Jury Duty: Tarun’s Experience & Tips

Jury Duty: Tarun’s Experience & Tips

November 2023 Newsletter

Rana Law Group Newsletter

In this issue:

  • Jury Duty: Tarun’s Experience & Tips
  • Just for Fun: Halloween

Jury Duty: Tarun’s Experience
During the week of October 30, 2023, I had the unique opportunity to serve on a criminal jury.  That is right – even lawyers are not exempt from the grueling and often inconvenient call to serve.  Most of the time, lawyers get struck for cause because there is a risk our knowledge of the inner workings will unduly taint the jury with information the average juror may not otherwise know.  Plus, there is the risk of fellow jurors giving a lawyer more deference because of their specialized knowledge rather than being one of twelve equal voices/votes as the process is intended.When I heard the bailiff call out my name, I was shocked and immediately thought all the reasons this was not a good time: Halloween is tomorrow; I have court this week; I am incredibly behind at work and will only get further behind; I have a trial coming up; I am turning 40 this week – what a terrible way to spend by birthday!  After reflecting on it, I realized there really was no such thing as a “good time” to serve on a jury and mentally shifted to what do I need to do to both serve and make sure none of my immediate obligations get completely ignored.  I texted my wife and let her know I would be completely unavailable because our phones must be off.  She let Sarah know too so we could start relaying my unavailability for the next few days to callers and plan work accordingly.Below are my takeaways/insights, along with tips interspersed in case one of you is called to serve:

  1. Pack a bag with the following: (1) a drink, (2) lunch/snack (better than rushing out somewhere and then having to get back through security), (3) your phone charger, (4) something to do (book/laptop for instance).  See below regarding downtime.
  2. Have a plan in place in case you are selected to serve, including for work or your family, etc.  Jury service could be just that day or it could be a week (or more).  While you have some say in the process, someone has to serve and it may end up being you.  While in the courtroom during the trial, phones have to be off.  Plan accordingly and utilize the breaks to arrange for childcare, put out fires and handle anything else.
  3. We were told to report to court by 8:30. This is to ensure they know who is available while simultaneously giving the trial judges time to figure out if they will still need a jury that day.  Shortly after, a judge came down to speak to us about the importance of our service as jurors and further explaining the process.  The judge stressed being here is inconvenient for everyone, however, this is part of our duty as citizens. I call this the “rah-rah” speech so people can get excited about their involvement.  Admittedly it was effective I was proud to be there.
  4. There is going to be a lot of waiting around which will be frustrating.  For instance, we were told to be back from lunch at 2:45, however, we waited around for another hour until we were called back into the court room.  Have something to do while waiting.
  5. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes events happening to which jurors are not privy.  While it feels like the judge and the lawyers are hiding information from you, this is part of the process because certain information must be legally excluded or the parties are arguing motions based on things that come up during the trial.  I know the people around me and my fellow jurors appreciated the insight I provided, however, for those without a lawyer providing insight, I imagine the process can be daunting and frustrating from apparent lack of transparency.
  6. Depending on your judge, breaks may be every 90-120 minutes, or not – you are completely at the whim of the judge.  Unless someone speaks up, the judge is inclined to power through because the judge wants to get everyone out of there as quickly as possible.  For instance, during the initial jury selection, we went non-stop without a break from around 10:00am to 1:45pm.  That’s three hours and 45 minutes without a bathroom break.  It takes courage but my suggestion is to just raise your hand and politely tell the judge: “Whenever there is a good stopping point, could we get a bathroom break?”  The other jurors may thank you.
  7. During jury selection (also called voir dire), the lawyers ask questions of the full panel of potential jurors to determine if they are a good fit for this case.  It starts with the judge asking about hardships (which was really limited to true hardships such as I do not have childcare/I am the sole caretaker for someone/I have a medical condition/I have non-refundable tickets for a vacation), followed by cause strikes (each side tries to exclude potential jurors based on something the person said, such as I cannot be fair to your side because…), and lastly are peremptory strikes (each side gets to strike a certain number of people as long as it is subject to a case called Batson).  From the original panel, those that survive these three attempts to exclude people are whittled down to the 12 jurors and 1 or 2 alternates.
  8. The questions during jury selection can feel very invasive.  Mine was a criminal case so one of the questions was whether you, someone in your family or a close friend was a victim of abuse.  When people raised their hands, they were asked to tell us more.  I cannot stress this enough – if your answer is sensitive in nature, do NOT feel bad about asking the judge if you can give your response at sidebar to just the judge and the lawyers.  Not enough people took advantage of this opportunity and instead verbalized their response for everyone to hear, some of which were deeply personal.
  9. The wooden pews where prospective jurors sat are uncomfortable and hard.  Once we were down to the 12 jurors and two alternates, those seats were much more comfortable.  Just an FYI in case you sit in the pews for 3 hours and think “these things are murder on my back” like I was thinking, I promise, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
  10. One of the questions asked during jury selection is if anyone knows anyone else.  As expected, I generally knew the lawyers and the judge, however, to my surprise, one of my neighbors was on the panel with me.  I also had a person who had previously served on one of my jury panels who remembered me.  It was wild.
  11. I cannot go into the details of the trial but it was a criminal case.
  12. I was very impressed with my fellow jurors because everyone took extensive notes and listened attentively the whole trial.  No one was phoning it in – there was a prevailing sentiment that we wanted to get it right and no one took their job lightly.
  13. For deliberations, I was selected as foreman, no doubt because of my legal experience.  I suggested we each write down our vote and why.  Then, we went around the room and discussed why we voted the way we voted, while asking/answering any questions.  Everyone was heard and felt they had an equal say in the outcome, as the process is intended.  This also helps for those who are not in the majority – they get heard while not potentially changing their vote/reason once they realize they are in the minority opinion.
  14. After our initial round, we did two more secret ballots after more discussions and ultimately came to a unanimous guilty verdict.
  15. Many people jokingly ask why we should trust a jury to make the right decision when the people selected weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty (not my thought, this is something I heard many times).  I think this oversimplifies not only a complex process, but it ignores that these people did what they were asked – they truthfully answered the questions.  They were vetted and found to be without bias.  The process is designed to find people from the community to sit and listen to the evidence and render judgment.  When people talk about “runaway juries” or “rogue juries”, I would take that with a grain of salt.  After all, this is the only people that sat and heard all the evidence and came to a conclusion.  Other than a few outliers, I believe juries typically get it right based on the evidence they hear.
  16. Ultimately, I was glad to be able to do my civic duty and developed more respect for the individuals that show up for my clients.  It is a commitment to serve and necessary for the functioning of our system of law and order.  There simply is not a good time to take time out of your life to serve, but your voice is valuable.  For those that make the time (even grudgingly), I thank you for your service.

Just for Fun: Halloween

Halloween is Tarun’s favorite holiday.  His family ran a candy store when he was in high school and he has probably tried nearly every type of candy sold.  This year, he gave out snickers (regular and peanut butter), Fun Dip, pretzel snacks, peanut M&M’s and almond joys.  It could have been a candy bust since the weather was so cold, however, there was no candy left at the Rana house to share with the office the following day.  He estimated nearly 75 kids came through by the time he shut off the porch light around 8 when he was cleaned out!

If you are looking for an easy costume idea, look no further than the one below.  Tarun was so busy this year he decided to be a ‘Magic 8 Ball’ for Halloween since all it required was dressing in all black, a color printer, scissors and some tape!  Now that he is 40, he can say things like “have the kids these days even heard of a magic 8 ball”?

Case Referrals  

From time to time, clients call and ask which type of cases we handle.  Our practice is built on referrals from satisfied clients.  We know that if we work hard and do a good job for our clients, they will tell their friends about us.  The best compliment from a former client is that client entrusting us with the potential case of their friend or family.  Our office specializes in the following cases:

  1. Personal Injury (auto collisions, trucking, motorcycle, slip and fall)
  2. Work Injuries
  3. Traffic tickets and DUI/DWI

If you know someone that meets these criteria, please have them call our office.  If someone does not quite fit the above criteria, please still have the prospective referral give us a call as we can usually help the person find the right attorney via a referral.

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