I Was Wrong About Jury Duty

Being called to Jury Duty is one of those things that most people complain about, and not without reason. It’s a disruption, it’s a time commitment, but I understand it’s a civic duty that aids in affording us the due process that this country provides. (That said, I’d still rather not do it – I have no business judging anything beyond fashion and gay pride parade floats – and even then it’s sketchy.)

Yet even at the start I was coming around to seeing this as an experience I needed, and that began with me giving my reverence to the task at hand. First, I had to respect the process. I’ll admit, I didn’t have much patience for it when I got my summons in the mail. I was aware of the glacial pace of most legal proceedings, and that even with the preliminary step of jury selection there was an awful lot of down-time and sitting-still. Usually, I don’t have a problem with that – tell me I have a ten-hour layover and I’ll happily hunker down in the airport lounge with a book and some magazines. But there’s something different about doing that as part of a jury. There’s no happy destination at the end of it all.

I was also envisioning the most exciting scenario as a case of petty larceny or vandalism or other mundane legal mumbo jumbo which would have me asleep from boredom or disinterest.

I was wrong. Well, I was mostly wrong. Much of the jury selection process is tedious and boring and incredibly repetitive (particularly if you’re selected in the first round and have to endure two more rounds of the same questions…) And there are definitely periods of interminable waiting, where you’re called back into the court room only to be told you are taking a lunch break (like you really couldn’t lump the break five minutes prior into that?)

But it instilled some invaluable lessons. Andy said I would learn a lot – and I did. Not just about the court system, and the way trials are heard and debated, but about human nature, about justice, about the way we treat each other.

After my first day, before I even got to see the defendant (I was in the back row and hadn’t yet been selected) my first lesson was to obey the law; I did not want to end up in anything remotely close to the position the defendant was in. I looked out the window at the spire of St. Mary’s and the pair of pigeons flying overhead, and I wondered if he was already longing for freedom, for the simple sensation of being outside on his own. It was something we all took for granted, and suddenly the tone of this trial, and my jury duty, took its first irrevocably serious turn. But I did not know that then. I was still able to joke about it, still capable of a laugh at the whole situation, still holding onto the silly things that, up to and including that moment, constituted my life.

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