Two days of jury duty inspired me to publish my exploits in the following piece:
Growing up we’re told that serving on a jury is our civic duty. It’s explained to us that our ability to be heard by a jury of our peers when charged with a criminal offense is foundational to our freedom. Though a weighty responsibility we’re told that answering our call to the bench is noble, necessary, and just downright American. Now, all of that may be true, but the older and more involved your life becomes, the more jury duty begins to mean different things.
As an adult jury duty means:
- A wrench in your schedule: Being selected means being pulled away from your work and family obligations. Need to pick your kids up by six? Make other plans. Have an important meeting at the office? Reschedule.
- Minimal pay: If you’re a salary employee who can get paid regardless of whether or not you’re present for a few days jury duty isn’t so bad. In my county the court pays $15 plus gas mileage for selection, and $40 plus mileage, per day if selected. However, if you work for commission or get paid by the hour you’re likely to lose money while you’re away from work.
- An indefinite end: If selected the judicial process can take time. The longest criminal trial in American history took 3 years to complete. And, while that’s the exception and not the rule, it’s not unheard of for jury duty to take anywhere from one to two weeks.
- No cell phones: If you’re dependent on technology like so many people in the modern day the courthouse’s ‘No phones in the building’ policy can be painful. It doesn’t take long before you go from feeling completely connected to everyone around you, to feeling lost, uninformed, and unglued.
When I was summoned to court this week I reported to the designated jurors’ section of my local courthouse. After signing in I noticed that there were 16 chairs in the hallway and several more in the juror’s room. Those 16 in the hallway were the executioner’s block (figuratively speaking). If you were assigned to one of those seats it meant that you would be first in the juror’s box, which increased the likelihood that you would be chosen to stay for the trial.
Fortunately the number next to my name was 23. I thought that meant that I was in the clear. I sat down in the juror’s room, made myself a Styrofoam cup of government coffee (instant coffee), and awaited further instruction.
When the bailiff entered the juror’s section she realized that several of the people assigned to seats 1-16 had not shown up. As such she began to randomly call on numbers from my section. With the sound of each number someone stood quietly with their head down as though they were being sentenced. I couldn’t help but feel like tributes in the Hunger Games. Suddenly my number was called.
To Be Continued…