Questions and answers: my experience doing jury duty

"Millega lõpes eelmine nädal, ehk kas õiglus sai jalule?" Miss Positiivne

"How did last week end, did justice prevail?" Miss Positiivne

A few weeks ago I attended my local district court as my name had been selected - at random, amongst other 50 or so names, from thousands of New Zealanders who are either citizens or residents - for jury duty for that week.

(Because unlike Estonia, New Zealand has a legal system which includes jury - a random selection of "usual" people who make their ruling on whether the accused is guilty or not. If you've ever seen an American movie or a TV show that includes court proceedings, you've probably come across a jury.)

Either luckily or unluckily, I wasn't selected to sit on an actual jury though. My experience basically included showing up at the courthouse on three mornings that week, signing in with the administration person, and then watching 12 other people's names being pulled from a ballot box instead.

It's kind of like a lottery, really. There's an actual wooden box that has every person's name on a piece of paper inside, and then that box gets shaken around, and then an administration person pulls names from that box at random. www.justice.govt.nz/services/access-to-justice/jury-service-1/about-jury-service gives a pretty good overview of how it works, really, including a video.

I did have several interesting moments though.

One was the fact that when I was in the waiting room on Monday morning, they basically said that something had gone wrong with the trial, and that it needed to get fixed before the trial could start, and so we'd have to come back on Tuesday instead.

And when I then had come back on Tuesday to sit in the waiting room again, a bunch of people started complaining that they didn't really have time to deal with this stuff. One guy - some important IT guy - was especially vocal.

Though it's unusual for people to be excused on the day that the trial is due to start - mostly people who want to be excused need to contact the court several weeks before the trial - on this particular occasion a court person came with a piece of paper, wrote down names of all people who wanted to be excused, and said that the judge was so angry at how the trial was setting up to be that the judge didn't want to deal with anyone who didn't want to be on jury, and so they were just going to excuse anyone who wanted to leave.

And most of us probably looked at that court person, thinking, "Gee, I am not sure I want to be involved in that trial..."

And then of course as the "balloting" process was going on in courtrooms and names were being pulled out of wooden boxes, I watched how people's names would get called out, they would stand up and start walking towards the jury box, and one of the lawyers would loudly call out, "Challenge!"

It is basically a lawyer's way of saying, "No, I don't want that person to be on jury," and no explanations are given. It's a challenge and that's it - a called-out person needs to stop, walk back to their seat, and wait until everything is over.

Lots of names were challenged. One was an old lady who was taking such a long time to stand up and walk that I think the lawyer was trying to spare her the hassle of a trial more than anything else. Another was a social worker who later told me that she will probably never get picked onto a jury because she spends a lot of her professional life working with criminals, and lawyers probably wouldn't want her on a jury.

But yeah - it was interesting watching it all. And kind of nice I didn't have to stay for actual jury - all cases had to do with violent behaviours and I am not sure I would've wanted to hear all the details...

Besides, if I did get picked to sit on a jury, I wouldn't be allowed to blog about it anyway :).

2 comments:

  1. see 'challenge' lugu on huvitav. ei tea, kas usa-s on sarnane protokoll?

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  2. Eestis on rahvakohtunike süsteem olemas, aga sinna peab spetsiaalselt kandideerima ja siis aegajalt neid inimesi kutsutakse kohtuistungitele.

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