Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution states, "the trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury". There was further specification of this statement in the 6th Amendment and the 7th Amendment. The 6th amendment specified that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury. The 7th amendment stated that in all suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved. From this foundation, developed the jury selection system that many of us are famailiar with. The jury selection process is refered to as the voir dire.
In large citites, like New York, the jury selection process has become tedious. An individual is asked to perform his civic duty by appearing at a selected courthouse within his district. If he or she is selected to perform state jury duty, they may have to drive 5 or 10 miles from their home to get to the local courthouse. However, when one is requested to serve as a federal juror, the trip can become much larger. Many people have to drive 60 or 70 miles to perform their civic duty. Once there, they waste much of their day sitting and reading, uncomfortably dozing off on 10 year old chairs whose cushions have been unable to contour to any particular shape except for uncomfortable.
Once you are summoned to a courtroom, a feeling that the wheels of justice have begun to move overcomes the you. Unfortunately, if you only brought a magazine with you assuming you would be doing some light reading, you’re out of luck. This is becuase the jury waiting room was much more forgiving than the proceedings in the courtroom. Once in the courtroom, you are participating in the process known as voir dire. While there, you sit and listen for hours, if not days, to the judge and/or the lawyers as they ask the same questions over and over again to each and every individual. Although most juries are composed of 12 people, somewhere close to 60 people are usually summoned into the courtroom. The type of trial will determine how thorough the court is in selecting jurors and therefore in how much time it takes for the whole process to happen.
If you are not selected to one case, you have to return to the jury waiting room until they pick you for another case. Since the government has a right to hold onto to you for two weeks, the person may not be chosen for a jury until their tenth day of service and at that time they may then have to sit on a jury for however long the trial lasts. Trials usually last for two weeks or less, but, with a $40.00 a day paycheck, there may be a struggle to make ends meet if you have a job that doesn’t compensate you for time missed as a juror. If you happen to be chosen for a jury rather quickly, you are fortunate. If you are chosen for a criminal case, you are looking at about two weeks of service. However, if you are chosen for a civil case, you may get lucky. Civil cases are sometimes settled after a jury is selected but before the trial begins. This means that everyone on the jury has fulfilled their duties as a juror and are free to go.
Once your jury service is completed, you can resume your normal activities like waking up to work at a job you don’t like to deal with jerks all day. The best part of jury duty happens about a month and a half after you have forgotten that you ever served. The government sends you a check in the mail which you can then use to support your drug habit or your addiction to cheetos. Yeah republicanism!