Friday, October 8, 2010

Civic Duty

Look what came in the mail yesterday.

Jury duty gets me kind of twisted. The first time I was called, I got seated as a juror on a murder trial. Not some fraud case or a burglary. I drew murder.

The responsibility of making a decision about the outcome of another person's life was almost more than I could fathom. Even though I was sharing that decision with eleven strangers, it weighed very heavily on me. I didn't sleep well for awhile after.

Although it was almost fifteen years ago, there were many things about the experience that still stand out in my memory. Like the fact that start to finish, the entire trial only took three days. Monday morning I was sitting in the bullpen with a hundred other potential jurors and by the close of the day on Wednesday we had convicted a man. Three days. It doesn't seem like enough time to me for a crime of that magnitude.

Another odd thing was that, as jurors, we were escorted to and from a special courthouse cafeteria as a group. We weren't allowed to go out into the world and have lunch. We weren't sequestered or anything but we weren't really free either. I remember looking out the window after lunch and seeing the defendant walking back from a little restaurant across the street. Intellectually I understood that he had not been convicted yet and had every right to go out to lunch, but somehow it seemed strange that he could go and I couldn't. I realize that it sounds petty, but my inner teenager stomped her foot a bit.

Throughout the trial, the defendant looked like a nice person. He was young and good looking. When he testified, he spoke well. He looked like someone that I could have been friends with. But when the verdict was read, his face completely transformed. His rage was palpable and all of the sudden I could see the man who'd bludgeoned an ice cream man to death. That still haunts me.

Maybe the hardest thing of all for me was listening to the evidence and slowly coming to realization that I was sitting in a room with someone who killed another human being. It was very scary.

But even though that experience was pretty disturbing, I actually don't mind jury duty. I'm fascinated by the process and honestly believe in our system. That in order for that system to work, all of us have to be willing to step out of our day to day lives and take our turn sitting in the jury box.

OK, the civics lesson is over. Will return to yarn and pretty next week.


Mya said...

Good luck with your case. I agree with you, I believe in our system. That said, I had to sit on a 2 week child molestation case that still gives me nightmares. I hope if you are selected it won't be a bad case.

Anonymous said...

I pulled jury duty in beautiful West Michigan and the last time we had a jury selection, it was for someone who was accused of domestic violence. I had to excuse myself because of my former husband, and I felt guilty that I wasn't able to say I could be objective. Heck, the prosecutor excused me even, not the defense lawyer!

Laura from beautiful West Michigan

Lori said...

Good luck on jury duty, at least you don't have to go to 26th & California!

Maureen said...

The Daley Center is nice and the views are fabuous. The windows on the south look down on the steeple of the Methodist church that is perched atop a skyscraper.

Most of the jury cases are personal injury. I've been on two juries there and both involved car crashes.

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Brianna said...

I just sat on a jury for someone tried for felony possession and distribution of marijuana.

They selected me though I told them I firmly disagreed with the laws the gentleman would be tried under, go figure.

It's very difficult to have to convict someone on evidence when you do not personally agree with the laws that lead to the conviction! I hope you have/had better luck.