Magazine article Talent Development

The $30 a Day Job: That's Right. Jury Duty

Magazine article Talent Development

The $30 a Day Job: That's Right. Jury Duty

Article excerpt

Sooner or later, you're likely to be called to serve. If you're registered to vote or have a driver's license, they'll find you. Typically, you're paid $30 a day if your employer suspends your salary while you're out or you are unemployed or self-employed. Where I live, Washington, D.C., we're served notice for jury duty every two years. You can't believe how fast that two years passes.

I have been called four times. The system here is that you serve one day or one trial. That is, you show up at the courthouse and report to the Juror's Lounge and wait. And wait. And wait. "Lounge" is an exaggeration, but they do show DVDs, such as Ken Burns's series "Baseball." It was very entertaining, though I didn't get to finish it.

If your number isn't called by the end of the day, you're done--at least, for two years. If your number is called, you proceed with the selected first pool to a courtroom, where voir dire takes place. That's when the defense attorney prosecutor, and judge take you through final jury selection. You fill out a questionnaire with such inquiries as Have you ever committed a felony? Is there any reason that would prevent you from serving on a jury? Then they call you up to the bench to explain your answers.

I know what you're thinking. You figure if you answer "yes" to either of those questions, you're home free. Not so. I've never committed a felony, but I do confess to trying to get out of jury duty once by giving what I thought might be disqualifying answers. It didn't work. I was picked. I sat through three days of the trial and then learned I was one of the alternate jurors. None of the jury had to drop out, so I didn't get to deliberate. A few years ago, I served on a murder trial that resulted in a hung jury. That was frustrating because I--and most of the jurors--believed the defendant was guilty.

This last time I was called to serve, just a few weeks ago, I left the questionnaire blank. No reason I couldn't sit, I was prepared to. But I did try to keep a low profile. Picked.

The case was about a young man who broke another man's jaw. The defendant and the victim lived in the same neighborhood and had known each other for years. …

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