Dec. 29, 2005 V.I. Superior Court officials in St. Croix began the process Thursday to determine who would be serving jury duty during the first three months of 2006.
Seventy-five St. Croix residents gathered in Room 202 of the Superior Court building at Kings Hill at about 8:30 a.m. Some were smiling and exchanging greetings with others, but most were quiet, almost glum. One middle-aged lady, waiting in line to sign in, said, "I hate this."
But most replying to a summons mailed out two weeks ago were taking it in stride. Co-workers from the Buccaneer Resort were surprised to see each other and gave each other a hug. Two men who had not seen each other since a turtle-watching expedition last spring greeted each other.
Time seemed to stand still as the residents slowly wound their way through a line to have their names checked off a list. Literally, time was stopped just a few seconds before 1 o'clock on the room's only clock. For people who rely on their cell phones to tell time, they were lost even more in the timeless void as cell phones had to be checked downstairs with security.
However, about 45 minutes later, after everyone had signed in, matters moved quickly.
Tashima O'Bryan, a clerk for jury management, gave the residents a rundown of what was expected of them. She also pointed out where the snack machines were and that the water coming from the water fountains was not "suitable for human consumption."
She introduced jury manager Jacqueline Springer, who sat at a table beside her, and then said, "We are going to do everything we can to make your jury service convenient and enjoyable."
She explained the dress code: Men cannot wear shorts or T-shirts; while women are not to wear "anything too tight, too revealing or that exposes anything."
She pointed out that they could be asked to serve on cases under any judge. She said jurors that stay past noon would be paid $40; those who are able to leave before noon would be paid $20. She asked that people not use a short visit to the court as an excuse to take the whole day off work. She said, "Employers often call here to see what time we were done." She added that certified attendance sheets are available to those who need to show them to their employer.
When she asked for questions, she got three. One from a man who said he could not speak enough English to understand what was going on. He was advised to write a letter to the judge. A pregnant lady came forward and asked her question privately. The last question was from a man who said his job required him to travel in February. O'Bryan said, "We do not stop anyone from traveling."
Then the group was abruptly dismissed. This surprised some who had served jury duty in the states, where they are often called to duty on their first appearance instead of having an orientation. One man leaving said, "Oh, this was just practice on how to show up."
A second group of about the same number filed into the room at 10 a.m. for their orientation.
Later, Springer said about two-thirds of the 150 would be asked to come back next Tuesday.
She said only one case was scheduled Tuesday, so of that group, 60 to 70 names would be drawn and those people would be sent to the court as possible jurors. She said cases can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks.
The average case lasts three days. A new pool of jurors is selected four times a year.
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