Archived Story

The most important people in Beaufort County

Published 8:30pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When a jury is seated in an urban area, it’s likely that the prosecution and defense breeze through the basic questions designed to cull out jurors. The starter questions draw out the information pointing to what could wind up being a conflict of interest for the state, the defense and/or the juror.

Do you know the defendant? Do you know each other? Do you know the defense lawyer? The prosecuting lawyer? The witnesses? The judge?

In a big city, it’s unlikely anyone in the 13 seats knows anyone else in the courtroom, but the same can probably not be said for the more rural areas. In less populous areas, the process of jury selection can be rather long because the answer, by any given juror, is invariably yes to one, more, or perhaps all, of those questions.

In areas with smaller populations, the pool of jurors becomes proportionately smaller, so a seated jury’s job of finding complete impartiality becomes tougher. Even if you know a defendant’s family, often you’ll still be selected to serve. Even though you grew up with one of the witnesses, you might find yourself in one of those 13 chairs.

All that is to say that being a juror in Beaufort County is not such an easy task, and that’s without taking into account the severity of the crime on trial.

Some of us have been called to serve several times over decades; others have never been called. But all Beaufort County jurors need to be thanked for doing their duty, and for swearing to remain impartial no matter the circumstances.

One judge succinctly summed up a juror’s duty as he addressed a jury recently: “You are the most important people in Beaufort County right now.”

No truer words.

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