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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Jury 'duty' rightfully named

Carole Townsend

Carole Townsend

Editor’s Note: Carole Townsend, a correspondent for the Daily Post, is writing a blog called “Food for Thought.” It is available online.

About a month ago, I received that dreaded letter in the mail. You know, the one that comes from Gwinnett County about jury duty. Yeah, that one. This is only the second time in my life that I’ve been summoned, and it’s the first time I’ve actually had to show up for service.

As soon as I read the dates — it’s this week, by the way — I began to rattle off dozens of reasons that I simply could not participate in the festivities. My life is just too complicated, too busy, too important to set aside a week to serve on anybody’s jury. I’d have to juggle my calendar, upset my routine and, you know, it’s inconvenient.

Did you know that a warrant for your arrest is issued if you just opt out of jury duty altogether, your only reason being that you were too busy and didn’t feel like showing up? At least that’s what I was told by a court bailiff earlier this week. Yes, I went to the Justice and Administration Center to perform my civic duty. I do have that much sense.

I must say, about halfway through the week as I write this, I am embarrassed by what I just shared with you. I love this country; I love Georgia and I love living in Gwinnett County. I got this week that I can’t say all those things and neglect to do something as fundamental, as foundational (if that’s a word; it should be, in this context), as conscientiously serving my jury duty.

And it is a service. It’s one I’d want people to take very seriously if they were deciding my guilt or innocence, I’ll tell you that much. When I was sitting in that jury box this week, facing a young man accused of doing some very bad things, I felt the weight of the responsibility of serving on a jury. I felt the intensity of the young man’s stare as he searched each of the 40+ faces that, at the time, were potential jurors. Plainly written on his face was this question: “Who in this group will believe me?” And on the prosecutor’s face: “Who in this group will be able to conclude that this man committed these crimes?” The responsibility is enormous, the pressure real.

I did not get selected to serve on that particular jury. This is going to sound strange, but I felt both relief and disappointment at that. Relief, because I knew early on that I was going to take the charges and the question of the man’s guilt or innocence very seriously — could I live with whatever decision I made? And disappointment, for the very same reasons. I saw right away that whatever decision I personally reached, it would come from serious deliberation and a commitment to follow the letter of the law, setting aside any preconceived notions I might have had. I knew I could do that.

There was a man in the same jury pool as mine earlier this week. He could barely stay awake during the eight-hour process, muttered and complained any time we were asked to do something, looked bored and put out by the proceedings, and high-fived his neighbor when he learned that he had not been selected to serve. His behavior irritated me, and I was embarrassed for him by the time all was said and done. He didn’t get it. I wondered how he’d feel if he were accused of a crime, and a potential juror behaved that way. I hope he never has to find out.

Have any jury duty experiences to share, funny or otherwise? Any observations about how often we’re called to serve or the process itself? Share with other readers.

Comments

pHredster 2 years, 8 months ago

I heard a Gwinnett County judge tell the jurors empaneled to his courtroom, "This country was established on two boxes...the ballot box and the jury box." I loved serving and hope to called again...it was a privilege.

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DirtyBirdFan 2 years, 8 months ago

Great article Carole. Mary retired from our local DA's Office. About 2 years ago I got called for jury duty. While I was there I said Hi to the Judge who I knew. He said you know you are staying. I said yes. Came time for my interview and the Prosecution, one of Mary's attorney's asked me if I could be impartial to the the Defense? Yes, but I could not be impartial to the Prosecution. He said WHAT? I said I have no regard for your office the way you treated my wife over the years and I was dismissed right then. Mary nearly killed me because she got called to the Big Da's office to explain my actions. I told the truth and nothing but the truth! I was not going to lie, it was a murder case and way too important. After I explained to her, she understood and hugged me for standing up for her.

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sweetweaver 2 years, 8 months ago

I often wonder if juries actually consist of what the accused would consider "peers". I also wonder if the high unemployment rate has improved the availability of potential jurors. The one perk of scant employment?

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