So, the trial on which I was a juror completed yesterday. I’m not going to go into the specifics of the case except that it involved illegal immigration. After we were empanelled as the jury on Monday, the judge told us that the trial would probably be a fairly short one – a couple of days of testimony and a day (perhaps more) for closing arguments, instructions, and deliberation. He was pretty much right on the money.
I have to say, that I don’t see why people grouch so much about jury duty*. Everyone that I met from the courthouse was friendly and respectful. The other jurors seemed to feel the same way and it was interesting to observe our progression throughout the trial.
Early on, there was some good-natured griping (“Can you believe we got picked?”) and rationalization (“Well, at least it looks like it won’t be too long…”). Soon after, we settled in and became more comfortable – we’d occasionally introduce ourselves, but the names seemed to wash off pretty quickly. To me, there was Guy Who Loves To Hear His Own Voice, Artsy Lady, Engineer-Triathlete Guy, Retired Navy Grandmom, Guy Who Looks Like Biden, Woman That Never Says Anything and so on…
Initially, we were all very curious – figuring out who got to say what when and marveling at the deliberateness of the proceedings (let’s just say that Law&Order moves a bit faster…), but we quickly grew accustomed to the pace of the trial and soon found ourselves waiting to hear instructions.
I have to say that the judge did a great job of instructing us in the law and what the requirements were for the government to have proven its case and we each had a copy of the instructions for referral.
The jury room was small. And not that comfortable. I don’t think this is an accident (though it did have one of those Keurig single shot coffee machines, that was pretty cool. Thanks tax dollars.). I was selected as foreperson – practically by default, everyone sort of looked at their feet when the decision was before us, so I volunteered figuring that I’d run a lot of project team meetings where data was presented, examined and evaluated.
We conversed for nearly two hours – going over the facts, the instruction of the law and in the end, we came to a consensus. Any of the jocularity we’d had at the beginning of the week was gone as everyone took their responsibility to the case – to the defendant, to the government – very seriously. To a person we’d agreed that we’d done the best we could, left nothing un-discussed and that we all felt that we’d come to the right decision. We went out, I read the charges and verdict aloud, and we were discharged back to our “regular” lives. All-in-all, it was a good experience and well worth our time and attention.
So, the next time that envelope comes in the mail, don’t curse it. This is your government. Participate!
*perhaps I would feel differently if the trial went five months, but I get the sense the vast majority of trials are over within a week, give or take a couple of days.