Tuesday, May 29, 2001
I arrived at the Harris County Jury Assembly Room at 8:00am as stated on my Jury Summons. The County Clerk gathered everyone’s Jury Summons until 8:30am and then showed us a short video on the jury disqualifications and exemptions. The County Clerk began calling out groups of jurors for cases. I was called as a pool of 60 jurors for the District Criminal Court. The bailiff assigned us new juror numbers and I was assigned juror #13 of 60. The bailiff escorted us to the 15th floor of the County Criminal Courthouse where we waited in the hall until we were escorted into the courtroom.
County Justice Center (left: Criminal Courthouse)
The judge was a stocky white man with thinning gray hair wearing a typical businessman dark gray suit with white shirt and a U.S. flag tie in celebration of Memorial Day. The judge gave a presentation on the judicial system and the criminal court system. The judge said the court has unlimited strikes of potential jurors that do not agree with the law and the prosecuting and defense attorneys also get to strike ten potential jurors each for any reason. The judge encouraged people to talk because he said the ones that talk are generally eliminated, so the jury is usually made up of leftovers. The judge made jokes like "This will probably be your only chance to ask lawyers questions for free." Each attorney was given 30 minutes to interview the jurors.
The prosecuting attorney for the State of Texas was a young white woman looking like she was newly out of law school. The defense attorney was a middle-aged white man with peppered sparse beard and mustache and tinted glasses making him look like a used car salesman. From the attorney’s questioning, we could determine some general aspects of the case even though the attorneys were using hypothetical situations.
The defendant was a young black man. When he stood up, he had a body builder stance. He was accused of aggravated robbery with a firearm. With two prior convictions, if found guilty he would be sentenced to 25 years to life. The criminal had worn a mask. The victim had not reported the crime for a week.
As the attorneys interviewed the jurors, a few of the jurors spoke up that they did not agree with the law, such as that the defendant could take the 5th Amendment and did not have to take the stand to declare his innocence. The prosecuting attorney had asked me "Can you think of any other reason why someone would not report a crime?" Since revenge had already been suggested by another juror, I said "I cannot think of anything else." She asked "Do you think someone should report a crime immediately?" and I responded "I think that is the right thing to do, but different people have different attitudes."
When the attorneys were finished interviewing the jurors then they began selecting their strikes. The prosecutor approached the podium and stated the charges against the defendant. The judge asked the defendant "How do you plead?" and the defendant responded "No guilty". The judge starting calling the selected jurors, #4, #6, #12… Since I had been relatively quiet, I thought I would be selected as a juror because I was a "leftover", but the next juror called was #14.
I was released at noon and walked across downtown to the office to go to work.
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