Judicial Intent: My Experience as Juror Number Three

W S Gilbert, Public Domain


Judicial intent, have you ever thought what this might mean or entail? Especially from the point of view of a sitting juror?

I had not until recently. Here’s my story…

Saturday night, two days before I was scheduled to show up for jury duty in the small town of Republic in Eastern Washington’s Ferry County, I find out one of my daughter-in-law’s (DIL) has also been called for the same day. Thrill to potentially serve together, we decide to ride together and plan to bring books or other work and snacks in case one of us is called to serve and the other is dismissed.

I had been called before but had been dismissed and this was the first time my DIL had been called into the jury pool.

Apparently, I filed those thoughts of separation in a “to blurt out later” folder of my brain.

Come Monday, we arrive at the scheduled time, sign in, and attach our juror numbers on our shirts––mine being 32 and my DIL’s being 18 of 40.

I settle into my seat and glance around the cramped third-floor room. I was in awe at how many folks from our little reservation town of Inchelium were in the room ready to serve the courts. It doesn’t take long to learn the case includes two counts of theft and one count of trespassing.

As time passes, individuals, one in particular, beg and plead, stating their claims to the attorneys for dismissal. Most are dismissed for good reason.

Then the female counselor asks, “I see there are two Peone’s.” I was impressed she pronounced my last name correctly and did not refer us to flowers.

I watch my DIL blush from her seat across the aisle and in front of me. I raise a hand and say, “I’m her mother-in-law.” Then feel heat rise from my neck from a roomful of chuckles. Council asks if this will be a problem. I take a short moment to weigh my options: remain in the jury pool or bail and go back to coaching archery––after all, the state archery tournament is the coming Saturday.

The prosecuting attorney asks my DIL if she will be able to form her own conclusions. In which my DIL promptly replies, “I always do.”

More chuckles ping-pong across the room.

A grin on her face, the attorney turns to me and asks if I think my DIL and I serving together will be a problem. I smile and say, “We get along well and when we do disagree, we are able to work things out.” I also voice respect for my DIL’s opinions and viewpoints before going on. “No, this will not be a problem.”

Then I pull out the filed thought, raise a hand, and blurt out, “We did drive together today and would like to request if one of us is dismissed then dismiss us both, and if one of us is put on to serve, then, please, take us both.”

I’m sure you can imagine the cackles coming from the room!

Apparently, the attorneys liked the idea because when it came time to seat jurors’ number 1 through 12, my DIL was called to sit as number 1 juror and I was called as number 3.

By then the crowd was applauding.

I soon learned there was a third Peone relation among the twelve (14 total, counting the two alternates) and was pleased to recall who she was and how we were related. Serving with her was nothing short of an honor!

In all seriousness, serving as juror number 3 is one of the highlights of my life thus far. That may seem morbid to some. But you see, I’m looking at this from a humble stance as I learned much about legal resolve––judicial intent––over two very long days.

I learned during the trial…

It is an honor to be selected and serve as a juror.

It is humbling to know one individual’s future is in the hands of 12 peers––one of them being me.

I realized right off taking copious notes is a must. So was the body language of the defendant, officers, and witnesses. It pays to pay attention.

Motivation is key.

To listen for discrepancies in testimonies of witnesses and the defendant’s statements and testimony. Jurors quickly learn to pay attention to the slightest detail.

To keep an open mind and really listen to both opening statements, attorney’s presentations, and examine exhibits, testimonies, and all evidence both written and recorded.

I learned during deliberation…

I realized that falling in as jury foreman is both an honor and terrifying. It was not an easy task for me to read the verdict to the judge with the defendant in the room, regardless of the outcome. Yet, I would do it again.

Jury instructions were the Bible for deliberation. We referred to them many times for clarification of laws and reminders for definitions of intent and reasonable doubt.

Kindness is key. All members of the jury deliberated with such respect and kindness, it made the experience a good one.

All viewpoints and opinions matter and should be respected. Again, our members of the jury excelled in this.

Because of our rural communities and small county, many of us jurors knew one another, which made deliberation seem more comfortable.

Catching someone in the act does not guarantee a guilty verdict. After four and a half hours, we were a hung jury and the judge concluded the trial a mistrial.

I learned when the trail was over…

The judge and all in the courtroom rose to honor the jury because we are the deciding factor. Our judge made sure we knew how much the court appreciated our time. I appreciated her thoughtfulness and integrity.

When the trial was over, jurors had the opportunity to talk with the attorneys. My DIL had a few questions so we stayed and discussed the last two days with the council. It opened our eyes to further information and reasons for procedure.

To take in what I’d learned and release what troubled me.

To honor the system and be grateful we have the chance to be innocent until proven guilty.

I learned about my DIL…

She does indeed have the strength to form her own conclusions and can stick to them.

I am more and more proud of the woman she has become.

Serving together has deepened our bond.

In reflection…

Do I hope to be selected again as a juror?

I would.

Do I recommend serving as a juror in a trial if given the chance?


Is there a spark of a fictitious story bubbling in my mind?

Perhaps. Writers tend to use all life experiences in their work. But for now, I simply want to encourage you to look forward to being called.

The journey has the potential to change many lives, not just one.

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  1. Jean Sutton says:

    So well written, Carmen. I had some of the same thoughts as I served on a jury.
    What an honor!

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you! It really is an honor to serve, and I hope I get another chance.

  2. Tyson Greer says:

    Carmen, you really tell a good story. I agree that serving is a humbling honor–and as a writer….

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you, Tyson. I honestly hope I’m able to serve again someday.

  3. Alice Trego says:

    Serving on a jury is truly an honor. I have been called many times; once to the courthouse, Number 13 out of the jury of the first selected 12; several other times where I had to call in with my special number mailed to me and thus did not have to serve because my Number didn’t come up, and the last time I was called was after I moved out of state. That took a little doing to prove I could not serve, but the court was understanding. The Judicial system is an interesting “critter,” and I’m glad you shared your opportunity with me.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Alice. I’d not heard of a potential juror being mailed a special number. That is interesting. It goes to show every state is different in the process. I agree the judicial system is very interesting.

  4. What a great experience, Carmen. A few years ago I served as juror for a murder trial. They put us up in a hotel for 2 weeks. I almost missed the WWW conference because of it, but it concluded just before that weekend. Like you, I considered it an experience of a lifetime.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      I’m glad I had a theft case and not murder. That would have been very stressful for me. I applaud your willingness.