When you think about it, the existence of Jury Duty is both incredible… and horrifying. The fate of those on trial rests in the hands of the average joe-schmo who received a summons in the mail. That person standing behind you in the coffee shop? They probably have absolutely no background in law, but their judgment could send someone to prison… or a guilty individual free.
The call to Jury Duty is all it takes to put the law into someone’s hands.
At the same time, it’s a reminder that “we the people” deserve a ‘say’. We are equipped to make wise, fair decisions when presented with the facts. And when picked with care and precision, the jury is a beautiful part of the justice system. I embrace a government that doesn’t rule with a power-hungry hand as though it knows better than the people who elected it. So I guess, as annoying as it may be to receive a Jury Duty summons in the mail, the ability to serve is a civic duty and an honor.
Last week was my first time being called to potentially serve on a jury, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The call line told me to arrive early to ensure a parking spot, so early it was! I had to drive into an unfamiliar city, which I knew included many one-way streets. One-way streets and I don’t care for each other all that much, and I was terrified of getting turned around and unable to find my way back.
I also wanted to leave early, so that I could stop at the store and stock up on snacks and magazines. Priorities, my friends. Priorities. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be allowed to leave the jury waiting room for food, and I was not going to starve! 😉
The courthouse opened for jurors at 7:30am, but I had been warned that the parking lot across the street does get full. So I arrived super early with the expectation that I’d just eat breakfast and drink my coffee in the car. Unfortunately, 6:45am was too early, and the attendant told me that he wouldn’t let me into the parking lot until 7am. I instantly panicked at the thought of backing my car out and getting lost, thanks to one-way streets. But I found a spot on the side of the road to park, and I did find my way back to the parking lot… at exactly 6:59am. 😉 The attendant rolled his eyes at me a bit, but he did let me in this time.
I thought that parking was the hard part, but – on my walk to the courthouse – I totally jaywalked right in front of a cop. The “walk” sign was taking so long that I thought it was broken, but apparently it wasn’t. And apparently I picked a bad time to cross, because it was directly in front of three oncoming cars. It was just one of those moments, you know? I was feeling flustered and uneasy, and so I did something stupid.Thankfully, the cop just shot me a look and let me go on my way.
I made it through the medal detectors okay (although I had to take off my shoes since my boots set off the alarms), got directions to the jury room, signed in, and found a seat. Taking a deep breath, I willed myself to just relax. The hard part was over, and now I had to wait. I reached into my purse for the gingerale I had brought, opened the top, and was instantly met with an explosion of carbonation.
“Everyone is watching me. Great… Yeah, I’m the jaywalking, soda spilling mess that has been invited to serve on a jury. Nice to meet you too.”
Waiting was the theme of the day. The large, very plain, white-walled room started out with 76 people, and – one by one – we were whittled down. We were not allowed to leave, and there were court policeman on hand to make sure we obeyed that rule. There were interviews and in-depth forms to fill out. Hour by hour passed, and I soon realized that it was going to be a long day. The seats were lined up by rows, and there was no television or entertainment. At one point, I introduced myself to a girl my age just to have the opportunity to talk with someone and help the time pass. She was super nice, and we ended up being jury buddies for the rest of the day.
Several hours in, I was brought into a trial room along with about 30 other people. We were instructed to sit in two benches; and I realized that there was an actual judge, defendant, defense attorney, and another attorney present. Wait, there’s an actual case going on right now? The judge explained to us that they were searching for a fair and unbiased jury of 12 people to serve on a murder trial, as the defendant was being accused of killing a young man! I won’t get into specifics as the case is ongoing, but the details that were provided to us were horrific.
There was an audible gasp from the jury, and I was someone who contributed to that. It was that much more intense as the man being accused of murder was sitting right there in front of us.
The trial was going to last at least a week and would include graphic details and photo’s. I instantly knew that I didn’t want to be a part of this, so I was relieved – soon afterward – when the defense attorney objected to my being a juror. At that point, I was sitting before the judge and the attorneys by myself in the very large courtroom, so that they could ask me questions. The defense attorney was concerned that I wouldn’t be impartial, since my husband was brutally assaulted when he was a Correction Officer. The judge agreed and said that it would probably be best if I didn’t serve on the jury.
*Insert huge sigh of relief*
I was allowed to leave around 8 hours after the process started, and – yes – my first stop was to get a coffee for the drive home. 😉 I was overheated and mentally exhausted. But at the same time, it was definitely quite the experience! (What an intense experience for my first jury-duty summons).
Have you ever served on a jury?