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Welcome to jury duty, Hank

Hank Hayes • Mar 23, 2018 at 9:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — We were all crammed into a courtroom like sardines and it seemed cold enough to hang meat in there.

Welcome to jury duty.

I have been called to do jury duty at the Sullivan County Justice Center and I would like to serve, although I know of no journalist around here ever serving on a jury panel.

Last Wednesday, Circuit Court Clerk Tommy Kerns and his staff processed and herded about 90 of us into a courtroom.

“How many of you are happy to be here?” Kerns asked.

I raised my hand, but only a few were with me.

Jury duty might be one of the benchmarks of our democracy, but in Sullivan County it’s a job that pays $10 a day with 14 cents a mile travel pay.

Presiding Criminal Court Judge James Goodwin came into the courtroom and gave an overview of what to expect: Dress appropriately. Don’t wear pajamas to court because that happened once and I had to send that girl home. Don’t expect that what you see on the “NCIS” TV show will apply to a Sullivan County criminal case. Don’t do your own investigation. Listen to the testimony and learn from the evidence. Make a decision based on the facts. State law requires that your employer has to pay you while you’re doing jury duty.

There are two types of “service” in these United States of America, he also noted. “There’s military service and there’s jury duty,” Goodwin told us.

At the end of the overview, the judge gave us prospective jurors a one-on-one opportunity to discuss whether they should be disqualified. I wanted to know if I was wasting my time being there. I wanted to know if I would be allowed to serve.

“That will depend upon the lawyers,” Goodwin told me. “You are not disqualified.”

So that is where things stand now.

We’ll see how this turns out.

Hank Hayes covers business and politics for the Times News. You can reach him at: hhayes@timesnews.net.

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