Responsibility is Hard

I spent three days on jury duty this week. It was an interesting and thought provoking experience. Throughout the process everyone treats jurors very seriously. One is constantly reminded of the jury being critically important to the process. Jurors are treated well. That is to say everyone shows the jury respect. There are comfortable chairs both in the jury box and the jury deliberation room. There are snacks and beverages in the deliberation room. The judge, who rules the process, speaks to the jury in respectful tones and works hard to minimize the announces of process and delays. Plus there are oaths to take which are explains and anything but mere formality. This all helps the jury to take their role seriously.

I found myself paying closer attention to testimony and discussion than I can ever remember paying in my life. It was not a strain even though the testimony was sometimes repetitious and not that interesting. It was still important. After two days of listening to testimony and evidence it was time to deliberate.

Everyone on the jury takes this deadly seriously. We are after all deciding the future of another person’s life. We don’t determine the punishment – that is the role of the judge. But the jury determines if there will be a punishment. It’s a big deal.

The jury I was on spent four hours in deliberation. Everyone wanted to be sure that they were absolutely sure of their decision. Did the prosecution prove their case? It’s a big difference between “we think they did it” and “we are sure without doubt that they did it.” No one on my jury seemed to be willing to just vote with the majority to get it over with. We reviewed evidence – pictures, videos, audio recordings. We discussed timelines and testimony. It was intense.

I mentioned that during the trial I fell asleep every night and woke up every morning thinking about the case – reviewing the evidence and testimony in my mind. I weighted what I had observed and analyzed every piece of it. The people I told about this agreed that they were doing the same things. This is responsibility and this is people working to take that responsibility seriously. It is not easy. It is not easy mentally and it is not easy emotionally. But it is what responsibility is about.

I came away from this experience feeling better about the jury process. There may have been some things I might have done differently if I had been one of the attorneys in the case. Though of course I can’t really know that. But I do believe that the jury did everything they could have and should have. That is a comforting thought.

3 Responses to “Responsibility is Hard”

  1. Matt says:

    My dad was a juror not too long ago. And you’re right — it’s interesting how seriously people take it. My dad was instructed not to talk about the case or pay attention to the media for the duration of the trial. We asked him questions about what type of trial it was and he refused to answer. Afterwards, when the trial was over, he was allowed to talk, so he told us what it was. And it was nothing remotely interesting.

    From hearing what he said, I think he and most of his jurors wrestled with the decision, too. It sounded like the jurors all thought the case wasn’t even worth being in court, and that the charge they were trying was lame, and yet had to agree that the person was guilty, and were almost annoyed that the defense did a bad job.

    I find it interesting that so many people try to get out of jury duty. And just from cultural things I can’t even identify, my first thought of jury duty is that it’s some strange process where the goal is to get out of it. I find that odd, and think I would enjoy being on a jury.

  2. Mr T says:

    I would be happy to serve on a jury again. I think there is an obligation for people to do so.

    One of the things in my case was that I thought the defense did a poor job especially if the person was innocent. I don’t think the defendent was innocent and I tend to suspect that there wasn’t anything the defence could have done in the way of solid evidence. Of course the burdon of proof is on the government and we had to agree tha they proved guilt. That was harder to agree on than that the person was guilty.

  3. Glen Westbroek says:

    Like you, I’ve served on a Jury before and as I wen through the process I became more impressed with how important this civic duty is. I have spoke with Social Science teachers who have missed out on the opportunity. Their comments seem to be more about how they feel a Jury is important but that they do not think they could be impartial. I strongly suggested they open their minds and look for he opportunities to serve when asked. If I am asked again, I will serve on another Jury. That said, I will admit I that like you I spent a LOT of brain power on the total process and our deliberation. I would not want to be a Juror as a full time job. I think it is important that there is a break given to jurors after their service.

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