Last week I had jury duty and it brought up a lot of emotions for me. Initially I felt frustration, because it really wasn’t a good time to leave work, but that ended up being OK.
The day before I went to jury duty I saw an episode of Monk where all the members in a jury were killed. It seemed dramatic to me, but possible.
Waiting in the jury room I was looking up at the windows with wires in them and it made me think, don’t share your thoughts until you are asked to set them free. Hold back on making any judgements.
It was comforting to see Harriet Burt there! She welcomed all the jurors and gave some history about Martinez. She also provided us with information about Martinez, all of which was great!
But when I walked in the court room with the judge, lawyers, and defendant, I had a bad feeling about this case.
The judge was beautifully eloquent about why we should be jurors. He said that work is no excuse not to be here. I wish I could quote him, because he really inspired me when he said something about how we have a lot of freedoms in America and freedom isn’t free. And that one of the things we are called to do to protect those freedoms is to serve on a jury. I believe that. At that moment I felt proud to be an American.
The next day the judge told us what the case was about: A child was hurt. I felt a rush of heat flow through my body and then instantly I had a terrible headache. It lasted all day. I knew I couldn’t do this. What surprised me was that all the people before me thought they could be fair. Only one man said he couldn’t be on the jury for a case like this, and I was grateful to him for speaking up.
When it comes to anything relating to children or animals being abused or anyone who is treated unfairly because a group doesn’t like them, I just get far too upset. Everyone else thought they could be fair. At one point the attorney for the defendant asked the first 18 jurors if they thought the defendant was guilty or innocent. I thought “guilty.” He went on to say that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Then my headache got worse. Innocent? It’s hard to understand how the guy got arrested, has a lawyer, ended up with a trial by jury, but he is innocent. Of course, too many people are accused of crimes they didn’t do and go to prison for them. I kept thinking about that child though. How could I say to that child, “I’m sorry, but we couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that…” I couldn’t do it.
When my turn came to speak, I first answered questions. When given the opportunity to share I said, “I can’t do this. I was abused as a child.” It was too close to home. I still suffer from some of the pain from that abuse and it would be too hard for me to go through the trial. I was dismissed, with my head throbbing and my stomach in knots I went home. Although I had only sat there for two days, I felt exhausted. I wondered how all the others thought they could be so fair.
I meet so many people who think they are the example of all that is right with the world. I don’t think most people are really fair. Most people are ego driven and want to be right at all costs. But the jury system is set up for the jury to follow the law. They may even give very specific guidelines to help jurors follow the law.
I was on a jury before. I thought was very stressful to make decisions about something that deeply affected people, even given the law. The case I was on was an easement, and we all thought the owners of the property received a lot of great benefits from the changes made by the city. Then we had to announce the verdict and the owners were stunned! They kept shouting, “How could you do this to us?!” I was afraid they were going to hunt us down, find out where we lived, and make us suffer for what we thought was “fair”. It’s not easy to be a juror and it can bring up a lot of feelings. I really want to serve again. I just wish I could specify the type of cases I would not want: no abused children or animals, or any people who were unfairly treated. It makes me sad just thinking about it.