By: Jennifer Bruni, Communications Manager
Jury duty: people love to complain about it, but serving as a juror is a fascinating and unforgettable experience – especially if you’re a Trial Court employee.
When that juror summons envelope came in the mail, my first reaction was: “The Jury Commissioner finally found me.” I moved back to Massachusetts in 2002 and since then I’ve wondered when I would be called to serve.
I was pleased by how easy it was to request and get a location change to a Norfolk County court that's accessible by public transportation. I also appreciated the convenient email reminders that I got one week and again on the day prior to my serving.
My day as a juror went as follows:
8:30 a.m. – My fellow potential jurors and I arrive at Quincy District Court. We fill out our juror questionnaire forms and give them to Court Officer Tina Ryan, who logs us into the system and hands us a juror ticket with a number. Out of 18 potential jurors, I am lucky 13.
8:45 a.m. – Officer Ryan welcomes everyone, goes over the typical schedule for the day, and patiently answers questions from the group.
9:00 a.m. – Jurors watch the 18-minute juror orientation video.
9:20 – Break. Most of us head outside to check our phones and get coffee.
10:00 a.m. – A court officer brings us into Courtroom 2. Clerk James Foley swears us in. The court officer gives the call, and we rise as Judge Robert Ziemian enters the courtroom. Judge Ziemian introduces us to the court officer, Clerk Foley, prosecuting and defense attorneys, the one witness, a Braintree police officer, and the defendant.
Next, Judge Ziemian explains the trial procedure and begins the jury selection process. Some jurors are called up to the sidebar, and as they speak with the judge and attorneys, white noise from the For The Record digital recording system sounds over the intercom. This protects private conversations from being overheard, and enables the parties to sort out any potential issues without having to leave the courtroom. Since I’ve worked with Judge Ziemian in the past, he calls me up to the sidebar to say hello and inquire if I would be comfortable sitting as a juror when he would be the judge. I assure him and the attorneys that I want to serve on the jury and that I will be a fair and impartial juror. I feel honored when I am selected.
11:00 a.m. – Juror selection now completed, we take our seats in the jury box and are sworn in again. The trial begins. A young woman has been charged with one count of Assault and Battery. We hear the opening arguments. I look around the mostly empty courtroom and wonder: where is her family? The Braintree Police Officer who made the arrest takes the stand. Judge Ziemian is courteous but is quick to redirect the attorneys’ questions when he deems it necessary. Next, the defendant takes the stand and is cross-examined by the prosecuting and defense attorneys.
At one point, we file into the jury deliberation room during a brief recess, and one of the jurors breaks the silence to ask the group: “So can we talk about the case yet or what?” The rest of us answer in unison: “No!” and “Absolutely not!” The uncomfortable silence resumes.
1:06 p.m. – Judge Ziemian apologizes for the slight delay in the proceedings, and asks the jury to be back from lunch by 2:10 p.m. We break for the outdoors, where it is a perfect summer day, and head our separate ways, obeying his directive not to look up anything about the case online or discuss the case with anyone.
2:15 p.m. – We hear closing arguments. Judge Ziemian instructs the jurors on the charges and explains the definition of “beyond a reasonable doubt” again. Next, he explains the deliberation process. I am assigned as forewoman.
3:30 p.m. – Deliberations take place in a small jury room on the second floor of the courthouse.
3:50 p.m. – All rise as we enter the courtroom. I deliver the verdict: Not guilty.
3:55 p.m. – Judge Ziemian thanks us for our service, and asks, “Was there anything you didn’t understand about the trial process or is there anything in general that you’d like to know more about?” After a brief discussion, the court officer escorts us out of the courtroom and says, “Thank you all and see you in three years!” I head to the Red Line and back into the city.