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General News    H4'ed 2/14/12

My Experience on Federal Jury Duty Is Short, Sweet, and Strange

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Message Roger Shuler

Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

I figured my trip for jury duty yesterday at the Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse in downtown Birmingham would be brief. But it turned out to be even more brief than I expected.

Lawyers usually are quick to strike potential jurors who've had experience with the justice system or have strong opinions about courtroom matters. As an outspoken critic of judges, prosecutors, and just about everyone associated with "justice" in America, I didn't figure to hang around long among the 30 to 40 folks who showed up at the jury room yesterday.

As it turned out, I didn't even get to be questioned by lawyers in the case for which I was called--and I'm still not sure why. All I know is that, less than two hours after I showed up, I was told to go home--and I wasn't about to ask too many questions.

Jury Specialist Cheryle Eiland spent about 30 minutes orienting us, telling us what we could expect from our jury experience and that we were there for only one case--a criminal matter of some sort. The most important information I gleaned from Eiland is that lunch was going to be catered. That meant I would get to eat free on the U.S. government's dime.

As I thought about the kind of sandwich I wanted, U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre entered the jury room. She spent about 30 minutes asking certain questions to make sure we were qualified to be jurors--do you have three functioning brain cells, do you speak and understand English, have you ever been convicted for blowing up a meth lab in your basement? My answers were "maybe," "sort of," and "not yet," so I was in good shape.

Bowdre also told us that we have the world's finest justice system--one that deeply impressed recent visitors from Russia--and ensured us that everyone at the Hugo Black Courthouse is devoted to the cause of due process and equal protection under the law. I had to almost physically stifle a guffaw when I heard that one.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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