Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rising to the Occasion of Jury Duty

Today, I rose at 6:10 a.m. in spite of my husbands insistence that I go to bed before ten p.m.  the night before.  I awoke at 6:10 a.m. one minute before the alarm, to turn on the coffee and crawl back into my covers for a sacred moment or three. Coffee in and shower over, I proceeded  to tell my husband to let the dog out, but decided to do it myself as his snoring made me distrustful of his comprehension.  He did, however, acknowledge for at least 3 seconds.....that he needed to let the dog out.

It was jury duty day and it was imperative that I report on time. Or at least I thought so.   I had been late once before and the Clerk responded with a new date to start all over.  That was a "no bueno" response for me so I was determined to be out the door on time.

As I dressed, deciding the appropriate jury attire, I contemplated: should I be the best dressed, or the mom of suburbs or the woman on the way to work or the say at home retiree?  Hmmm.  This thought did not cross the minds of most people, tattoos and piercings, spandex are acceptable for court....

I left the house in the business attire with full expectation of being selected.  Funny how things work out.  I arrive early, only to wait longer.  I arrive dressed almost the best, though I am quite sure Vogue would not vote so.  I have to say the little woman ( I mean 100 pounds) next to me,  was very well dressed but very anxious, handing out her cards to everyone who would take one. She is a seamstress and is not going to miss the captive marketing audience.  I admired her tenacity.

As the morning wound down, we were called and assembled and put in our preassigned seats.

The Judge gives instruction and reads from an obviously approved Supreme Court  speech.  Each juror must stand up and answer 12 questions.  The judge listens to them and may ask a question or two.  Then, the State Attorney started first, asking questions of everyone.  There are clarifications of previous testimony regarding each juror's life statements. What do your children do? Have you been arrested before?  Have you service on a jury before?  Clarifications include why you may want or need to be excused or what your perspective is on the trial charges or the people involved.  One woman wanted to be excused as her son is in the national roller skating championships and she is the carpool mom (that would be from Florida to Nebraska- some carpool!)

 One person had a daughter dealing with similar charges as the defendant and two or three had conflicts with the law enforcement community - hated them or loved them, it is sort of the same in conflict world.  Several wanted to go home as they worked the night shift and were oh so tired.  I have to tell you I was duly impressed with the people who stood and told of their crimes and their restoration of rights.  I was also impressed as they stood and told all that their children were incarcerated or their families had multiple convicted felons.  The Judge said many times that if you wanted to tell him in private, you did not have to say it in front of the 60 or so people.  But they stood up and said it anyway.   I would not have said it out loud, had I had anything to report.  I would say this is a generational thing, but they were my age.  Some retired for several years.  It was clearly part of their lives. A couple of jurors obviously had money as the YSL bags and the ivanka-trump shoes were apparent to those who knew!  Of course they are a lobbyists and lawyers.  But, we all had to answer questions.  We all had to stand.  We all had to file in an out on command.  We all were to answer to the judge and the bailiff.

But, the most  shockingly great part of the jury service is the sameness.  Certain situations are just equalizers.  Whether you are on a tarmac on a jet, stuck with no air conditioning on a 95 degree day, or a jury panel answering endless questions... you are the same.  First class has no air and neither does the cattle car seat section.  Money doesn't buy your way out or in for that matter. Good shoes don't either. It is the same with a jury.   Smiles at the Judge don't have an effect.  Though when the man on the jury said he divorced the Judge's cousin twenty five years ago, the judge had a little chuckle.

But, back to the sameness...

When I didn't get picked, my feelings were hurt for a bit.  But getting on the elevator, it was clearly not the consensus.  Listening to conversations, most of the people were glad to get out of serving.  Some were outright enraged saying they would never side with the "state prosecutor" no matter what...

All the judges that we encountered were personable and a little fun and mostly serious.  Except for the black robe, which struck me as sort of a real relic of the past tradition that we the taxpayers could probably live without- they were great.

Out of the 30 or so called, 7 remained.  The rest of us filing out with our thanks for service and community.  Me with a renewed sense of equality.  Like the airplane tarmac analogy, it does not matter if your seat is three inches wider, when it is 95 degrees in the plane and you can't get off.  And you don't buy your way off of jury duty, YSL bag and all (not that she tried).

Nope, on the jury, you are one among many.  Your vote counts the same.  Your presence means as much.  Whatever you bring to the table is as real as anyone else.

What a lovely concept.  Planes and juries...  Maybe that is where we our are best, because there is no advantage....

Wonder how they call juries in France?

Update: my husband received his jury summons, but the check box for law enforcement officer, made his decision easier!