Today we held another jury trial. We summoned 20 people to come serve.
Several of them were unable for one reason or another, but they wrote in advance and explained good reasons. The ones with really good reasons were excused. The rest of those summoned showed up on time and participated.
I am so grateful to serve in a community where people take their jury duty seriously!
When talking with the jury this morning, I thanked them for their service. I really didn’t plan to say it, but I remarked, “You are America.”
That is absolutely true. The people who serve on juries are the last line of defense for individual liberty in this country.
Jurors protect innocent people who are accused by the government. Jurors protect innocent victims who are harmed by criminals. Jurors make sure that one of the most fundamental liberties — the right to go home after a trial — is kept in the hands of the people and not the government.
The jurors are the sole judges of the facts in any trial. Their decision about the facts cannot be overruled by the judge. Their decision about the facts is final. They hold the real power.
In Municipal Court, we get our list of potential jurors from the Clinton County Jury Commission at the beginning of every year. They are selected at random from among people who reside in Clinton County.
When we receive that list, we send every person a questionnaire, and ask them to return it completed. They almost always do. If you have filled out one of those, thank you!
Most people who complete that questionnaire do not get called for jury duty. We only have a few jury trials a year here, and we only need 20 or 30 jurors for each one.
Those who are called don’t necessarily serve on the panel. We only select nine people to sit as jurors — eight jurors plus one alternate (just in case one of the other eight gets sick). So if you get jury duty, your chance of being picked is still less than 50/50.
Those selected for the panel — the lucky nine — are here for most of one day. We almost never have a jury trial which lasts more than one day. It hasn’t happened since I have been the judge.
I’m not sure it has ever happened in this court. We only try misdemeanor cases, and they just don’t involve enough witnesses to last more than one day.
When you are summoned for jury duty, plan on spending the whole day. You might get sent home after a couple of hours, but you may be here until 5 p.m. or later.
Wear comfortable clothes, and eat a good breakfast. We take a break for lunch, but we do not provide meals.
I can assure you that if you are called for jury duty, you will remember it.
You will have the chance to do one of the most important jobs in government — and you will form memories that will last a lifetime.
Mike Daugherty is Judge of the Clinton County Municipal Court.
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