Notes of A (Potential) Juror

Yesterday, I had jury duty. Well, sort of. What I really had was, drive down to a bad part of town, skip work and sit in a room with 1,000 other people, 50% of whom are coughing and/or sneezing, and wait.

I live in Dallas County, which puts me in the Dallas Court system instead of a nice suburban system. I was rather interested/frightened about what I was going to find. I have been called for jury duty twice before, but both times I was living in Austin for college, so I was able to skip it. This time however, just a meager 3 months after I renewed my license and changed my address, which says to the Dallas County Courts system “I have an address! Call me!!” I was called for duty. Dallas county has some issues. Only 23% of its summoned citizens actually appear. 23%! 77% say, “to hell with that!” even though not showing can put you in contempt of court. Yesterday, they called 4,000 people. 1,000 showed up.

I started studying my fellow jurors. The average age was probably in the neighborhood of 5o, but it appeared to be split evenly between men and women. Considering 71.5% of the county is over 18, I think we have found part of the problem… Young people aren’t showing up as much as older people. Ah, but that is to be expected, no?

But then I started looking at races and ethnicities. Hmm, there sure were a lot of white people…And in this case, I am not included Hispanics in my definition. Hispanics were sorely lacking. This article agrees with me on that, however, it seems to be off on the census numbers. The article states that Dallas county is 26% Hispanic, but the census states 35.2% (which sounds more accurate to me). Of that percent–chose your favorite number–only 11% show for jury duty. A similar lack of representation appeared to be occurring for African Americans, although not the same extent. The same census says that 20% of the Dallas county population is Black, but that didn’t appear to be accurate in my jury group.

Those number are distressing on any number of levels, but my biggest concern is the skewed representation of the population that it creates for juries. If a jury is supposed to made up of your peers, and you are a young Hispanic man, what happens when you sit in front of a mostly white, mostly older panel of jurors?

Obviously, this is a debate is is constantly going on in the judicial world, but it was interesting to see it in action. It makes you wonder what it would take to create a more even distribution.

After all of my observations, however, I was simply sent home. I didn’t even get pulled for the courts to even try to put me on a jury panel. I just sat in the central jury room reading my book, trying not to breathe in the coughing going on around me.

I have to say this was a disappointment. I am interested in law (and probably should have gone to law school) and I was curious to see how it all worked from a new perspective.

I also wanted to get asked about my response to one particular box on my jury summons. The box requested my religion, but rather than give choices, it was fill in the blank. So, since I didn’t think they would like Mewish, I wrote, “Tolerant of All.” As I am, and that would be the most pertinent part as a juror. But I was hoping for them to ask me why I wrote that, so that I could explain my Mewish heritage, and tolerant religious views of everyone except Republicans.
(before I piss off my Republican friends…I am just kidding!!)

Oh well, I am sure I will have another bite at this particular apple.


One response to “Notes of A (Potential) Juror

  1. Stacy

    The suburban system isn’t any better…trust me.

    I do know many companies (including mine) won’t let you go to jury duty without taking a PTO day…or they “let” you take the day off, but they won’t pay you since the courts system is doing it. That’s a huge deterrent.

    I’m grateful the one time I was on a jury (rape & kidnapping case) I worked for a good company…because I was off work for two weeks with that one.

    Having said that, I can tell you back in California (which also had a growing Hispanic population), Hispanic potential jurors didn’t show up because they didn’t speak English. Understanding English proficiently is a requirement, and not everyone fit that bill. We had the same problem with a lot of Asian immigrants, as well.

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