How about a 47-day, all-expenses-paid break from whatever it is that you normally do? Stay in a good hotel at taxpayers' expense. Make $20 or $25 a day and have plenty of time to read and think. Go out on the town once a week and make weekend excursions to Colonial Williamsburg or the Pennsylvania Dutch country, transportation and lunch provided.

That is what happened to the 12 jurors and 10 alternate jurors (originally, there were 12 alternates) who sat in judgment of the 12 Hanafi Muslims convicted of murder, kidnaping and conspiracy charges last Saturday as the result of the taking of 149 hostages at three downtown Washington buildings last March.

It may sound fine. Here's the catch: the jurors and alternates could not go anywhere unless accompanied by deputy U.S. marshals. They could not call their families unless a marshal listened in on an extension. They could not watch television programs of their choice, and they could not watch television at all unless a U.S. marshal was there to monitor the set and turn it off if any news was broadcast.

They could not read any newspapers that had not had most crime news snipped out, and everything snipped out that bore even remotely on the trial of the 12 Hanafis. They could not send or receive mail that had not been censored.

Most of all, they had to listen to the evidence and the law in one of the largest and most complex criminal trials in local Washington history. The trial began before Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio of D.C. Superior Court on May 31. The jury-selection process was completed June 6. From that day until last Saturday, the jurors had various comforts, but they were not free to come and go.

Having been selected on June 6, they were escorted home by deputy marshals to pick up clothes and other necessities and then taken to an isolated suite of rooms in the massive Sheraton-Park Hotel on Woodley Road in Northwest Washington. This was a sequestered jury. So great was the publicity attending the trial that Judge Nunzio felt it necessary to control their lives almost completely in order to bring the proceedings to a successful conclusion.

"Caring for juries can be very difficult unless you know what you're doing," says George K. McKinney, the U.S. marshal for the District Columbia.

"This one was no different. After a period of time they impact upon each other. In the end, they see why this regimented existence is necessary."

Ernest L. Bailey Jr., acting administrator of the Superior Court, says that "the jury happiness factor" is one of his most important concerns in these situations.

Of course, "jury happiness" is relative. So neither McKinney nor Bailey was particularly surprised during the first week of sequestration when there were complaints about having been served fish three times in one weekend and other complaints about how the filet mignon was done.

Nor were they particularly surprised when one juror was sent home because of a marijuana smoking incident and another had to be relieved when it was learned that his temporary status as a Post Office employee meant that he would not be paid the difference between his regular salary and his jury fee.

Jury fees are $20 a day for the first 30 days of service. Then, at the discretion of the judge, the fee goes up to $25 a day. Judge Nunzio authorized the increase in the Hanafi case.

To relieve the strain further, Nunzio authorized weekend day trips to Williamsburg, the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a 4th of July picnic attended by 68 guests of the jurors and alternates and chaperoned by 50 deputy U.S. marshals. The cost was $1,100, according to Bailey.

The total cost of the trial to the court system, including food and lodging for the jurors, the fees of court-appointed attorneys, and other direct expenses was about $350,000, according to Bailey.

McKinney says the cost of the U.S. Marshal's Service was $59,000 in regular salaries, $13,000 in administrative expenses, including the provision of matrons to care for the jurors, and $24,000 in overtime for the marshals.

On one occasion, the jurors ordered coffee from room service at the Sheraton-Park and signed the bill. The cost was $24, plus a tip. After this incident, no further room service was permitted.