By Ruth Bayang
I was summoned to Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29 for jury duty. I really wanted to use the line, “I would make a great juror, because I can spot a guilty person just by looking at him/her.” But alas, I was dismissed early on both days.
Admittedly, I did try to get exempted, citing the hardship it would have placed on my employer, but that request was denied.
A friend of mine told me, “You should go. You’re smart. If I was on trial, I would want smart people on the jury.” Good point.
What’s it like?
As you may have guessed, many people were glued to their smartphones in the waiting room, some had books, others like me brought along their laptops, so they could work remotely.
I saw a pretty good cross-section of the community — Black, white, Asian, Latino, old, young, and everyone in between.
This was my second time serving. I was able to walk to the courthouse and as I mentioned, my group was dismissed quickly and early in the day.
The first time around, I took the bus to the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle. I recall getting a bus ticket in the mail and getting paid $10 a day. I spent a lot of time sitting and waiting. Then, I got called into a courtroom and was questioned by attorneys for both sides and the judge, and was almost seated. I got off the hook when I revealed I worked for the media and someone decided that I couldn’t be impartial.
What lawyers want
Both sides want fair jurors. But they really want jurors who will favor THEIR side over the other. Lawyers are limited to the kinds of questions they can ask, and they have time limits. So stereotypes come into play.
According to Elena Saris, a veteran criminal defense attorney, prosecutors favor Asian American jurors because they believe that culturally, Asians have more respect for authority and are more likely to believe a person who is arrested must have done something wrong.
The same thinking holds that defense lawyers favor Black jurors because they believe this group is more likely to have witnessed or experienced abuses of authority (especially law enforcement) and are more likely to believe it is possible for someone to be arrested and accused of a crime they did not commit.
Obviously, these are stark generalizations and do not hold true across the board. But these beliefs exist and according to Saris, definitely play a role when lawyers decide who stays and who goes.
Be a good juror
Alongside military service, being part of a jury is considered to be one of the most important civil responsibilities of an adult U.S. citizen.
Imagine if you or a loved one was accused of a crime. Imagine the jurors in the courtroom who will sit in judgment of you. What qualities would you want them to have?
Remember that the next time you are called to jury duty and be the person you would want someone else to be.