Last week, I reported to the criminal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles for jury duty.
Near the end of the first day, I was called up with 35 other people for a trial that the judge estimated would take only a few days. It's possible that being self-employed put me in the pool to be selected for a shorter trial -- I'm not sure how it works!
I was Juror #32. I sat in the audience as a backup, waiting while Jurors #1-18 were questioned by the judge and attorneys in a process called voir dire.
The questions the jurors were asked were pretty simple: What part of town do you live in? What is your occupation? Are you married? What is your spouse's occupation? Have you ever been a victim of a crime similar to the one being tried here? (We were told it was a theft.)
There was also a questionnaire with a bunch of more specific questions about your background and potential biases that one's simply asked if you have any "yes" answers to.
The judge can excuse jurors who will suffer financial hardship by missing work; who don't expect to be available for the duration of the trial; or who can't understand English well enough to follow the trial. The attorneys can also excuse jurors whom they think may not be impartial in the matter at hand, for various reasons.
Whenever a juror was excused from seats 1 through 18, one of the backup jurors took their place. If the court settled on their proposed jury without needing us, we'd be done and could go home.
So, the rest of us backup jurors watched and speculated about whether we'd be called up.
By the time the day was done, enough jurors had been excused that I'd worked up the list from #32 to #18, without having been asked any questions yet.