The verdict’s in: Not to serve on a jury – again
“Oh no, not again!” I believe those were my exact words three weeks ago when I opened my mail and found out that I was expected to report for jury duty this past Monday.I remembered the last time I was called up. I was filled with resentment at the seeming waste of my valuable time. Judging from the looks on the faces of the folk who were arriving with me back then, I knew I was not alone in my resentment. But good citizens all, we knew that this was part of our civic responsibility. It was just that we were also responsible for other activities as well. None of us, we collectively moaned, have the time for this!Everyone seemed to have something better to do than what we were doing … which, as I vividly recall, was waiting. Anyone who has ever served in the military, applied for a driver’s license or expected a tax return knows that the one thing our government knows how to do very well is have people wait. Still, it afforded the opportunity for all of us to see who else had to interrupt their lives to perform this public duty.
I remember how I spent a considerable amount of the wait wondering just who would be likely candidates for the actual jury and who didn’t stand a chance.I, of course, never am selected. It may have something to do with my sinister looks or my professional reputation, but someone has always objected to this clergyman serving on the jury.There are those, I am sure, who are sure that I will be too lax and liberal, and there are others, I am equally sure, who are even more sure that I will uphold the conservative Christian tradition of righteous, swift and eternal judgment.In any case, I never stand a chance. I didn’t then, and I knew I wouldn’t now.I remembered the last time when a young woman, 11 or so months pregnant, stood in the hall and practiced her “I’ll try and be brave and do my duty but you probably should know that I could deliver at any moment” look. It was very effective. She was the first to be dismissed.
As I recall, the next to go was a lady who happened to know the defendant. Having lived in my small Colorado county for more than 20 years, I figured I had to know someone in the trial, too.I’d met the judge a few times before and had (ahem) business dealings with one of the lawyers, but I couldn’t ever recall having encountered the poor fellow on trial. Poor me.One by one others began to go as they faced questions from the judge and attorneys and failed to make the right impression.Finally, those of us unchosen were invited to leave. Upon our dismissal, the judge spoke eloquently of the judicial system and the constitutional privilege of a jury trial. Although I breathed a small sigh of relief, there was a tinge of regret that, once again, I was unable to do more than just sit and wait.
Nevertheless, when, last Sunday night, I called the number to find out if the trial was still scheduled for the following day, I was delighted to discover that it was not. What a stroke of luck!Being Lutheran, such delight brought with it a smidgen of guilt, of course, that had me soberly deliberating on the value of this lugubrious process of justice with its dependence upon the goodwill and willingness of its citizenry. Next time maybe I’ll really get lucky. Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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