Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Jury of Your Peers

I’ve been serving on jury duty the last two days. My first time. I was dismissed at the end of the day today and I’m ultimately left unfulfilled by the experience. It was really an exercise in patience.

There were 450 of us in the jury pool, all sitting in a very small, poorly ventilated room. We were cramped like sardines, which I didn’t mind as much as I minded all of the coughing, sneezing, nose blowing and hacking. There were so many sick people in those tight quarters that you could see the germs swarming around our heads. You could hear the little devils laugh, “heh, heh, heh…” as they whizzed up your nose. Sure enough, I am feeling a cold coming on today.

The judge who swore us in Monday morning delivered a truly fantastic speech about how important we were to the process. About how we live in the greatest country in the world. About how our freedom isn’t free – it comes with responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is jury duty, ensuring that the rights of all are upheld. It was motivating stuff and everyone clapped when he left the room. I was ready to serve.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

I read the paper cover to cover. Balanced my check book. Made some to-do lists for work. Read some of my MacBook for Dummies. Then we were dismissed for lunch for an hour and a half. I went to the public library across the street and wandered around until I returned for more waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Every now and then groups of 20 or 25 would be called out, but my name was never included.

Finally, around 5:00, the clerk read another list of names, including mine. I was kind of excited to go to the next level of voir dire, or whatever that’s called, to see how a jury was selected. But it turns out the list I was on were the names of those jurors who were to report to juvenile court on Tuesday.

Ugh. I wasn’t looking so forward to hearing what I envisioned to be tragic cases involving young people.

But, I showed up this morning on time and ready to go. And I waited. And waited. And waited. I read more of my MacBook manual. Again read the paper. Talked on the phone to check in on work. And waited. And waited. During lunch I sat out on a bench and ate. Then waited some more. It was one of the longest days of my life. Around 5:00, the clerk came and told us that all of the cases had plead out today and none had ended up going to trial. So were dismissed, no need to go back tomorrow.

It really is quite a process and I completely understand the need to have big numbers of people from which to pick and choose, but I also learned how very few cases actually make it to a jury trial. I would have liked to have had the experience of serving on a jury.

But in truth, I’m glad I don’t have to hear any sad stories or make any potentially hard decisions regarding a person’s fate. I know I could do it, but given the work I have waiting for me, it’s probably better that I get back to my desk and leave jurisprudence for the next round of the randomly chosen residents of Oklahoma County.


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