I went to the mailbox just last week expecting to receive the
normal junk mail, letters from friends and family and the
ever-looming consistency of bill cycles. Amid all the bills and
letters was the ominous envelope that read “Jury Summons.” I
thought to myself, “Surely, this must be a mistake, this is
obviously not meant for me.” I checked the address and sure enough,
this Jury Summons was mine.
How could this be possible? I am a full-time student. In fact, I
am a graduating senior immersed in preparation for the last-minute
papers that our professors “lovingly” compile upon us toward the
end of the semester like clockwork. I knew what I had to do: I
needed to call the number on my summons and alert the
powers-that-be that this is a mistake.
I called and got the standard message where I proceeded to
listen to all of the numerical options, until at last I was able to
hear the number that directed me to an actual human being. When I
finally spoke with a human, I explained my situation and asked to
speak with the jury commissioner. The secretary transferred me to
Commissioner Lori Johnson’s personal line. “OK, great I’m getting
somewhere,” I thought to myself. The phone rang twice and
“surprisingly” it went directly to the commissioner’s voice
I knew what I must do next. I couldn’t take time out of my
18-credit schedule, with finals looming around the corner. What if
it is a murder trial … I could be there for days, weeks, months
even. I was informed by Student Legal Services on campus to have
CSU write an official letter. SLS informed me that this would be a
definite reason for disqualification of jury duty. The letter was
sent, and I felt footloose and fancy-free – that is, until I went
back to my mailbox days later.
I received an official letter from the commissioner stating, “I
cannot disqualify you because you are a student. To preserve the
fairness of jury selection the State of Colorado allows no
occupational exemptions, no one group or persons is exempt from
jury service, not politicians, judges, students, law enforcement
personnel,” and so on and so on. It became quite clear that I was
going to have to perform my civic duty.
After all the muss and fuss, I appeared with my summons at the
court to await the jury-pool selections. I had been informed that
this process can last hours. So, if you get to this point, I
suggest you bring a good magazine. The jury pool is a process of
random selection. If your number is called you go into the
courtroom where you sit on a panel and proceed to answer questions
from lawyers involved in the case.
The lawyers then decide which 12 individuals will be “whittled”
down to the selected six jurors. The lawyers have a call sheet and
go back and forth checking off the names of the individuals they do
not want because of the nature of your answers, maybe a candidate
had shifty eyes or just pure bias. This is how the jury is
selected. It is now time for court to be in session. Luckily, the
jury had been decided upon before my number was selected.
This is for all of those students out there like myself who
thought being a student disqualifies you automatically, it won’t. I
hope this article paves the way for those other victims. In truth,
it is quite an interesting process and a serious matter that is
revered as an honor. If that doesn’t do it for you, hey students,
you get to miss class the day and/or days of the trial.
Kristina Steward is graduating senior in the speech