For the first time in my life, I was chosen to sit on the jury. I have been summoned maybe a half dozen times or so, but never made the panel until this time. The trial only lasted two days, but it was an experience I won't soon forget.
Most people I have talked to about jury duty cringe at its mere mention. It seems the common thing to do is try to get yourself excused from service...or make sure you present yourself in a way so that you would never be selected to serve.
When people find out you have been summoned, they give all kinds of advice on how not to be selected. They say things like...
"Make yourself look like a redneck bigot."
"Tell them you support capital punishment for misdemeanors."
"Cough and don't cover your mouth."
Yeah. It's mostly said tongue-in-cheek, but the attitude is there, nonetheless. Whatever you do, don't get chosen!
I think most people's reticence to be chosen can be credited to one of two reasons:
- They consider jury service a terrible inconvenience;
- They are afraid of having to interact and speak their minds in a room full of strangers.
Both reasons are understandable...until you consider that trial by a jury of your peers is your right as a citizen of the greatest democratic republic the world has ever seen. Inconvenience? Discomfort? Those are pretty nominal prices to pay for freedom's privileges.
The American system of justice is not perfect, and I plan to address that somewhat in my next post, but it is the best model in the world. It is the standard. (Well, it certainly beats the Sudan all to pieces, anyway.)
Sitting on a jury in a felony case was not easy, but I am proud to be an American and I am happy to have performed my civic duty. It didn't cost me much, just a couple days and a little displacement from my comfort zone. It did, however, cost hundreds of thousands of other Americans much, much more, as they paid with their lives - or the lives of their loved ones - so that I would have the privilege to perform such a service.
I decided not to dishonor their sacrifice by coughing all over a few strangers so I could get sent home.