This morning at 9:00am, I reported to the Livingston Parish Courthouse because I had been subpoenaed for jury duty. Not knowing what to expect, this being my first time having been subpoenaed, I was excited at the idea of fulfilling my civic duties and possibly serving on a jury. After checking in with the bailiff and coming to the realization that all the prospective jurors, including myself, were seated in the courtroom amongst 8-10 criminals...I became a little bit nervous. At this point, everyone was dismissed from the courtroom to the lobby for a "short" recess. Deliberations began with each individual criminal and their attorneys' in the judges chambers where they were offered plea bargains.
Keep in mind that I previously mentioned that the criminals and myself and fellow prospective jurors are all seated in a lobby together. After an hour goes by and everyone has sparked "small talk" amongst themselves we begin to realize that we are here for CRIMINAL TRIALS. (anxiety level on the rise) The young male seated directly to my left stated that he was going to accept his plea bargain for 8 years in a state penitentiary after being blackmailed into accepting a felony charge as a juvenile that is now on his record and living a life of crime (he first stepped into a courtroom in front of a judge at the ripe young age of 8), it was the best option for him. Can you say, Menace to Society?? Wow!! The older lady seated across from me says that though she is guilty of her misdemeanor crime, she will TAKE US ALL TO TRIAL because her plea bargain offer of 6 months in jail and 2 years probation is simply too much punishment for her crime. Then, she proceeded to fall back asleep because that's what I would be doing if I was possibly going to be leaving for jail later in the day. Are you kidding me??
Then we are all called back into the courtroom for jury selection to begin. After 5 hours and answering all the questions to their liking, I was chosen by the Assistant District Attorney's Office to serve on the grand jury as juror #3. Woohoo!! The young gentleman was on trial for:
A.) second offense possession of a schedule I controlled substance, marijuana; B.) second offense possession of a schedule II controlled substance with intent to distribute, cocaine. After keeping 8 named jurors and dismissing 6 possible jurors from the jury pool of 85, we were dismissed for lunch. Being a selected juror, they plaster a red/white tag on your shirt that says "JUROR" and say that when you return from lunch go directly to the grand jury room and don't speak to others in the jury pool.
After returning from lunch, we the 8 "chosen ones" are addressed by the District Attorney himself. He thanks us for our service and warns us that a trial of this magnitude could take up to 3-4 weeks and possibly sequestering near the end of the trial. WHAT?? This whole scenario just went from a possibly educational and interesting duty as an American citizen to being away from my job for an extended period of time and away from my family indefinitely. WHOA!! A bailiff then entered the chambers and whispered that this whole experience would probably be ending soon because the defendant has decided to take the plea.
Apparently after seeing the judge seat 8 jurors and the "real" possibility of going to trial set in, the defendant accepted the plea from the DA office and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison without the possibility of parole. We were thanked by the judge and the DA and dismissed us from our civil responsibility of jury duty for 2 years.
By the way, we were reimbursed $25.00 for the day and $0.16/mile (12 miles for me). It was an interesting experience to say the least.