Things I Learned from Jury Duty

I got a jury summons for municipal court. It was my fourth in 41 years, but I’ve never actually served on a jury. Things always seemed to work out so I was dismissed before I ever made it to the jury box. So something told me that this time I was overdue from some citizenship karma.

And indeed, I was chosen for the jury.

Luckily it was municipal court. Messy stuff usually ends up in circuit court in my area, so I wouldn’t be dealing with murder, child abuse or anything really ugly. My case ended up being a DUI.

The process from beginning to end took 10 hours. In my world, that’s a long time. I confess I was a little bitter about ignoring work and family to sit in a courtroom for that long (No Internet! No phone!), particularly after the trial ended. Because there were many moments when I thought, “Really? You are taking my time up for this?”

Yet, in spite of my bitterness over the time suck, I admit I learned a few things. Namely:

  1. We’re lucky to live in this country. For all our screwed-up legal problems, the concept of innocent until proven guilty is an amazing gift. We should appreciate it.
  2. Not pursuing a career in law was an excellent move on my part. There may have been a time back in the day where I considered law school. Man, the law is boring. And tedious. And hard.
  3. If you want to get out of jury duty, make definitive statements that show you aren’t open minded about something… anything. Two potential jurors argued with the lawyers about minor points related to the case during jury questioning. They both got let go pretty quickly afterwards.
  4. People will lie to you, even after they swear not to. And it’s not always obvious. This case was sort of a he said/he said case. And I honestly had a real problem when it came to deciding who to believe… until one witness lied on the stand and got caught.
  5. It’s hard to pronounce someone guilty. Even when they are. The judge instructs you to leave emotion behind, but that’s hard to do when you are looking at the guy you are convicting of a crime. It feels personal, no matter what anyone says.
  6. Acting as a juror is hard work. And it’s emotionally draining. The trial has been over for more than a week, yet it’s hard for me to stop thinking about it. I drive around town, past the same locations I heard about in the trial, and my mind wanders back to the testimony, replaying it in my mind.
  7. Picking a jury is hard work too. While I was disappointed to have to serve, I can see why I was chosen. And I was lucky to serve with some very nice, reasonably minded people — people I could have been friends with, had we met under different circumstances. I got lucky, and I know it. I think it would be very hard to spend that much time with people who slipped through the system and then proved themselves to be biased one way or another after all.

Overall, I feel like justice was served in this case, and I have no regrets. Forgive me though, if I’m not eager to repeat the process. And fingers crossed that my citizenship karmic debt is paid up for a little while.

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