Over my four decades as a journalist, I spent countless days and some late nights waiting for juries to return their verdicts.

If the vigil held all the excitement of a dripping faucet for me, I could only imagine the tedious nature of the deliberations. My assumption of what jurors experienced changed over the years as I took greater notice of the jurors’ demeanor as they entered and exited the courtroom at the end of their daily meetings.

What was it like to be closed in a room with eleven strangers, tasked with reaching a unanimous decision on something as serious as a murder charge, I wondered? Jurors are often reluctant to speak to reporters after a verdict, their decision to remain silent part of a pact reached before they go their separate ways.

In the spring, a letter arrived from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois that raised my hopes of learning firsthand about jury deliberations. I was asked to complete a questionnaire to determine if I might be placed in the jury pool for federal court.

My work as a journalist who covered state and federal courts and a wide range of legal issues would likely give attorneys ample reason to dismiss me from jury service, but I was eager to forge ahead with the process. In late June I was summoned to the federal courthouse along with about thirty other residents of the 16-county area that serves as a source for jurors for federal cases in Springfield.

Our diverse group assembled in jury quarters down the hall from the courtroom where we filled out tax forms for the wages and mileage we would earn as potential and actual jurors. A jury coordinator let us know that eight would be selected for the case. I was among the first group of 18 escorted into the courtroom for vous dire, the process that allows a judge and attorneys to determine if a jury candidate can be fair and impartial.

Magistrate Judge Karen L. McNaught explained that the case involved an employment dispute between a former worker for Springfield’s city-owned utility and Jim Langfelder, the city ex-mayor, based on a discrimination claim. The trial would last two days, she said.

Each of us was asked to respond to twenty-seven questions provided to us after we took assigned seats. If not the exact questions, the inquiries were very similar to those we answered on the previous survey.

The judge and lawyers wanted to know about our work, families, jobs, and hobbies. There were questions on the source of our news, newspaper and magazine subscriptions and internet use. And what was printed on any bumper sticks on our vehicles.

Had we ever been sued, served on a jury, or served in the miliary? Did we have close friends or relatives in law enforcement or the legal profession?

The round of questioning was completed in a little more than an hour, a short timeframe given the number of questions. Most responses were brief, a word or two or a simple yes or no.

Through their tone of voice, more than a handful of people let their feelings be known on certain subjects. “I don’t watch the news. Ever,” said one potential juror. Facebook was the major source of information for some. Few people read magazines and even fewer took a newspaper.

Inquiries on involvement in community organizations, public office and memberships in professional organizations were widely dismissed.

My responses were lengthier as the judge asked follow-up questions on my work and involvement in several lawsuits related to legal challenges filed by the news organizations that employed me. I also serve on several community boards that required some explanation.

The judge put everyone at ease, with a friendly manner of soliciting more details from people without being intrusive. She explained the jury process, with an emphasis on the absolute necessity of having citizens willing to serve.

At the end of the question-and-answer session, we waited for 20 minutes in an adjoining room stocked with refreshments for a decision on who would serve. Many with crossed fingers were looking for a swift trip home.

With no explanation and her sincere thanks, the judge dismissed me along with most of my group. A second round of vous dire would be held to finish the selection process.

My rejection, while fully anticipated for myriad reasons, was still disappointing. The sense of tension, negotiation and occasional friendships jury duty evokes between citizens continues to elude me. But the time in the federal jury box, albeit brief, afforded me a small taste of what it’s like to answer the call for jury service. And I was paid $115 for the privilege.

My research after the trial showed a verdict in favor of the employee and against the former mayor. The jury awarded the plaintiff $1 in damages. Oh, to be in the room for those discussions.