SHERIDAN — The term “jury duty” often carries a cringeworthy connotation. While many dread being dragged away from their daily routine, some actually find the experience educational.
“A lot of the sense I get from people that attend, it’s a mixed bag,” Sheridan County resident and former juror Sandy Sare said.
“There are those ones that are intrigued by it, and then the ones that are just perturbed because they’re having to step away from their life and be a part of this.”
Even Sare remembers the horror of being served papers at work.
“If you’re a law-abiding citizen and you have a sheriff standing there serving you papers, that’s a little freaky,” Sare said.
A scheduled murder trial sent the sheriff to Sare’s workplace to deliver the summons and a lengthy questionnaire. Questions included opinions on capital punishment and the death penalty.
“That really makes you stop and wonder what you do believe in,” Sare said. “You can say you believe in it, but now all of a sudden when you’re thrown in the middle of it, do you? Are you willing to do that?”
Sare filled out the questionnaire but received no more information and did not serve as a juror for that particular case.
Her first time actually sitting in the jury box opened her eyes to drug use in Sheridan.
“I grew up here with that kind of “Leave it to Beaver Cleaver” idealistic family, so drugs alone I’m pretty naive about, even at 59,” Sare said.
The process intimidated Sare, as she and the other jurors took the judge’s request to not speak about the case outside of the courtroom seriously and sat in silence in the holding room.
While in the jury box, Sare felt “snake eyes,” or negative looks coming from the defendant’s family sitting in the audience.
“If I’d been a lesser person in my strength, it might’ve stuck with me in a negative way, but it didn’t,” Sare said.
Sare and her fellow jurors were spared a final decision, as the defendant pleaded guilty before the completion of the trial.
Even before entering the courtroom, being selected to jury duty carries a heavy burden.
If a potential juror forgets to answer the call of duty, consequences ensue. Roseanne Gentry’s jury mishap still sits with her.
“I went to work Monday morning at Dr. (Barry) Wohl’s office and, I’ll never forget, it was just shortly after 9 o’clock,” Gentry recalled. “I get this call and it was (a detective) telling me that I had a subpoena for jury duty and I needed to get right down there.”
She scurried out the door and still remembers a coworker reminding her to clock out. The judge at the time, Stuart Healy, called the three late arrivals up one at a time to ask for their excuses for being late.
“I’m sorry. I just forgot,” Gentry told Judge Healy.
Gentry said Healy apologized, then charged her a $25 contempt of court fee to make an example for all the people that showed up on time.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s going to be in The Press,’” Gentry said.
Sure enough, the next day’s reports listed Gentry for contempt of court. Her coworkers caught wind of the incident and never let her live it down.
Sare appreciated the education that came with serving on a jury. Gentry learned from her contempt of court mishap. Both won’t soon forget their courtroom experiences.