Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You've Been Served

Last week I had the pleasure of being summoned to jury duty. I think you and I probably have the save reaction when we receive that letter in the mail....dread.

Yes, I needed to find a sitter for my 3 kids and make arrangements for work. I get to the jury room after rushing and found a table where I can set up shop. I was minding my own business doing my thing, but a guy at the table is just going on and on and on. I truly think he liked hearing himself speak. It was funny because he mentioned he was going to go into law school. It seemed quite befitting for him.

Finally, the first round of names were called. I wasn't on the list. A sigh of relief. But is that good or bad? Another hour or two passed and another round of names. I kept hearing my first name, but luckily different last names. Then I hear name was called. Oh, no, not me!

Our group of about 40 were corralled into the court room. We have to sit in the pews in a just so right fashion. Next they go through a bunch of questions that might eliminate a few people immediately. I wasn't one of those. By this time it is around 12:00 noon. My stomach is grumbling. Fourteen names were called. I was #7. Now, I have to move to the jury box. Sweaty palms. Heart rate increasing.

The judge starts asking a series of questions for all 14 potential jurors. Nothing impressive is going on. Finally we get through the 14th potential juror. Yeah! They release us for lunch. I head out to the Thai restaurant up the street, but it is closed. There is another potential juror that had the same idea as me, but to our surprise, the restaurant was closed. I headed to the pizza joint next door and the hostess assumed a gentleman that walked in at the same time was with me. We decided to have lunch together.

It turns out he is an attorney, but also a potential juror. We got to talking about many things. One in particular of how a unique case he is working on should be turned into a movie. You see, we don't really have to pay top dollar to go to the movie theatre to get entertainment, movies are written about characters in our own backyard albeit friends and family. I was trying to rush my lunch when I noticed the lawyers from "my courtroom" were two tables over. No need to rush at this point since they were still eating.

So, now I'm back in the jury box. The lawyers start questioning us. There really was no us, it was just me. They had a field day questioning me. Yep, you got it. I was one of the chosen 7. At that point I was sequestered in the jury room and couldn't leave unless I was walked back into the courtroom. I had to wait back there for the additional potential jurors to get questioned. At 5:30 they finally picked the final jurors. I headed out of there around 6:00 PM.

What made the day a bit frightening was that we were escorted to the parking garage with 2 police officers. Not only did we get escorted, we were taken out the back way, walked to our cars, then they were waiting at the garage exit to make sure we actually left safely.

Day 2 was better planned. I knew what to expect. I could go into great detail, but I won't. The verdict was that the defendants were not guilty, unanimously. The state did not have enough evidence to prove guilt. Yes, we got the same escort to our cars that day, too. It was a one day trial which I thought was incredible.

Although I dreaded the idea of being on a jury, it was a good experience. I learned a lot about the justice system and have a bit more respect for it. I do realize that many of these cases that are publicized on the news are blown out of proportion and the facts of the case aren't even available to the public. It is such a pity what the media frenzy can do to the legal system.

I got to speak with the judge after and appreciated what he does even more. A few days later, I received a letter from him thanking me for my time. It was such a nice and genuine gesture. Who sends personal mail these days? I was really proud at that moment when I read his letter and that I had the privilege to serve on a jury. I felt like I did my American given duty of serving.

Maybe next time I get summoned, I won't have dread, but actually enjoy serving.

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