Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jury Duty

When I turned 18, I was very excited to register to vote.

I was very excited to potentially be called for Jury Duty.

20 years later, my name finally came up.

I know it's a pretty common joke - jury duty.  Groan, don't wanna go, act crazy, tell them you can tell someone is guilty just looking at them...

But I think our judicial process is fascinating.  I don't always agree with it.  Innocent until proven guilty can be hard to accept.  A jury of your peers determining your guilt or innocence based solely on evidence presented in the court room...

And now I have my first summons.

I make my arrangements at work.  I report to the jury room.  There are 60 or more people there for 2 Superior Courts.  I was assigned to a potential jury pool for a criminal case.  We had to first fill out a survey.  It was a sex crime case and there were questions each potential juror needed to answer - family or friend a sex crime victim?  Family in law enforcement?  Victim of a sex crime?

I filled out my form and sat down to wait.  After a little while, we were lined up in numerical order.  We were given instructions about entering the court room.  The first 14 people were led to the jury box and the rest of us were seated in the audience.  Also present in the court room were the judge, 2 prosecuting attorneys, the defense attorney, the defendant, a detective, a court reporter, and an officer in uniform.

The judge swore us all in.  Then he asked several questions and we all had the opportunity to answer if it pertained to us.  He read the charges.

9 counts of child molestation and solicitation.  In graphic detail.


The attorneys took turns explaining the role they play in the court room and then leading a "discussion" with the jurors in the jury box.

After about an hour, 7 people were dismissed from that group of 14.

We took a lunch break, came back, and it was group 2's turn in the box - my group.

I ended up dismissed.  You don't find out why you are excused but my hunch is that the defense attorney saw me as an "expert" once we discussed my background in social work and the field I used to work in (therapeutic foster care, working with children removed from their homes due to various forms of abuse and neglect).

I found myself deep in thought the rest of the day.  Glad my husband "gets" that side of me.  That jury... the victim is a 10 year old girl and she took the stand to tell her story.

I found out today that the girl is the niece of a woman I know through an online group for moms.

The jury, last I heard, is deliberating.  The verdict will come in on Friday, I assume.  Not knowing what was said and what was presented in the court room means I can't give a fair verdict of my own.

But what I do know is that no matter what did or didn't happen, there are a lot of people hurting.  There is a girl and her parents and their very supportive, loving extended family.  There is a man who is either fighting false charges that will ruin his reputation or who did something terrible and horrible who has to face consequences for what he did.  There are the attorneys who have to prepare, defend, prosecute, and then live with whatever they have done or not done.

My heart is mostly with this little girl.  My prayers are with her.  She is hurting, she is healing.

So if you get that summons, I suggest you take it seriously.  I was dismissed, I spent just one day in the process and it made an incredible impact on me.  You might get called for something that feels unimportant - but it is important to the people involved.  You might get called for something that will truly change someone's life.



Rebecca said...

I was sent a postcard with a summons for jury duty a couple of years ago and I sent in a letter that discussed Joey's condition (I can't remember exactly what was going on then but something was happening...when isn't something happening with that poor boy?). Anyway, I was worried about leaving him with anyone and dealing with jury duty but they sent me a letter that said I was excused.

And now Joey is recovering from yet another surgery and I read this and it made me think that it's about time for me to get another summons.

Alison said...

I'm surprised they didn't dismiss you right off--assuming you identified yourself as a victim? I've only been summoned once, when I was in the middle of a year abroad, so I've never served. I'd like to think that I'd take the responsibility seriously. How can we get a jury of solid citizens if everyone tries to shirk their duty?

Karen M. Peterson said...

I served on a jury when I was 19. It was a minor offense, but that experience had a big impact on me, too. I've always hoped to serve on a jury again. Maybe one day I will.

Anonymous said...

I served on a sex crime trial and it impacted me greatly. I hated it - I will be honest. I had a daughter, just a little younger than the victim and there just wasn't enough information to find the defendant guilty. It still haunts me, sometimes, not knowing if we made the right decision (I think we did). I really felt the jurors were treated poorly and was disappointed in the experience. I am one of those who now try to get out of it at all costs...