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Jury Duty

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

I had jury duty for the first time ever this week… it wasn’t too bad! I have been called NINE times previously in the last 10 years, so I knew it was coming around again for me.

According to my summons, I was juror # 2848. I thought that I would be there all day twiddling my thumbs, waiting to be called. When I arrived, they segregated the jurors by numbers into what reminded me of college lecture halls (but newer, and nicer!). Jurors 2300 to 3000 were to go to room #3. I arrived at 7:45 AM and they collected everyone’s summons information. At about 8:30 AM the County Clerk came on the projection screen, made a few announcements, and then swore us in for our day. As 9:00 AM rolled around, the first group of numbers was displayed on the screen – Jurors 2666 to 2888.

“There goes my hope for not getting picked today. At least I am towards the end of the list”

We all file out to the hallway, where our bailiff assigns us new juror numbers (numerically 1 through 60). As predicted, I am towards the end with number 47. (A lot of the other jurors are commenting about the large number for the pull, I didn’t realize that this was a large jury – this told me this will be a high profile case.) The bailiff leads us the the 6th floor probate court, where we wait in the hall outside the court. After awhile, the bailiff tells all jurors to turn their numbers back into him. Apparently the court is legally allowed one random reshuffle of the selected jurors…

” Oh Great! I knew number 47 was too good to be true!”

The bailiff then starts reassigning the jurors:

Bailiff: “Juror number 1 is Juror four-eight-four…”
Me: “Figures…”
Bailiff: “…-seven”

Of course just as I think everything will be “ok”, the bailiff calls my number and tells me I will be juror 12. “Crap!” As the bailiff finishes up, we line up in numerical and march into the courtroom.

As potential jurors, we are told as little as possible about the case – just enough so that the two sides can determine who they want to reject from their jury. The basic gist of the case seemed to be that a rich, elderly man developed some type of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, and at some point after the diagnosis (which may or may not have been made by a Psychiatrist and not a Neurologist), he signed a new Will. This new Will presumably left everything to his current wife, and cut off his daughters (who may or may not have been adopted and may or not have been estranged). The daughters were fighting the Will in court due to the theory that their father may not have been of sound mind or body to sign the Will.

The only thing I had remotely in common with the case was simply that I am a pharmacist, and as such, I am a “drug expert”. I don’t have any relatives that I have watched dwindle into dementia, and I have never actively taken part in a battle of Will’s. But both sides had questions that I could answer. The first question was from the step-mother’s defense (SMD):

SMD: “Does anyone have significant knowledge about the medications used to treat Alzheimer’s and Dementia?”.
I raised my hand and Juror card, “I am a pharmacist”.
SMD:”Do you think that with your drug knowledge, that you could listen to the evidence presented and not act as an expert”
Me, thinking: “well, I am a Doctor of Pharmacy, so I am technically an expert”
Me, aloud “well, yea, I think I could be impartial and listen to the evidence”

Not the most confidence inspiring answer they probably wanted to hear. The second question that pertained to me was asking if we had ever heard of or knew what an MMSE (mini-mental state exam) was. For the second time that day, I had to raise my hand alone. I admitted I had never performed one, but I knew what it was and what it generally was used for. This was the last question from the daughters’ defense team, so we were asked to step out at that point.

After about forty-five minutes of deliberation, the jurors were finally asked to come back into the courtroom. One of the courtroom staff began calling the selected jurors up by name. I watched as she called jurors 1, 4, 5, 9, 10, and 11… and then skipped all the way to juror 14 or 15. I wasn’t picked for the jury! Almost everyone in the room had a relative who had been affected by some type of dementia, so that wasn’t an immediate disqualification. The one thing that bothered me is one of the lawyers for the daughters’ defense asked a question that was objected to and not pursued: “Do you disagree that a psychiatrist is the best doctor to diagnosis Alzheimer’s?” I was about to jump out of my seat to answer that question as a definite “Yes, I do disagree” – but I never got the opportunity.

Overall, jury duty was not a bad experience. I was more than willing to serve if so required, but I was certainly glad when they did not call my name – spending a week (or more!) running back and forth to downtown would have eventually lost its appeal.