It’s my day to be a patriot. I am at the Orange County Courthouse because I have been called for jury duty. I have been waiting for a little over an hour before being led to the small jury selection room. I am there with 39 other potential jurors. Eight of us will be picked…six jurors and two alternates.

Close to 11am: We sit tightly packed in as three lawyers enter the room.

If chosen, we will be hearing a case of a 3rd grader who claims to have been accosted and sexually abused in the boy’s bathroom by other kids. The parents are suing the Port Jervis School District. The incident occurred in 2004 and the young man is now 16. WOW!

Could I be impartial? Sex abuse is a topic we have written about in Hudson Valley Parent. I am sorry to report, that one in four girls are abused. And one in six boys.

I am lucky that I don’t know anyone involved in this trial…not the family, the school district, the psychologists, the teachers …and the list goes on.

Some of the jurors are excused. By the end of the jury selection 10 additional people will be excused. But I am still sitting tight. After all, this is my civic duty.

The lawyers ask the first six potential jurors if they understand the difference between a criminal trial and a civil one. I don’t have a clue. But no one speaks out. We are told that there is a difference in the level of proof. (Interesting but not terribly informative.)

First the prosecution attorney, who represents the family, asks the first six potential jurors questions. Then the defense attorney begins his questioning. It is slow going.  They ask questions like, “Can you be impartial?” When asked, some say, Yes,” others nod.  But in my estimation, how do we know if we can really be impartial? Especially for those of us who have never been in this situation before?

At some points during the process the attorneys leave the room to ask jurors questions privately. The rest of us sit staring forward waiting. The attorneys return.

At one point, one of the attorneys starts making jokes.  It is after 12 noon.  I am hungry and I don’t do well when I am hungry. This goes on for a while and I finally speak up. “Do you mind if we continue with the job at hand?”  I ask. The attorney turns and apologizes. “I am meeting all of you for the first time and I get nervous. So I use humor to break the ice.”  My thought:  If you are a defense attorney and are nervous in front of a new group, then maybe you are in the wrong business.

When the attorney’s leave for another powwow , the rest of the jurors look at me and some say, “I guess you won’t be chosen.”  They were probably right but we will never know because my name was never called.

It’s 3-1/2 hours since I arrived and I am being excused, not to be called for another six years.  I am ready for lunch.

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