I Like Jury Duty by Paty Jager

There are many people who try as hard as they can to get out of jury duty. I, on the other hand, enjoy jury duty.

Where else can a writer see so many different people in a boring and, in the case of a trial, intense situation? There are emotions to study, tics, physical appearance, and even voices. For me it is an overload of images and sounds that I try to capture to use in books.

I don’t write courtroom stories, but I do use a lot of what I see in my mysteries. The way a policeman stares around the room, or the intense discussion between a client and lawyer, even the way two old men gossip in the corner of the room, their voices so loud everyone hears what they are saying. There is so much fodder for this imaginative brain! Even how the potential jurors act while waiting to be picked. It all has a way of speaking to me. I carry a small notebook with me when I go. I use it to jot down things I see that I think will make an interesting character or add nuance to a character.

And then there are the cases. I don’t use exact cases in stories, I use them as a bouncing off point, coming up with my own scenario and interjecting completely different characters than the real people. But it is all inspiration for books or characters or situations to come.

My biggest hurdle is getting onto a jury. Our son-in-law is a lieutenant in the Oregon State Police. When asked about that, there are times I get excused immediately. Just because I see crime from the side of the police, I think. There are also the drunk driving cases, I can’t be open minded on those. My father-in-law was an alcoholic who should have been off the road much sooner than he was. And then he only had his license taken away because my husband asked the courts to take it away, not because the courts were going to do it. Even though he’d been hauled in for DUII a half a dozen times. Yes, I believe the courts need to be stricter with that and anyone who drinks alcohol or does illegal drugs should not be allowed to drive. Take their license away. Sorry, got off on my high-horse there.

I find how the judges present themselves to also be noteworthy. Their demeanor can work for an employer or even a villain depending on how open or dominating he or she may be. Don’t forget the prosecuting attorney and the defendant’s lawyer. Again, how they act and present themselves is all scrutinized by me to find something that might work for a character.

The defendant.. are they nervous, smug, pretending they don’t care but their leg is bouncing or the keep clasping and unclasping their hands? Yes, I study all of this for characterization.

I also listen to what everyone has to say and hope I use an open mind when making a decision. All the while, I’ve scratched my notes and observations in my character notebook.

Do you like to be called for jury duty? Why or why not?

photo source: Depositphotos

7 thoughts on “I Like Jury Duty by Paty Jager

  1. I always wanted to serve on a jury, just for the experience. Back in 2009, I was called to the Alameda County Courthouse. It was a big jury pool and when they had us fill out questionnaires, I discovered it was a murder case.

    I made it to the jury interviews. I had, of course, been frank about being a mystery writer, I got questions. The first thing the judge wanted to know was whether I can distinguish between fact and fiction. I assured him that yes, I can. The other question was whether I would use my experiences in a book. I told him everything I do in life is grist for the mill, including this. I knew I was going to wind up on the jury. Five weeks in a murder trial, one young man accused of killing another. A fascinating experience, not just in the courtroom but in the jury room as well. Those autopsy photos really stick with me to this day.

    After it was over, I asked one of the defense attorneys why he hadn’t dismissed me since I was a mystery writer. He said he wanted me on the jury because he thought I would consider and weigh all the evidence. Which I did.

    This contrasts with another jury interview for another murder case, a man accused of killing his wife. The defense attorney couldn’t get me off that jury fast enough. Interestingly enough, I had looked at his client and thought, this guy is guilty. There’s just something about him. His affect is all wrong. Sure, I looked up the defendant several months later, wondering what happened, and discovered he had changed his plea to guilty.


  2. I loved being on jury duty. One time when i filled out the questionnaire I honestly put I had relatives in law enforcement, and one who was in jail. I got called into the judge chamber, questioned by the lawyer and the judge, assured them I could be unbiased, but I was excused. Now I’m too old. But I did serve on two juries and excused from serving about 4 more–not because I wanted to be, but too many relatives in law enforcement and a couple of relatives who weren’t law abiding citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was surprised that they never asked if anyone had family in law enforcement yesterday. I ended up on the 6 person jury after they called my name wrong and I’d left. I was sitting in my car about to text my hubby that I wasn’t selected and my phone rang. It was the clerk asking me to come back that I’d been selected. They had called out Janice Yeager not Patricia Jager. The judge apologized for his mistake and I sat in on the 2 hour trial.


  3. A very compelling post, Paty. I too was glad to be called for jury duty but so far I’ve only been held in the jury pool three times, with the parties reaching a deal before we were called to be interviewed for the jury. Watching and listening to the variety of people called and getting their reactions is worth all the time and inconvenience. Kudos to you and your husband on the DUI issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, the most interesting part about the trial (which I was asked to sit on) was the nervousness of the Trooper as he was being questioned and the way the defendant bobbed his head agreeing with everything the trooper and the DA said. LOL


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