• Elizabeth Shelley

My Jury Duty Experience


Many people I know would go to great lengths to avoid jury duty. In fact, an old school friend recently posted on Facebook: “application to be excused from jury duty has been rejected. Options now are: show up and pretend to be racist/ homophobic/ generally ignorant, or pretend to not speak English. Any thoughts?” Fifteen ridiculous suggestions later, somebody replied: “suck it up, it might be interesting.”

As for me, my experience on a jury was one of the most interesting (and entertaining) I’ve had. When I got my letter in my pre-law school uni days, I saw it more as an opportunity to get out of my mind-numbing statistics class than anything else.

The case was interesting – the defendant was accused of breaking into the victim’s home before assaulting him. To hear the evidence, watch CCTV footage and a video of his police interview (four loooong hours), and reach a decision, only took a week. But it was an intense week. The facts of the case, including crime scene photos and the victim’s statement, were confronting.When the jury had lunch we had to leave via the back door of the restaurant so we would be less likely to encounter counsel, parties or witnesses.

I found it hard not to laugh at the defence barrister when he made his closing argument. He was so animated that it made me think he was having a joke. It was my guess that the prosecutor had little experience, as his voice was quivering, his hands were shaking and I could see the sweat dripping down his face! This all made me less than confident in our legal system…

On the final day we spent seven hours deliberating (and eating sandwiches and chatting). And actually, I quite enjoyed the company of one juror, who I didn’t see again…until we bumped into each other at our law school orientation the following year! I kid you not.

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