Thursday, October 10, 2013

Civic honor

I got called for Jury Duty this week. I received my summons about a month ago and was anything but thrilled. It is only the second time I have gotten a jury summons but I was about as thrilled with it this time as I was the last, which is to say not thrilled in the least. I think this is pretty much the sentiment of anyone who gets called up for Jury Duty.

I ended up being sent to voir dire for a capital murder trial. The case had co defendants so the voir dire ran a lot longer than it normally would, or at least that is what I was told. In fact we sat in voir dire for 11 hours. Not only that we had to come back two days later for final selection of the jury. So in all I spent twelve and a half hours at the courthouse on Monday and another two hours on Wednesday and I didn't even make the jury in the end.

I came to a sudden realization as I was sitting in my tenth hour at the courthouse on Monday, my backside aching from the hard wooden bench I had been sitting on all day, my knees screaming from being squished in the narrow space of the aisle I was sitting on, and my feet throbbing from the hour or more during the day I had to stand in heels while waiting to be called into the court room. I was again in the hall waiting on some decision to be made, lamenting my situation on Facebook, and I was getting comment after comment from friends sympathizing with me and assuring me how much jury duty sucked and how sorry they were for me to be stuck there. They all also told me how they hoped I wouldn't get picked.

It was then that I realized how wrong this all was.

It wasn't wrong that I was having to perform my civic duty. It wasn't wrong that I had been stuck in the courthouse for more hours than I spend in my office on any given day. It wasn't wrong that I was physically uncomfortable and tired. That was not the problem.

The problem was my attitude and the attitude of everyone else commiserating with me. What the hell is wrong with us?

Sure Jury Duty is not convenient. You always seem to get summoned when you have something else to be doing, but you can defer it up to three times so they are working with you. Yes you only get paid $6 and it costs $3 to park and sometimes your company won't pay you for missed days of work, so that sucks. No the courthouse (at least for me) is not close or easy to get to through rush hour traffic. Yes all of these things suck.

Even though it is not convenient, we should not be dreading the possibility of serving on a jury. This is how our justice system works. We have a right to be tried before a jury of our peers which is pretty cool. If no one showed up for jury service that wouldn't work. It could be argued that people who do not want to be there make for a poor jury, but I argue that the people who really want to serve might not be any better. The people who want to serve might not be all civil minded and instead have some sort of grudge they are wanting to carry out by throwing a monkey wrench into things. That is no better than a person who doesn't want to be there.

They call thousands of people for jury service every day in my county, and in the end less than 100 people will actually serve. I am told only about half of the people summoned actually bother to show up. If you get called for service there really isn't a good chance that you will ever be picked to actually sit on a jury, so most likely it will be one slightly inconvenient day out of your life.

We shouldn't dread jury service. We should look at it not so much as our civic responsibility, though it is that, but more as an honor. We get to be part of the process. We get to see how things work and make possibly make a difference in something.

Sure the system is broken. I could go on and on about the laws and the process and the sentencing, but that is not what this is about. The flaws of the justice system are many and glaring, but this is one flaw that is in our hands to fix. It is something we should fix.

So the next time you get that summons in the mail try not to groan and think of it as a waste of time. Try not to push it off or flat out ignore it. Try to look at it as a duty and as an honor that you are allowed to participate in the justice system in such a way.

I mean come on people, the government is already full of people who aren't working for no good reason. Don't add to the problem. Be better than a politician, do what you should be doing.

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