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