attend court for the duration, you should tell him this, if and when you where being sworn in.
The registrar read out the list of charges held against the accused, who turned out to be the traveler man I had seen before. She read twenty one charges against him mostly comprising of assault, unlawful entry and theft, including theft of an ATM. The man replied with not guilty to all the charges in a low voice descending to little more than a mumble as the charges mounted. His son and wife watched the crowd as this interchange took place, eying the potential jurors to their husband and fathers case.
The solicitor then engaged the crowd, reading out a list of all of the witnesses in the case and instructing us that if we had any familiarity with any of the people who were read out that we should tell the judge before we were sworn in if we felt that knowing them would hinder our fair and impartial adjudication. The list had two hundred and eighty six names on it, none of which I was familiar with.
Then the registrar put all the jurors names into a box and drew out 18 names at random. If your name was called then you had to walk to the jurors box and wait to be sworn in. The defending and prosecuting solicitors where allowed to dismiss jurors seven times without reason which they did many times. I noticed that they where getting rid of the younger people and well dressed females.
Lots of people asked to be excused for many different reasons. One lady was going on holiday next week, one mans brother in law was a witness, one woman was friends with a lady who worked in one of the shops which the defendant was accused of robbing from and when the judge asked which lady and the woman couldn’t provide a last name the judge threw his eyes to heaven exasperated with the amount of people he had to dismiss from the jury.
Out of the original eighteen called, only four where left, so another round of jurors were called and the process began again. I tried to pick out the ones which the solicitor where sure to reject, a young guy with a mohawk who had arrived late, a pretty woman and a fat man who looked bored. The defense rejected the young guy. The woman, watched closely by the defendants wife, felt she wasn’t able to adjudicate impartially as she banked with an establishment the man was accused of robbing from. The judge argued that merely banking in the place should hardly affect your judgement, but the woman returned that she knew the tellers quite well, ending her sentence with a protract so, hanging a question mark on the end of it. The judge, tired of excuses dismissed her gruffly. The fat man claimed that he was going on a holiday soon and the judge, having already heard this excuse earlier, dismissed the man but instructed him to bring in proof of this.
The jury was nearly formed, only two spaces left. The registrar began calling names and I could feel it coming, I knew I was going to be called. The girls sitting beside me where talking between themselves…
” If get called I will crack though” said one, in a thick wexford town accent.
“Oh lort” said the other, ” I’ll crack all over him though!” Her origins no secret to the trained ear.
Luckily the judge was saved having them crack all over everything as my name was called.
I couldn’t help but say “fuck it” under my breath, which gave the people next to me cause to chuckle. I made my way up to the jury box, an excuse ready formed as to why I couldn’t be a juror. When the bible was handed to me I was going to site atheism, an impending job interview and a likely dentists appointment as reason why I couldn’t take part in it, but I was saved from the judges contempt as the defendants solicitor dismissed me straight away. I smiled a big smiled, thanked the solicitor and walked away a relieved man.