Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jury Duty Day

(Out of town tomorrow so here’s Friday’s blog in advance.)

What interests people is amazing. I received more comments about the jury duty blog than from anything else in awhile.

If you’ve done jury duty you have one of two opinions: It can be like being poked in the eye with a sharp stick...or, it can be an interesting and educational experience if you don’t let yourself spend the whole time agonizing about being there and wishing you were somewhere else.

I took some books and work to the jury lounge where we waited to be called. Our jury wrangler (I’m sure she had a more official title but that’s kinda how I saw her) was Nancy Vann, a smart, perceptive and funny woman, and she gave us the welcome speech at 9 am. After we watched an instructional video she announced that we were “free to move about the cabin” until we were called for a trial.

At about 10 am we got a call to head to the courtroom. It was an alleged armed robbery trial and the judge did a great job of prepping our group of 42 to serve as jurors. His best line was, “there are Americans losing their limbs and lives in Iraq and Afghanistan so being inconvenienced for a few days seems a small price to pay for the privilege of being an American.” Amen.

I was Juror #2. So, when the initial seating started I was the second juror questioned about my ability to serve as a juror. That’s when it happened.

The prosecutor, an assistant DA, asked if any of us knew police officers or had any law enforcement experiences that might keep us from making an impartial decision based on the facts of the case.

I raised my hand and explained that the first job I’d had right out of college was with the NC Department of Corrections. I explained that I was a public information officer who, among other duties, had to go into prisons to interview people at all levels about the corrections experience.

The asst. DA asked, “Did you have contact with inmates, corrections officials and officers, and police officers?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Do you believe your experiences would keep you from making an impartial judgment about the facts of this case.”

“Yes, that is likely.”

And that was it…I was off the jury.

Believing you can make an impartial judgment in different areas of life is a wonderfully self-indulgent assumption. But, we all have prejudices and some aren’t very flattering.

For instance, I believe that 99.9 percent of the people in prisons deserve to be there. Yep, there are mistakes made. Brian Banks, the kid who just signed with the Atlanta Falcons is an example of someone imprisoned for something he didn’t do. And I’m sorry about something like that happening and we need to do all we can to prevent it. But, I believe the majority of people in prison deserve to be there and that belief keeps me from being objective.

Now, put me in a traffic case, or personal injury or white collar crime and I’ll sit there all day and listen to the facts. Armed robbery though…no.

I was back on the street at 11 am. Thinking that I should volunteer for jury duty to make up for this time, to do my duty.

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