As strange as it may seem, I was recently picked for the jury selection process and a subsequent jury for the first time in my short life. While many people feel like this is a major headache in their lives, I quite enjoyed watching the process and seeing how the legal system really works. Parking is a major pain, and unless you are familiar with this part of downtown, driving around in this area can be incredibly frustrating. On the other hand, getting people to serve must not be as big of an issue as it seems because the parking hassles contribute a significant amount to people’s general dispassion for jury duty. In any case, here are a couple of tips for those being selected to serve in Austin (for district court on 11th Street):
- Parking. For the selection process, each person is on their own to either pay for covered parking or run down to a meter every 2 hours to feed coins; however, once you are selected for a jury, you can park for free in the metered locations within a 2-3 block radius of the courthouse. Granted, this still assumes you can find an open space. The jury instructions recommended using the city’s bus system to help with this, but unless you are familiar with the public transit system, it can be more time consuming. If you want to avoid all the trouble and don’t mind paying, I recommend the Bank Tower parking at W 16th and Guadalupe. The 11th Street courthouse is just a few blocks walk down the street.
- Dress code. For jury selection, shorts and just about anything is allowed. Once selected for a jury though, no shorts or short skirts are allowed.
- Entertainment. Be ready to experience some very boring delays in the selection process and during the trial. I highly recommend taking a book or magazine to help fill some of the time.
- Trying to get deselected. I heard many people try to avoid serving on a jury for business reasons, and the judge denied 90% of those who tried, even self-employed persons. Having children over 10 years of age will mostly likely not get a person out of serving either. During the selection phase, it was obvious who was trying to get dismissed by answering the questions in manner to suggest an inability to be impartial; however, this is not recommended unless the reasons are factual.
In the end, the trial for which I served dealt with an attempted murder case, and we handed down a ‘not guilty’ verdict due to a complete lack of evidence by the state. Here’s a picture of the jury room where we, the jurors, met and deliberated the case.