Monday, December 10, 2007

Jury Duty report

Joan drove me to Perth Central Law Courts to start my jury duty. We have had some experience on peak-hour traffic on the freeway north and thought it wise to leave just before 7am for an 8.15 start at the courts. Wrong!! The freeway was free; well almost and we were in Perth by 7.15am, an hour early. We did a touristy drive around Kings Park and even tried to spot the track where Mrs Corryn Rayney's body was found by our hapless constabulary. The murderer has not yet been apprehended, though her husband has been named as the prime suspect.

After wasting a bit of time, Joan left me at the courts. As the doors were opened at 8am potential jurists flooded in and crowded the lifts to the 4th floor. A series of security checks of summonses, and ID got us into the main foyer where we were issued with a card with a number on it. Further in this was scanned and my name appeared on the computer and I and the other 350 people sat and waited and waited and waited. The numbered cards was a new touch for me. They are designed to protect jurors by not giving out names for the villains to track you down.

Eventually the ballot for each trial started. There were four trials starting today and three more during the week. All potential jurors were eventually assigned to a case. The longer the estimated trial time the more jurors are selected in case one of them falls off the perch mid-trial. The two trials for my group of 50 were set to run for 5 days each and two extra jurors were selected for those trials. I assume it was the same for the murder and grievous bodily harm trials also starting today. Some trials were at the Central Criminal Courts; some at the Supreme Court and another two in Fremantle.

We were led into a court room prior to the final selection of the Jury. The four accused were in the dock, a married couple and two part Aboriginal men who were all accused of several house robberies and stealing a vehicle. All pleaded not guilty to the robberies, but the wife pleaded guilty to stealing the car. Each one of them had a defence lawyer; probably appointed by the Crown. The Clerk reading out the charged used legalese when describing the charges. The stealing charges were 'entering a property knowing that the occupant was present in a place of habitation'. Which, I think, meant that they knew there was someone living in the house they robbed?

Fortunately I was not selected and we all traipsed back to the selection room and waited for the next Trial Judge to call us. The court officer looking after us filled in time answering questions about selection and rejection of jurors etc. I told her that It was only on Saturday that I had seen that I could be exempted because of my age (68). She offered me exemption and I signed a document witnessed by a JP and I was out of there like poo through a goose.

People over the age of 70 are not eligible to do jury duty so I have no chance of being called again. If I am I will state my age again. I have done jury duty before, so don't feel that I am shirking my responsibities.

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