Jury Duty: To Serve or not to Serve?
Pinellas County Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses the Danger of a Quiet Juror
We have all heard the dreaded statement, “I have jury duty.” What is so terrible about serving the community? After all, it is the highest civic honor. Keep an open mind; you may become a part of something very profound. Whether the client is found guilty or not guilty, a citizen’s service is greatly appreciated by all members of the legal system and the person accused of a crime.
However, if you truly do not want to serve, think about why. It is typically the very honest answers to this question that will dictate whether you are the most appropriate person to serve on a jury. Many people sit quietly during the process known as voir dire (to speak the truth) hoping they will not be selected to serve. Understandably, it can be an intimidating process. All too often, it is the quiet jurors that are selected because they do not express true and honest opinions, they do not stand out. I believe these are the most dangerous people to serve on a jury.
For example, my partner and I recently tried a capital sexual battery case. The standard questions we ask are formulated to extract information from individuals to determine whether they have any personal experiences that could cause them to be bias against our clients. The goal is to select people who can look at all of the evidence and be fair and impartial. After the judge, the state attorneys and our defense team wrapped up our questions, we sent the jury out of the court room. I had a suspicion that one of the jurors may have been sleeping so we called her back in for individual questioning outside the presence of the rest of the potential jurors. When we asked if she was paying attention, she began crying and said she had been the victim of a sexual battery. After picking up our bottom jaws off the table, we excused her. Why would someone not disclose this crucial information to the attorneys and the judge, especially after being given the opportunity to speak privately about it?
Lesson learned from the attorney’s standpoint; speak to every juror. Follow your gut if someone is being too quiet and question them more. As a potential juror, remember this story. If you are quiet, you may be selected. You may end up serving on a jury in a case that you are not suited to serve.
Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC., is a full-service Pinellas County criminal defense firm. Conveniently located in Largo, our office is only minutes away for residents of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Our attorneys regularly handle criminal defense for residents of Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Madeira Beach, Indian Rocks, Kenneth City, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Beach, Treasure Island, Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs.
If you are in the need of assistance or for more information, please contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC., at 1-855-PSF-FIRM or (727) 531-2926 for a free evaluation and case evaluation.