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Jury Duty


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#1 Giraffe

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 10:56 PM

I suppose everyone reading this has had to perform this civic duty at one time or another. I've been called for jury duty three times so far, and actually made it onto a jury once.

I'd like to hear other people's experiences with this. Did you ride the subway from the Tandy parking lot? Was this done back when Leonard's operated it? What nearby eateries were there at the time? See anyone interesting or famous? Serve on any landmark cases, or just everyday folks with interesting cases? I recall once in the third grade my teacher had jury duty and was gone from the classroom for a couple of weeks; no idea what case it was, though.

Back in the 1950s my father was serving on a jury in downtown Fort Worth. The case was about some sort of white-collar crime, IIRC, and the prosecution's star witness had a heart attack on the stand while he was in the middle of his testimony. The judge immediately had the baliff herd the jury into a nearby room, and a while later the baliff informed the jury that the witness had died. The judge declared a mistrial and sent everyone home.

If you've gone to downtown for jury duty lately, no doubt you've been inside that huge room where everyone reports to start the day. It holds several hundred seats. Chances are very good you'll run into somebody you know there. The first time I went through this, I found myself seated next to a rather attractive young woman. The person in charge of the whole thing announced that if anyone had some reason for wanting to be excused from jury duty, they should come forward now. Good God!, about 60% of the room got up in unison and ran like hell to the front! I kept my seat, and so did the woman next to me. I asked her politely, "Don't you want to be dismissed?" She grinned and said, "Heck, no! I'm an elementary school teacher!"

The last time I went through jury duty (about a year ago), the judge had to have an extra-long chat with both teams of lawyers and gave the jury pool a longer-than-normal lunch. I walked a couple of blocks to the FW Public Library and checked out a couple of books. Right across the street from the front entrance of the library, however, ground was being broken on a new building and a big pavillion and luncheon was being set up. On my way back from lunch I saw Mayor Moncrief giving a speech at the podium in there.

The first time I had jury duty, the Tandy Center food court was still open and I ate lunch in there.

Today prospective jurors park their cars up at LaGrave Field, where the Fort Worth Cats play. A free shuttle bus then takes everyone to the courthouse.

There was once an episode of the comic strip "Peanuts" in which Woodstock had been called for jury duty and had never done so before; he didn't know what to expect. Snoopy explained it to him thusly: "It's simple. You go downtown, sit in a room with several hundred other people, then somebody walks in and tells you the trial has been canceled, and then you go home. I'm sure you can do it!" Snoopy is correct! I found out that a great many cases get settled just minutes before the trial is supposed to start. Once, when I was waiting to be called in that great big room, about 30 people had just been assigned to a particular courtroom and were about to depart for it when word arrived that that particular case had just been settled moments ago. Back in the pool! (I've read some books written by judges and they say pretty much the same thing: Both parties in a case start out dug in, willing to fight to the death for what they want... until they actually get into that courtroom. Something about seeing the judge in the black robe, the baliff, and a bunch of their peers very often convinces them that maybe they can figure something out, after all.)

#2 Birdland in Handley

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:49 AM

Here's a tip for those who want to avoid jury duty and warning to those who want to serve:
Last time I was called, I got to the point where they'd winnowed us out into separate courtrooms for individual cases. After the lawyers' preliminary questions to determine if prospective jurors had conflicts of interest, I raised my hand to object to the procedure wherein they didn't ask if anyone would not swear on the Bible, but instead affirm their word. I wasn't trying to get out of jury duty, but I was not chosen in the second round.

This was years ago, so there was still a Tandy food court and the Caravan of Beans and the Coffee Haus to kill time at during a bunch of recesses. Some of the cases were being tried at sub courthouses, so I was very lucky to be detained downtown.

#3 David Love

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 11:49 AM

I'll have to say one of the "nicest" perks of living downtown is you have the parking thing covered.

Every time I get called they've improved the process, I'm amazed how efficiently they move people through now, I think this is my 4th call since I've lived downtown, they get better each time.

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#4 BobZupcic

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 12:10 PM

I'll have to say one of the "nicest" perks of living downtown is you have the parking thing covered.

Every time I get called they've improved the process, I'm amazed how efficiently they move people through now, I think this is my 4th call since I've lived downtown, they get better each time.


Ditto. I've lived downtown for 4 years now and been called 3 times. I enjoy walking to and from the courthouse...although it leaves me lusting after a downtown workplace as well.

#5 mmiller2002

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 12:05 PM

I hate it. In addition to the complete hassle of parking, they have no regard for the time they waste. The judges apparently allow the lawyers' games to use last-minute pressure to get a settlement, then they dismiss you after wasting 1-3 days of your time!

#6 Ron Payne

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 03:42 PM

I've served on 2 juries in the past, but I get paid for it with no limit on the time it takes, so found it very interesting. We put a child rapist and a drunk driver away...
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#7 David Love

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 08:49 PM

I hate it. In addition to the complete hassle of parking, they have no regard for the time they waste. The judges apparently allow the lawyers' games to use last-minute pressure to get a settlement, then they dismiss you after wasting 1-3 days of your time!


You can now do the prequalification stuff online, at least 2 day ahead of time, so you don't have to be herded into the swearing in room, you just get the court you're supposed to show up at or dismissed.

I worked downtown for three years or so, from home anyway, positives and negatives...

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#8 JBB

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 11:05 AM

If you want to get into wastes of time with jury duty, try serving on a city jury duty for someone fighting a traffic ticket. Acting as their own defense attorney. And the only evidence they provided was shot down because it wasn't shared with the prosecution. 3 hours of my life I'll never get back.

About 7 years ago, I did the routine where you wait in the holding room while everyone else is assigned and I was back home by 11am. I parked at LaGrave and rode the bus.

I was seated on a district court jury on September 11, 2001, and that was quite an experience. I parked in the Tandy lot and rode the subway in each day. I had lunch at Tommy's and browsed through Barnes and Noble during the long lunch break on Monday. The jury selection and first portions of the trial were that day. We were supposed to return at 10:30 on Tuesday to resume the trial. I took advantage of a rare opportunity to sleep in and, by the time I turned the TV on, the chaos in New York was already well under way. A baliff called around 9:00 to let me know that the courthouse would be closed for the day and that I should report at 9:00 the next day.

When I ascended the stairs behind Tandy the next morning, there were emergency vehicles lining Weatherford and police officers were informing everyone that the justice center was being evacuated for a bomb threat. Even though I knew it was probably nothing, the whole scene was very surreal and unnerving. They were telling jurors to meet staff in front of the library on 3rd. When I arrived there, jurors not on panels were being dismissed. Luckily I had the good sense to ask if that included people in the middle of trials. They let me know that I should report to the court I was assigned to when the building was reopened (about 15 minutes later). When I arrived, more than half of the jury had not yet arrived. They sent us on a 2 hour lunch at 11:00 so they could finish locating the remaining jurors. I had lunch in the Tandy food court and watched TV coverage of the attacks. A gentleman who looked to be homeless approached me at one point and asked if it was too soon to start making jokes about what was going on. I gave him the ugliest of looks and told him as sternly as I could that I thought it was. He got the message and went about his way.

To wrap up a rambling story, the trial resumed that afternoon, we found the defendent guilty of posession with the intent to sell by around 5:00, and I later found out that he received an automatic 30 year sentence because it was a 3rd offense. While the whole experience was a little inconvenient (made a little moreso by the events going on in the world), I gained a little insight into and respect for the criminal justice process that I didn't have before.

#9 RD Milhollin

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 12:00 PM

You can now do the prequalification stuff online, at least 2 days ahead of time, so you don't have to be herded into the swearing in room, you just get the court you're supposed to show up at or dismissed.


This is a huge step forward. Making it easy for citizens to perform their civic duties (jury duty, voting...) should be high up on the list of things elected officials and staff strive for. I feel there is a large and growing disconnect between citizens and their government. Encouraging and facilitating involvement might help to address this trend. Wasting people's time, putting up additional barriers to participation, using procedures developed back in the preindustrial age; these sorts of things discourage democracy.

I reported for jury duty back in early August and was impressed that the procedure for vetting and assigning jurors seemed to take less time than the last time I served (probably 8 - 9 years ago). I was assigned to a court, sat outside for about 45 minutes watching plea cases leave, and finally the judge walked out to meet us, and said that there was a case in which the defendant was going to ask for trial until he saw a jury waiting, and then he quickly consulted with his attorney and worked out a plea with the prosecution. The duty lasted about 2.5 hours from arrival to dismissal. The last time I spent until around 2 PM and was never even assigned to a court.




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