I reported to jury duty this morning, arriving early to assure myself a spot in one of the two free parking lots available to those of us performing our civic duty. I left my stainless steel coffee cup in the car, camera at home not wanting to risk losing either at the front desk. It turned out that leaving the camera at home was smart, the cup in the car unnecessary. I queued up in line, had my purse searched, walked through the metal detector and took the elevator designated for jurors to the ninth floor.
I’ve been there before, was familiar with the rules the clerk outlined for us regarding eating and drinking (allowed in designated areas), smoking (not allowed anywhere, not even e-cigarettes), and other housecleaning items. We watched a movie, listened to a judge tell us about the judicial process then were left to wait.
I’ve been there before and have always had the same thought: I hope I don’t get picked. I’ve listened to the judge tell us everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty while sitting across from a man accused of allegedly selling drugs within fifty feet of a school. He sat next to his attorney cocksure, slouched low, one arm casually draped along the back of the chair next to him. I remember thinking he’s been here before, knows he’s going to get off with a slap on the wrist. For whatever reason we were all dismissed in that case; I would not have made a good juror, thinking at the time he’s guilty.
I’ve been there before, heard others talking low to one another hoping they didn’t get picked, it would be a hardship, they didn’t want to miss work. I’ve had those same thoughts every time I’ve reported to jury duty yet this time I felt a shift take place in me. I was in the third wave to get called, was ushered into a court room with attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant, judge, clerk and stenographer. As the judge told us about the civil case we’d be potentially hearing I started to feel excited to be there, to be part of our judicial system. He reminded us that we are all entitled to a fair trial and if ever we were in the plaintiff’s or defendant’s shoes wouldn’t we want to be secure in knowing a jury of our peers would be willing to hear the case. Yes!
As the case progressed and we were asked if serving on a jury for three or four days starting next week would be a hardship I mentally went over my ‘to do’ list for next week. I came up empty, no commitments outside of work. All but eight of us raised our hands to be excused for one reason or another. Here we are, I thought, 6 jurors and 2 alternates. That’s not how it works but I had already put us in the box, listening to testimony. We still had to go through voir dire questioning but first broke for lunch. At lunch I kept seeing me as juror, weighing in on that civil case. I really thought I might be picked and was looking forward to it. Shift, people. Am I growing up? Am I less selfish? Am I looking for a distraction from my everyday life? Whatever the reason I was ready to serve. When we got back from lunch, had re-assembled in the court room, the judge thanked us for our service, told us the case had settled, excused us for the day. In the elevator everyone was upbeat, smiling, laughing even. A woman looked skyward and gave thanks. Another woman said she’d been reading Bible passages all morning; another woman thanked her. Everyone was happy to be excused. Everyone except me.