Today I was summoned to the St. Joseph County Courthouse to begin the process of jury selection for a murder/arson case.
As I went to the Courthouse the LAST thing I wanted was to be chosen to be on a jury. And then when I got there…I got caught up in the process…heard the charges…and then I REALLY wanted to be selected!!! But I wasn’t. It was a very interesting process. I was totally captivated by the whole thing.
But, I didn’t make it because of Sarah Ingram. What?! Yea…Sarah Ingram…read on.
First, about 50 of us gathered in the courtroom where we listened to the bailiff explain the process and rules of being on a jury. It included a video.
Second, all of us went back to a tiny jury deliberation room (ALL 50 of us!) and then the bailiff came in and selected 14 people (I’m assuming at random) who would be the first to be questioned by the judge and attorneys.
Third, we all went back into the courtroom. This time, the judge, the court reporter, the prosecution (made up of three lawyers) and the defense (made up of two lawyers) and the defendant were in the court room. Even though the focus would be on the first 14, we were to all to pay attention to expedite the process as the afternoon went on. The judge and attorneys asked the first 14 questions and in the end, they collectively decided to dismiss nine of the first 14.
Fourth, we took a break, and another 14 were selected and subjected to the same process. Seven of the fourteen were dismissed.
Then, they put seven more individuals in “the box” and five of the seven were dismissed. But after those three rounds they had 14 jurors (12 who would actually be on the jury, and two who would serve as alternates). About 15 people (myself included) never got a chance “in the box”. After they reached 14, the rest of us were dismissed. But I would have never been selected. Here is why -
They wanted someone who knew nothing about the case. Two individuals thought they remembered the news story when the crime was committed in April of this year. The lawyers asked, “Did you read it in the Tribune, did you see on the T.V., did you read about it on the internet?” Neither of them were really even confident. They only seemed to recall the story. GOOD-BYE!!
As soon as the judge read the formal charge which listed names, dates, and locations - I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT THIS CASE WAS ABOUT!!
Sarah Ingram (who goes to Living Stones Church) was the next door neighbor of Dawn Brooks. I spoke to Sarah the day after the fire and the discovery of Dawn’s body. Sarah talked to me about Dawn and how she would come over and use her phone because she didn’t have one. Dawn’s mother called Sarah to get information on what was happening. It was Sarah who told Dawn’s mother she had passed away!! I remembered the whole thing…and right in front of me was the dude accused of committing the crime (who looked very cleaned up by the way!).
I was going to have to disclose that. And after I did, they probably would have dismissed me. But I had an argument as to why they should keep me. Doubt they would have bought it, but I was going to try it. I really wanted to be on that jury.
Two other observations:
1. The general public can be scary. Several potential jurists were, quite bluntly – morons. It was scary to me that they might be deciding the fate of any individual.
2. Our judicial system allows judges and attorneys to dismiss morons. All of the above mentioned morons were dismissed by counsel.
3. What still bothers me, however, is that said morons are still allowed to vote in public elections and determine the state of our government. And in considering that, South Bend’s city government and school board made much more sense to me .