Back from Jury Service (1 month)

Ended up being in the jury for two felony criminal cases in London. Reporting restrictions have now passed (in the UK we can talk about the case but not the specific decisions made in the jury room)

  1. Sexual assault (looking at 10+ years in prison)

This one was pretty nasty. Hearing the medical evidence in court and reading the medical reports was pretty shit. Don’t wish that on anybody who has female children.

  1. Illegal firearm posession (in the UK this is a serious crime. carries a minimum 5 year prison term and the individual was only 20 at the time. Was basically facing 5-10 years in prison).

This one wasn’t too bad because it mostly relied on DNA evidence. It was a much easier case for me because you can kind of look at the entire thing dispassionately.

Am still sort of processing the experiences because it was pretty intense. It really hits you once you go into the secure jury room that you are deciding the fate of a fellow UK citizen. You are the last line of judgment really. A mistake can cost someone the best parts of their life so its important to take things seriously, and make a fair judgment.

The only “weakness” of the process that I could see in the UK is that the jury is selected from 12 random people. This is problematic if you need specialised knowledge in the jury (like financial crime or other technical matters), as its possible the majority of the jurors have no understanding of these topics.

On a more personal level, people seem to put an absurd amount of weighting on the personal testimony of people in court. The level of unconscious bias was off the charts, and it really surprised me (I knew this happens in normal life situations but I found it very odd when you are in a legal setting. What should matter is the hard evidence not the subjective testimony of an individual who has been prepped by council).

I can totally understand now why people call this a “civic duty”. Now that I went through it, I fully agree that it totally is.


I recently had to fill out an eligibility survey for jury service so I expect to be called in the next year.

I have served before and it is definitely a civic duty. My case wasn’t terrible but my husband had one that was awful. And he processes by talking so it was really hard when he couldn’t discuss it. Later he told me what he could and then tried to forget.

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Your juries are not a “panel” of 40-50 potential jurists? Then they are pared down by the two sides. One thing that is good or bad (depending on the side) is the amount of expertise a juror might have.
If not, your system sucks.

Doesn’t work like that in the UK for criminal trials.

15 jurors get randomly selected for a case.

Then in the court room, they randomly select 12 of them by picking their names out (they put name cards into a bowl and just pick the first 12).

And thats it really.

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Wow. Are jurors who are eligible for service vetted before being summoned?
I know in the USA, they are not. Anyone with a State ID or registered to vote can be summoned once a year, at least in my county. Then, for Grand Juries, the process is very different.

Yes, there are criteria.

Must be 18 to 76 years old, and a tax payer for the last five years. You also need to be on the electoral roll (registered to vote) as thats the database they use.

Then you must not work in the criminal justice or prison system, have no mental health problems, and not have been in prison.

The probability of being selected for jury service in England is about 35% over your lifetime.

In the US both attorneys ask the jurors questions, including whether they know anyone involved in the case (which is automatic dismissal… even if it’s just an expert witness and not someone directly involved).

Then they ask about stuff related to the case… like for example when I was a juror the case involved 18-19 year-olds who had been drinking, but the charges we were deciding on were assault. So the defense attorney asked us if we could be impartial about the actual charges, knowing that the defendant had certainly broken the law regarding underage drinking.

I’m trying to think what else they asked us… if we would blindly believe the testimony of a cop no matter what just because he/she is a cop, questions about racism (which played a role in the assault), and a few others.

The attorneys have so many “preemptory picks” where they can remove jurors for no reason whatsoever, and then they can also ask the judge to remove jurors for cause. The defense attorney asked the judge to remove one juror for cause but the judge declined to do so. The juror had said that it would be difficult for her to not think negatively about the defendant for drinking but she thought that she could follow the law and judge whether he had committed assault or not even though she knew he’d been drinking while underage.

Is there no process to remove jurors who know people involved in the case? That seems like it should always occur.

Holy shit! I go about every other year. Do note that for me, that is one day (now half-day) unless called from the pool (again, 100+ jurors on any given half-day, and I’m not in a London-sized city, so there are few cases requiring juries).

There’s showing up and then there’s being selected for a jury. I’ve been “called” I think 4 times, but only actually served on one jury.


The judge asks if the 15 know any of the people involved in the case when you are in the Court.

In the sexual assault case one juror was held back because he was connected to one of the people involved in the case.

The defendant can also directly challenge the jury selection if they have a good reason (this one really surprised me as I had never heard of it).

This takes up a good amount of our trial process. Each side gets some number of whimsical privileges and some “for cause.”
I haven’t been in a while and I have not been on the final jury for decades.

It’s been a while but in Australia, I was in the pool for a murder trial jury selection. I believe there were about 25-30 of us and the defence and prosecution each had a number of challenges. They could challenge each potential juror as they stood up and no questions asked, that juror was rejected and they would move on the next one.

They had already selected 11 jurors and challenged the person immediately before me when it was my turn. I stood there for a a few long seconds until I heard “challenge”. They then selected the person immediately after me. It would have been an 8-week trial.

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You mean that individuals start paying taxes when they’re 13?


Maybe a chimney sweep?

The 18 year old constraint is only really there for legal reasons I would imagine (to be on the electoral roll and registered to vote you would need to be 18 as well).

But the taxpayer status is linked to your national insurance (NI) number (similar to the US social security number). NI is different from income taxes in the UK, as you can start paying it sub 18 years of age if you have a typical seasonal teenage summer job.

I’ve gotten jury summons maybe 6-8 times
2-3 times I didn’t have to show up (here you can check after 5pm the day before to see if you are still needed)
One time I had recently moved to a new county so ineligible in the old one
A couple times I just sat in the bullpen and was never called
I’ve only made it to voir dire twice, and both times one party or the other struck me.

Street Arab? (Points for noting the reference, though as a paid informant, probably not paying taxes, either.)

Summoned three times (once didn’t have to go), made it to the box twice - dismissed after questions once and served the other time.

Twice summoned.

First was for a murder trial that was national news. Got dismissed before being questioned by each side’s counsel because one side asked for a continuance and it was granted. (Final jury for this trial spent 3 months before it was done.)

Second was for child pornography. Made it to the point of going through the questioning by each side. Defendant chose to defend themselves. Wasn’t selected; but I don’t think the defendant really helped their case by waiving access to a Public Defender.