When some people receive a summons for jury duty, they’re overcome with dread.

I’m not like most people.

For almost 10 years, I’ve reported on the courts and issues in the criminal legal system. I started at the York Daily Record/Sunday News, where I examined how the York County District Attorney’s Office aggressively brought prosecutions for deadly drug overdoses and investigated the questionable tactics of police officers in undercover prostitution stings.

Since 2022, I’ve worked as the courts reporter for The Baltimore Banner, where I’ve looked into the effectiveness of the citation docket and reported on the case of a woman who shot her husband after learning of allegations that he had sexually abused children at her day care in Baltimore County.

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But I’ve never had to report for jury duty. Until this week.

On Monday, I found myself in line outside the entrance of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse in Baltimore on Saint Paul Street with more than a dozen other people who seemed less than thrilled, to put it mildly, to fulfill their civic duty on the morning after Super Bowl LVIII.

“Belts, wallets, keys, chains,” sheriff’s deputies told us as we put our belongings into gray plastic bins and shuffled through a single metal detector.

Next, I walked around the corner to the jury assembly room, where courthouse employees scanned my summons, handed me three $10 bills — I’m not making this us up, that’s how they pay you — and a sticker.

I was now Juror 825.

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I then followed the signs on the wall to another waiting room, arriving just in time to hear a courthouse employee explain how we should wait a few seconds after the light turns red before crossing North Calvert Street to avoid being run over.

“They drive erratic, crazy, off the hook,” she said. “They have no empathy, no sympathy, no nothing.”

She said she was “keeping it a hundred” and “not sugarcoating nothing.”


Despite knowing about my jury service for weeks, I decided, for some reason, against bringing my laptop or a book with me. That’s something that people with more common sense do to pass the time.

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Instead, I doomscrolled on X, formerly known as Twitter, and looked at guitars that I did not need and could not afford on Reverb. (Specifically, a G&L Fallout in Rally Red made in the USA that was tempting after the seller recently dropped the price by $200 to $1,859.)

Luckily, there’s entertainment in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

Later in the morning, we were treated to “Ghostbusters” … or at least the 2016 reboot with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

Close enough, I guess.

Not long after 10 a.m., there was an announcement that a judge had requested a panel in Courtroom 230 in the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse, across the street and formerly known as Courthouse East. We lined up in order by juror number and then entered the courtroom.

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It’s a courtroom that I’ve sat in a few times as a reporter. Several weeks earlier, I covered the trial of Baltimore Police Officer Eric Payton, who was found guilty of theft and misconduct in office for stealing an envelope containing more than $100 from Soy Transportation Inc., on Belair Road near Southern Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, on Sept. 20, 2023.

But this time, I was waiting to find out if I would be called upon to help decide a case.

Circuit Judge Yvette M. Bryant was presiding over the trial, and there were whispers in the courtroom gallery after she told us that the defendant — a 25-year-old woman — faced charges including attempted first-degree murder.

Next, Bryant asked several questions of the entire panel.

I stood after she asked whether any of us knew Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates or the defense attorney in the case, Assistant Public Defender Amanda Savage, and tried not to look too self-consciously around the room.

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Then Bryant started to individually summon jurors to the bench for further questioning while the white noise was on so we could not hear those conversations.

Bryant broke for lunch about 12:30 p.m. and told us to return at 2 p.m., which, in case you didn’t know, is 2:10 p.m. in judicial standard time.

When we came back, Bryant asked whether we had learned anything about the case during lunch and if anyone had tried to speak with us. No one responded.

But Bryant said she was excusing us back to the jury assembly room and recessing the case until the next morning for “administrative issues.”

“We love you!” one prospective juror shouted to the judge more than once.

By 2:35 p.m., I was back in the waiting room with enough time to catch the end of the 2014 version of “Annie” with Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. Not long after the credits finished rolling, an announcement came up on the screen thanking us for our service.

When reporting on the courts, there are a lot of delays.

Sometimes, well, a lot of times, judges do not take the bench on time. If people are being held in pretrial detention, corrections officers have to escort them to the courtroom and undo their shackles and handcuffs outside the presence of the jury. And assistant state’s attorneys and defense attorneys often have legal issues for the court to address.

I’m not sure how much new insight I gained into the criminal legal system through my experience. Except that maybe reporting on the courts is a lot like reporting for jury duty: It’s a lot of hurry up and wait.

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