There is a very good chance that it will happen to each and every one of us at some point in our lives. You go to check the mail and there is a summons notice to report for jury duty on a particular day. At least this is the case if you happen to live in the United States. In most cases, court cases are decided by everyday, ordinary people. You are asked to report so the judges and attorneys have good pool of people to pick from for their cases. A majority of people who are asked to report for jury duty are not picked to become a juror. In fact, I believe most people would rather not become a juror. It can really mess up a person’s daily routine of work, taking care of their families and other things that are important to them. About a month ago, I was one of those lucky? people who got that dreaded summons in the mail and I would like to share my experience.
When I received my notice for jury duty, I was very upset because my date just so happened to fall on one of my many vacation days during the summer. I was not happy because I had planned a trip a few months in advance and the reporting date really threw a wrench in my plans. Fortunately, I was given a new date to report after asking for a new report date. The day finally arrived when I was to show up to show at our county judicial building. I was perfectly relaxed and fully not expecting to be on a case. It was my expectations that I would be released and I would not have to worry about reporting again for a while. When I arrived, I was led to a large jury room where I joined around 70-80 in waiting for the next step. I was told upon arriving that there would be 2 trials going on, 7 jurors for each trial. So the odds of getting to be a juror on each of these trials were still slim; less than 20 percent.
The moment arrived when an official from the court, read off the names of approximately 30 people who were to report for consideration on these trials. Half of the group was to be led to one courtroom, the other half to another courtroom. There the jurors were to be picked for each trial. My name just happened to get called. My heart started to race with excitement. The chances of getting on a case and becoming a juror dramatically jumped to around 50 percent.
In the courtroom, my group of 15 were asked questions by the judges and attorneys mainly about our thoughts and opinions on topics related to the case. For example, since this was a civil case involving a car accident, we each asked individually on our opinions about chiropractic care versus medical care. Did we have a certain bias towards any? Other questions were personal such as our educational background and whether we were married and had any children. I have to admit that it was rather intimidating speaking in front of the attorneys and judges. I tried to be as honest and direct as possible.
Finally it came down to the moment when the 7 jurors were picked. My name was called as one of the jurors. I could not believe what I was going through!! For years, I had watch many trials on television shows; now was about to get a real life experience of being a part of a trial. Just a few hours ago, I had about a 15 percent chance of becoming a juror, now it was 100 percent!!
At the beginning of the trial, the judge gave us very specific instructions about how to conduct ourselves during the trial. We were not to talk at all about the trial to anyone or post anything on social media pertaining to the trial. It was not exactly a high-profile trial so that temptation never existed. The trial last about 2 days with both the defense and the plaintiff doing a great job on trying to persuade us to see the case through their eyes. It was a rather short but intense trial with that left us with many things to ponder and consider. My mind kept racing back and forth during the trial. On the second day, I started to form a strong opinion and never wavered from it. Both sides finally rested their cases and it was time for us to head to a special room for deliberations. Here I was in a room with 6 total strangers deciding the fate of a couple of people that could have a lifetime of lasting consequences for them. Thankfully, we pretty much saw eye to eye on a number of things and the deliberations only lasted about an hour. I was fortunate enough to be on a great group of jurors. After our decision was made, we were escorted to the courtroom were the verdict was read. And that was it! It was finally over; my first experience as a juror had just ended.
As I was walking back to my car, I couldn’t help to think about those jurors who get stuck on far lengthier trials such as many criminal cases. The sacrifices they have to make are totally amazing. My little sacrifice of missing a few days of work is nothing compared to what they have to go through. And imagine trying to make a decision about whether a person should be locked away in prison? Unless it is very clear-cut that a defendant is clearly guilty, that would weigh on me for the rest of my life!
The experience that went through last week is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I would not hesitate to do it again. Being part of a jury is something that I am very proud of doing. While our judicial system is not perfect, it is still the best in the world and it was an honor to recently be part of that system and perform my civic duty as an American.