So I’ve been summoned to jury duty plenty o’ times but never federal jury duty. There are only a few federal courts, but at least one per state, of which there may be nine in Illinois but I’m thinking it’s much less. Like three. A month or so back I was summoned and two weeks ago I began my service period. The federal courthouse to which I was summoned was the Dirksen Building at 219 S. Dearborn in Chicago. Initially I thought “they have it wrong, I live out in the burbs. I used to live in Des Plaines which was close to Chicago but not anymore.” Working at the Aurora Police station which also houses the Kane County Courthouses I thought I would go to work and just walk to the other side of the building. But I was wrong. Federal Courts have a wide area to choose their jury pools from. I had to appear the first day, Monday August 25, and if not chosen to serve, I would have to call in the night before for every following business day to see if needed.
I took the train in, giving myself almost an hour to get from Union Station to the Dirksen building as opposed to 20 minutes which the next train would allow. It takes a while just to get out of the station with everyone exiting and I figured I’d grab a meal or something but if I had to I could make the later train. As it turns out there were issues with the train and all trains from my area ended up about 25 minutes late. I arrived with 25 minutes to spare which turned out to be the minimum needed to “get me to the court on time.” Once there I had to pass through TSA level security which involved all electronics being removed from bags and placed separately on the conveyor belt. I brought a laptop, a 3DS, a hotspot, a usb charger, my work phone (an iPhone 4s) and my personal phone (a blackberry — it’s small which is something to consider when you have to carry two phones at all times.) I also had to take off my belt. The procedure ensured I would not be going out for lunch nor would I be bringing much if required to return.
After checking in, within an hour I was selected in the first group to be a potential juror. I’m not sure if I can legally say anything about the case so I won’t. The room was beautiful. Modern classic with everything in nice stained wood. The public benches where we waited ended up being beautiful but after about 5 minutes just drove you crazy. It was like the old Fine Arts Theater where you were just in pain. I had to sit there for more than two hours.
The judge explained jury duty and then wanted to see if people needed to be excused. One person was a sole care provider for someone with disabilities and was out. Another said Jesus forgave him and he would always forgive. No matter what. So he was out. I wanted to murder his family and see if he would forgive me but the judge had probably been through this enough that he just let him go. Some people had pending trials and convictions and he kept them. One person tried to argue he had pending court case which could not be delayed to which the judge said, “if you’re chosen, have anyone involved with your case call me and I guarantee they’ll make time.”
After people were weeded out that way came the actual jury selection. Twelve jurors and two alternates. They started with six and asked them a series of questions and then the prosecution and defense could question them. They could then eliminate potential jurors. If they eliminated a person from seat 2 the next potential juror was seated in seat 2. We got through the first 6 and had done the first round of questioning for the second six when we had lunch.
At lunch, there was a group of us that eventually sat together and discussed things. Not the case, the judge had forbidden that, but things like where we were from and if we got paid. Jurors are paid $40 a day plus an amount for travel based on your zip code. The money isn’t taxed and only has to be declared if you make above a certain amount from jury duty per year. Whether you take public transportation or drive and spend $40 on just parking it makes no difference. There was a student who was thrilled to be chosen as she had no job and this meant she was making money.
After lunch the second six were chosen and I was almost chosen as an alternate. The juror seats were hella comfortable and the speakers for the courtroom were not as loud in the juror box. One of the cool things was when there was a sidebar someone hit a switch and the speakers produced static to drown out any possible eavesdropping. I was still amazed the prosecution and defense were able to discuss amongst themselves without being heard. At least by me. After sitting through all that I was disappointed to not be chosen. Especially if it meant having to go through that again if summoned another day.
I got out just before 2:30 and tried to make the train that left around then but just missed it. I debated whether to call someone up and hang out but really just wanted to go home so I waited the 45 minutes for the next train and made it back shortly after 4:00. For the next two weeks I called the evening before every business day except for the evening of Tuesday, September 2nd. I wasn’t needed any of those days and suppose if I get a subpena or federal marshals show up on my doorstep, I was needed for the Wednesday I didn’t call. The last day of calling I put it on speakerphone at work so everyone could hear whether I was needed or not.
No pictures. Photography of any kind was expressly forbidden in the summons as well as at every other stage of the jury duty process.