Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My civic duty

So after some thinking long and hard about the blog for this week, should I include the funny sayings and injuries from the tubing trip?  The cute Ben activities and quotes for the week? My accomplishements in housework and cooking?  While all of that might be mildly humorous and not very applicable to daily life.  I decided the best thing to discuss would be the one thing that I have a strong opinion about and is applicable to most lives.  Jury duty.

So now you're thinking, you have a strong opinion about jury duty?!  Not just jury duty, but the general activities that are required of all good citizens.  Things like voting, military service, jury duty, etc.  I could start with the importance of all of these things, but I think it best to start with my experience and then I'll throw my opinions in as necessary.

I was called for Jury Duty in May I think, but I was still in school, so I had it deferred until this Monday.  Other than showing up at 9 am, I had no clue what I was in for.  That was the part that bothered me the most, the not knowing.  Do I have to be there all week?  Is it all day?  Am I going to be listening to a trial?  What is the dress code?  What about lunch?  And countless other questions.  Without answers to any of these questions, I woke up on Monday and decided to wear what I would to work.  I figured I would rather be over dressed than under dressed.  I went to Bojangles for breakfast because it makes me happier to eat that for breakfast when I don't know what's coming next.  I arrived early and ate it in my car.

After eating I went in and they searched my purse.  While waiting I asked one of the guards where to go for jury service.  He thanked me for serving and then told me where to go.  It was nice to be thanked.  Not that it was necessary because it something we should all do, but it was nice anyway.  I found the room to go to and was surprised at the number of people there.  I didn't have a particular number in mind, but there were more than I expected in there.  I sat down and filled out a slip of paper, so I could get paid.  I didn't know I was going to get paid either.  It'll probably be like $10, but it was more than I had before.

A couple gentlemen in the center of the room were rather loudly discussing their opinions about the whole thing.  Once they complained they wouldn't be getting paid much.  What do they expect?  Every state in the Union and the Union itself for that matter is broke.  If they paid everyone like $50 a day for service then we would really have a problem.  They went on to brag about knowing who to call next time to get out of it.  That  just doesn't seem right to me.  If your reason isn't important enough for a judge to let you out of it, then it probably isn't a good reason.  Yes it is a bit inconvenient, but so is crime.  I think we all agree we would like our criminals to be behind bars and not roaming the streets.  We have to do our part in getting them there.  Drew has jury service next week and that will be pretty inconvenient for him because he'll have to be there all day I suppose and then come home and work after that.  It won't be fun, but it is important as Americans.  But not only is it our duty as Americans,. it is also our duty as Christians.  These are people's lives in your hands.  That is a pretty big deal and I for one am glad to know I have God with me to help make any decisions necessary.

Well my jury service didn't really involve people's lives as it turns out.  Attendance was taken and those not in attendance had to appear before a judge to explain their reasons, as we were told.  We watched a video that gave us some more information, but I still wasn't sure what I was there for except that it was for criminal, not civil, and it was a special session.  I still didn't know what I was doing there.  We had to wait like 30 to 45 minutes until the judge was ready for us.  We were all called in and finally we were told what was going on.  They were selecting a grand jury.  The clerk of court drew 9 of our names out of a hat and they went forward.  The judge asked if there was any reason that those people could not serve 1 full Monday and 1 half Monday out of the month for the next year.  Two women explained they had some problem with teaching (one at a community college and one at a university) because I think they were the only ones qualified to teach it.  The judge wasn't impressed.  He said someone would talk to the provost of the university and work it out for them.  He then explained that they were joining 9 others to decide if something should be taken to trial.  I got a little lost in the explanation of how to do that.  Then we were sent back to the Jury Assembly Room to wait to be released.  Another 30 to 45 minutes and we were released.

And so ended my jury service for 2 years.  I think I would have liked to do something a little more than just sit around, but maybe next time I'll be more involved.  Not everyone will have this experience.  Some will be better and some will be worse.  It will probably always be inconvenient, but it is our duty to help see justice done.  After all what would America be without trial by jury?  Not someplace I would be proud to call home.

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