Earlier this year I was called for Jury summons, Jury service is something I hoped I would never be called for however I was. The week before I was originally due to start jury service I had a phone call to defer by a week as they had too many people. Cue another week of worry about the unknown.
When I got to the court to begin my jury service on day 1, I was pleasantly greeted by security guards who check your bags and everything necessary for the day, I the. Went down to the jurors waiting area. It began with a name call, watching a DVD on 'Your Role As A Juror' then we went into one of the courtrooms for a slideshow and to view a real courtroom. Now I don't watch crime documentaries so don't know where I got my expectations from but the room was a lot smaller than what I expected. After this is was back to the waiting area to well... wait.
I guess during my experience I was lucky, I was in the first group of 30 jurors to be called to court and one of the 12 chosen so no waiting around for me. However, if your called for jury service, be prepared for lots of waiting around. Each day I attended jury service, two guys who started at the same time were called in each day and were waiting around each day until finally on day 4 they got chosen. During the second week there were no waiting jurors from the week I started. Each evening each juror had to call a number and listen to a recorded message to see if they were required the following day,unless a sitting juror like I was.
When in the courtroom 12 names were chosen at random to be the sitting jurors, the defendants, counsel and any other member in there can challenge this, for instance if you know them. After this we were sworn in, this could be done on a holy book of choice or by affirming. Our trial was expected to be two weeks possibly 3 but we we're pre-warned of this first.
The trial itself was well, interesting, obviously I cannot share any details. The charges the defendant(s) faced were explained, evidence presented, witnesses presented and cross examined by defence and prosecution if required. Occasionally the judge would speak but that's pretty much the general feel.
After 2 weeks of evidence and closing summaries we were eventually dismissed to begin our deliberations, this is what I found the hardest. We spent several hours discussing the case, in fact 5 and a half hours. It was very exhausting but important none-the-less. After making a decision we returned to the courtroom where our foreman delivered the verdict, we were then dismissed. As we had gone over our 2 weeks we were just able to leave, however if it had finished before we would have been required to call each evening again.
The experience was both mentally and emotionally draining for me but a valuable one too. I feel it's been a brilliant experience and one which I have made a new group of friends from. Considering I was anxious about doing jury service I would definately do it again if I get called to do so.