September 29th, 2006

Default

My day at the federal courthouse

So, I managed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and despite half dozing off, was able to leave the house at about 6 a.m., and arrived at the courthouse in San Francisco at 7:40 -- right on time. The first thing they did was show us a video made in the '70s ("The Constitution hasn't changed," they reminded us) introduced by the late John Houseman of all people, which provided a brief explanation of what a Federal Grand Jury does.

While I knew that a grand jury deals in federal cases, I didn't realize how different it is from a trial jury, in that they operate on their own. The government prosecutors try to make their case, but the jury interviews witnesses, can send out subpoenas, investigate stuff etc. There's no judge present. The jury doesn't decide the case; they simply decide whether the government HAS a case to begin with. If so, then the jury creates an indictment and the case goes to trial. Then the jury works on another potential case, and another, and another... until their 18-month term is over. So that's also different from a trial jury which works one case then goes home.

Collapse )

Hmm, this was more about the ride home than the jury service...

I will say it was amazing how many of the people called up to be jurors were or were related to someone who had been jailed for drug crimes. Yeesh... even more than those who were or were related to someone who had been arrested for DUI.