Be prepared…this is a long story.
Sometime in January (I believe) I received a Jury duty summons, however it was a standby notice. What that meant was that I’d have to call a phone number the night before the scheduled date to find out if I did have to show up the next day. I called and discovered that I didn’t have to go, but that I’d get another summons later in the year. Boy did it.
A few months went by. Normally one would expect birthday cards to show up in their mailbox on their birthday. But I got…you guessed it…another jury duty summons. This one was different than the first because I wasn’t a standby juror. However, the date listed for me to appear was the day before a scheduled vacation to Santa Barbara. So, in a panic, I searched the county’s website for a solution. Fortunately, all I had to do was make 1 simple phone call and I got my jury duty date pushed back a few months.
Fast forward a few months to the day before my wedding anniversary and what shows up in the mailbox again? You guessed it! ANOTHER jury duty summons!
So, I had to go to this one…no excuses this time. Besides missing a day of work (no, it didn’t count against my vacation or personal time off), the biggest thing that troubled me was that I had to go to the 1 courthouse in Cook County that doesn’t offer free parking (so that you’re aware, Cook County has 7 courthouses, many of them are located closer to where I live than the one that I was chosen to serve at). In fact, because of the courthouse’s location, I had to drive from my house to a train station, pay the parking fee, ride a train into the city and finally walk the .8 miles to the courthouse. Round trip= $11.25. Good thing I was paid $17.20 for attending.
I brought with me 2 books for reading: my ESV bible and ‘The Coming Econnomic Armageddon’ by Dr. David Jeremiah. I’m not a huge reader by any means, but I didn’t know what entertainment, if any, I was to have while waiting at the courthouse. As it turned out, I didn’t really need these books for the waiting room, however I did get to read quite a bit on the train to and from the city.
The day that I served was during a week long stretch of very warm temperatures. We’re talking mid to upper 90 degree temperatures with really high humidities that made the temperature feel like it was 100 to 110 degrees. Fortunately it wasn’t excessively hot when I made the .8 mile walk from Union Station to the courthouse. In fact, I don’t think I really sweated much at all…until I entered the building. There was a long line to go through security, so I had to wait about 15 minutes, as I apparently arrived before security “started” for the day. Once through, I headed to the elevators to go up to the 17th floor. I must say, those elevators were FAST!!
Exiting on the 17th floor, I turned and found the check-in desk, where I handed in my completed questionnaire that’s on the back of the jury summons. I got an ‘official’ jury duty sticker (to be honest, I’m not really sure what it’s for. They explained that I was to wear it when in the waiting room or in a courtroom but take it off when exiting the courthouse for lunch) and a piece of paper that explained some of the burning questions that many people have when they go to jury duty. I also got a small piece of paper that had a number on it (87 in my case). We were told that at some point, that number would be called out and everyone that held that number would come up to be escorted to a courtroom by a sheriff. Before that process would begin, we watched a video explaining the whole judicial process and what role jurors play in that process.
Shortly after the video was over, the numbers started being read out loud. Normally this wouldn’t be something to note, but today was different in that there was a juror that was deaf and needed an interpreter. Unfortunately for him, his interpreter wasn’t helping when the numbers were called out. He did figure out that he was to go up when a nearby juror told him that his group was being called. Then, after 2 groups were called, mine was called. Boy…the nerves really got to me…and fast.
Forming 2 lines, we were led out of the waiting room to an elevator and told to go to the 24th floor. Once there, we were led into a courtroom (I found this picture online somewhere and it’s REALLY close to what I saw…the biggest difference being that the “In God We Trust” phrase was on the opposite wall) and were told to take a seat (on the wooden pews just outside the main part of the courtroom). Shortly afterwards, juror’s names were read aloud and told to sit in certain (cushioned) seats in the jury rows…and some in metal chairs in front of the jury rows. I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones that had to sit in one of the metal chairs.
And then the waiting game began. This happened a few times during the day, but there would be long periods of waiting…waiting for the sheriff to appear, for the lawyers to appear, for the stenographer to appear and for the judge to appear. It really made me wonder what a ‘speedy’ trial really was. The judge was the last to appear, but as we were brought into the courtroom, we saw the defendant, his attorney, the plaintiff and her attorney. Of course, we didn’t know who was who until they introduced themselves…so we were all curious why we were in this courtroom.
Finally, the judge appeared and we were underway. He did something that judges don’t typically do: he stepped down from the bench and got on the same level as the jury members to explain the process, urging us to answer the questions in an honest manner and telling us that the case was a civil case and not a criminal one. He then got back in his seat on the bench and started asking us, as a group, questions. Questions like “Have any of you served on a jury before?”, “Have any of you been a victim of a crime?”, and “Have any of you been a witness in a trial?”. As each question was asked, people would raise their hands and the judge would then ask each individual that raised their hands more direct follow-up questions, such as “How many times have you served on a jury?”, “What was the trial about?”, “What was the outcome of the trial?” and “Would your experience in the previous trial you served at cause a bias towards this trial?”.
It didn’t take very long to see that this process was going to take a very, very long time, as there were many who raised their hands to the initial questions, which led to several follow-up questions. About an hour and half into the questioning, we stopped for a bathroom break (which took a while to complete, as all 40 or so jurors were to use the bathrooms that could only hold one per gender). It was at that time that I was greeted by a parent of a former classmate from my high school (who was also a juror, but not one that was part of the initial questioning). Since my class was so small, recognizing one of the parents (especially one of a basketball and baseball teammate) was relatively easy. We got to talking about what each had been doing the last 15 years since high school graduation and what my siblings were up to.
I also got to talk to the jurors that were sitting on either side of me. One was an older married female from Elk Grove, who’s husband drove her to the courthouse and, for some reason, thought she’d be done by 1:30. Apparently, he was just driving around all afternoon while we were being questioned. She brought with her Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” and a book of Sudoku puzzles. The other juror was a former major league baseball player. He played for the Phillies, Braves, Rockies & White Sox. I remembered his name because I wanted to look him up online afterwards. Turns out, Marvin Freeman grew up in the Chicago area and got to pitch a few innings for the Sox. Most of the males hung out around him during all the breaks that were to occur during the day…and why not? How often do you get to say that you spent the day with a pro ball player?
We eventually got reassembled and resumed the questioning. Mercifully, we were let out for a lunch break around 12:30…but because we started lunch late, we were told that we should be back in the courtroom by 1:30 (the normal lunch break was supposed to be for one and a half hours). I left for lunch, hoping to try and find a favorite restaurant of mine that I saw on Google Maps was close by (Chipotle), but upon discovering someone I knew, I decided to head out with him to have some conversation with a familiar face. We decided to go to the McDonald’s across the street. Since it took so long for me to get through security in the morning, I mentally thought ahead that I wanted to attempt getting in the building with at least 20 minutes to spare. Since the restaurant was right across the street, it wound up being more like 30 minutes and there was a very short line to get through security this time. I went up to the 24th floor and waited, this time outside the courtroom. In the meantime, I snapped these photos (from my cellphone) looking into the city.
Yes, believe it or not, that’s fog rolling in off the lake in the left picture. It was a really odd day in the city. I later found out that beaches were closed due to the fog.
1:30 finally came upon us and all the jurors reassembled in their previous seats. More waiting. I think it wasn’t until 1:50 or so that the judge finally came in and we were underway again. This time, it was the attorneys that got to direct follow-up questions to the jurors. Some of the questions dealt with scheduling conflicts, as the case was expected to last a full week. That did not make very many people happy. I was only asked one series of questions from the defendant’s attorney about my recent dentist visit. The lady sitting next to me wasn’t as fortunate…she was grilled, to the point of tears, by the defendant’s attorney. It took us all by surprise and no one really knew what to do. After a long pause, the questions resumed. We eventually found out that the plaintiff (a physical therapist) was suing the defendant (a dentist) for dental work performed on her in exchange for some physical therapy.
After both attorneys had their questions answered, we took a short break and rotated juries. Now I was sitting in the wooden pews while the judge asked the same questions to the new jury members. Maybe it was because it was so late in the day at this point, but these jury members didn’t take anywhere near as long to get through. Again, another break and then the attorneys got to ask their follow-up questions. After those were asked, we broke for the last time and reassembled to find out who were the lucky ones chosen to serve on this jury. Before the names were read, we were all told to stay in the wooden pew area and come sit in the jury rows if our name was called. One by one the names were read…nerves growing by the second. I…drum roll…was NOTchosen. After the names were read, those that were not chosen were told to step outside and wait for the sheriff to hand them their checks. We did and then rode the elevator down to the ground floor and went our separate ways. The summons told us that we should plan on staying till 4:30…we ended up staying at the courthouse till about 5:20. Yikes. My high school friend’s dad also took the train into the city, but the station he was walking to was different than mine (believe it or not, Chicago has 2 main train terminals). However, we got to talk and walk together for most of the way.
Then, I had to rush the rest of the way to my train station, otherwise I’d have to wait another 30 minutes to an hour for the next train. I made it and eventually found the right track. Sitting down on the train seat was SOOOO comfortable, in comparison to the hard surfaces I was sitting on all day. My tailbone ached!!
So that’s my day in Chicago at jury duty. It was a long process that I hope I don’t have to go through again, but imagine that I will again someday. What bothers me is not knowing why I wasn’t chosen to serve. Was it because of the reading material I brought with me? Was it because I had family members that were in the medical field? Was it because of my recent dentist visit? Or was it because of the car accidents I’ve been in that I’ve had to testify in court about? Maybe the attorneys noticed my conversations with other jurors…jurors they had already rejected. Who knows. Just glad it’s over and hope this helps anyone wondering what to expect when you’re called to jury duty.