Jury Duty

Two weeks ago, I came home from a baby shower to find a summons in the day’s mail.  Jury duty summons.  For me.

First reaction?  Who me?  Lord, what on earth do I do with this?  After staring at it for a minute, flipping it over a couple of times, I slowly opened it.  Sure enough, I was summoned for the week of September 26th, which you will notice is this very week.

At first I was inclined to hope that I wouldn’t get called in.  My number was high enough to make me think it likely I would not have to even go to the courthouse.  My dad got a summons a year or two ago, and he called every night and never had to go in.  Perhaps I would be the same.

A friend told me that he’d gone in one of the days and answered questions but wasn’t seated on the jury.  My parents and I traded a few jokes about what kinds of things I could say that would make them send me home in a hurry.  I’m a homeschooler.  (i.e. — radical or weird)  I’m squeamish enough to faint on the stand if the case involves any blood and guts. (quite true in my case, although I’m guessing they wouldn’t take my word for it)

Then, of course, there was always the chance I would get seated.  My summons was as a trial jury, so of course if I got seated I’d be serving as long as it took to decide the case.  My grandmother has served on several juries in her lifetime (she has nearly reached her fourscore years, and I’m excited for her), so of course she told me a bit about that.

Another friend had been called for Grand Jury duty, and had enjoyed the experience, so she encouraged me that it wouldn’t be so bad.  Granted, for a grand jury, you only have to say whether there’s enough evidence for a trial, not whether someone is guilty or not.  Much less at stake.

In the midst of all this, I realized that my first thoughts were about the likelihood that I would not have to serve and ways to get out of serving if I got called in.  Wait a minute!  How on earth would the justice system work if everyone thought like that?  Most of the people I’ve heard talk about jury duty spoke of it as an annoyance.  And it’s true, serving on a jury might come at a bad time for your business or personal life.

But put yourself on the other side.  You’re the defendant.  You want a fair trial from your peers.  How would you feel if you knew that every last one of them just wanted to get out of there quickly and therefore wasn’t really paying attention to the evidence all that closely.  Suppose you’re innocent even though the evidence looks pretty bad.

Or maybe you’re one of the attorneys.  Say the prosecution.  And the defendant is charming or darling and the bored disgruntled jury is inclined to let him or her off despite your clear evidence of guilt.

Jury duty is not something to be taken lightly or shirked.  Whether we like it or not, jury duty is one of the things that helps keep America democratic.  It’s the people’s voice on justice.  Would we prefer to leave everything up to authoritarian judges?  Yes, it can be very inconvenient.  Yes, it’s annoying to have it be mandatory (but would anyone do it if it weren’t? and where would we be then?).  Yes, I wish that there were no criminals or that the police would always get things right so that we wouldn’t need trials.  But since we live in a world of fallible humans, the jury system is about as good a system as we’re going to get.  If you don’t like it, design a better one and pitch it to congress.

Oh, so I was about to end this and post it, and then it dawned on me.  I never told you what actually happened this week!  Not much, really.  They called in the first 157 jurors Monday and Tuesday, and then no one else all week.  Since my number was in the 300’s, I never had to appear.  But at least I’m now less inclined to shirk if it ever happens again!

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2 Comments on “Jury Duty”

  1. sheila4hastenhome Says:

    I previously came to the same conclusion. Jury duty really should be counted as more of a privilege than an annoyance. As Christians, we ought to take the responsibility very seriously. It can be a challenge because of other responsibilities in life (especially when you are living paycheck to paycheck); but like you said, if I was on the other side it would be nice to know that I had the impartial judgement of a group of my peers weighing my case. (I have been called in two or three times, but have never made it to an actual trial yet.)

  2. Jenny Says:

    My jury duty experience has been really boring. I’m always called to the same courthouse. I’m always passed over for the same reasons. I’m always placed in a group that gets sent home early. It’s so inefficient. Someone really needs to fix the system.


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