Friday, July 19, 2013

Jury Duty

At the beginning of the week, I got called for jury duty.  I've been called for jury duty about a half dozen times over the course of my life but never actually sat on a jury (including the last time back in Washington state.  When the judge said "will you follow the law when deciding your verdict as I tell it to you?" I had to disagree.  Apparently the judge didn't like my comment about jury nullification.  Funny, but I was never called for jury duty again in the state after I had a fairly lively discussion with the judge about the merits and legality of jury nullification but I digress...).
So fast forward to a few weeks ago when I got my jury duty summons.  My first thought was "ugh".  I think everyone's first thought is "ugh".  Of course I have no reason to try to get out of it.  I'm retired and have all the time in the world so I went ahead and showed up.  I can't blame those who really make an effort to get out of jury duty, especially if they will lose money because they need to miss work to attend (years ago the going rate was $11 per day for jurors pay, this week it was $40 per day after your second day of service which still can have a huge (negative) financial impact on most people who would lose money if they didn't work).
So I showed up for my civic duty, accepted that they wouldn't pay me enough to even make me get out of bed when I was working, decided to keep my mouth shut about jury nullification, and also decided that I should have a positive attitude about the experience (I mean, if I was in need of a jury, I wouldn't want ten pissed off people sitting in court thinking about what bills they weren't going to be able to pay because they were there instead of at work).
The process was glacial as usual.  Come in, sign up, watch a video, and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  A couple hours later the group of 60+ people were dismissed.  Just like that, we had done our service and wouldn't be called for another couple of years.  This was probably one of the best outcomes of jury duty--show up then be done.  Much harder is being on a sequestered jury or being on a criminal trail jury where the evidence includes things such as rape victims, sexually abused children, or people who were horrifically murdered.  Being on a high profile case (a la Zimmerman/Martin) can't be a cakewalk either.

The bottom line is that jury duty is a civic duty and if you look at it in the right light, it can also be a privilege.  In many countries, the people have no say in how a legal decision is made and everyone tends to suffer in those circumstances, the innocent and the guilty (I met one mayor of a small town in a third world country whose answer to the drug problem was to kill users and dealers alike.  The rich could get off--corruption was, of course, a thing there--and the poor, whether guilty or innocent--usually ended up dead and buried in the local mountains).  Of course I am still in favor of jury nullification...

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