Posted by: morrowsl | July 30, 2013

My Day in Court

People just piss me off sometimes.

A couple of weeks ago I received a jury summons in the mail.  And, while it’s not my favorite way to spend a day, I’m ok with being called to do my civic duty.  I haven’t always felt this way.  But the last case I served as juror for changed my outlook on the judicial system and the small part I play in it.

Young girl, maybe fourth grade, molested repeatedly by her grandmother’s husband.  Mom and dad were divorced and apparently not overly concerned about their daughter since she didn’t live with either of them.  I guess nobody had time for that.  Grandmother did her best to avoid losing the bread-winner in her family in spite of his dirty deeds.
It was one of those times when the word “hate” repeated itself to me over and over again.
And I didn’t feel bad about hating.

It was a long and quite disturbing ordeal.  But what we went through was nothing at all compared to the horrors that child endured.

On the day of sentencing, one of my fellow jurors brought in half a ream’s worth of information downloaded from the Internet to share with us so we’d “understand the damage” done in the dark of night in that little girl’s bedroom.  She had some “professional experience” and felt we needed to know before we sentenced the man we’d found guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.  Each of us reminded her that such material wasn’t allowed and refused to read it.  So, being ever so helpful, she offered it to the defense team.

About a month later, after I’d managed to erase much of what I’d seen and heard during that trial, I was once again summoned to court.  I was not surprised to see the familiar faces of my fellow panel members.  Those of us who came admitted we’d been offered outside information and all of us agreed that not one of us, aside from the “helper” lady, had read it.  But it only takes one.
I was so disheartened to know that little girl was going to have to sit in front of another jury panel and judge and go through that horrendous ordeal again.

Today, a couple of years after that trial and long after I’d vowed never again to take jury duty lightly, I sat in another court room as part of a huge panel being selected for another case.  I consider the process of voir dire tedious, but I always learn things, so it’s at least somewhat interesting.  I was curious why there were so many of us, probably 75 people, packed in like sardines, when all that’s needed are twelve.

It didn’t take long to figure out.

The prosecutor didn’t manage to give anything away.  She opened some doors, but just as quickly closed them by rewording her questions.  But by the time the defense attorney was winding up, plots to get out of serving had been hatched and a good twenty people had their speeches ready.

I listened, quite disgustedly, as one by one my fellow jurors wheedled and whined and complained that being a juror was going to totally screw up their lives.  One man even asked what he should do if he was feeling ill.  Seriously?  Grow a pair, jackass.

The judge, possibly to stop the bleeding out of her entire panel, carefully explained that sentencing would be hers to decide and that the trial would be over by Wednesday at the latest.  It changed nothing.  Hands were flying up so fast they almost created a cold front.

I wasn’t selected.  I’m ok with that.  I’d have been ok if I had been.  I was ready to be a good juror.  I’ll be ready when the next summons comes.  And the next one after that.  I’ve learned that it’s about more than just civic duty.  Sometimes it’s about a life.

And maybe it’s ok that some people look for and use any excuse to get out of serving.  I suppose at the least it protects the victims from being subjected to do-overs.


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