I recently spent three days doing something that we as American citizens can do to help ensure that our justice system is fair. It is called “Jury duty.” The name itself implies that to serve on a jury is something we are obligated to do. In fact, it truly is an obligation for us as citizens. It is required by law to appear for Jury Duty when we have been summoned to do so. However, the word “duty” also gives some of us a feeling of dread and drudgery. I have often thought that if they just changed the name of this responsibility, it might be perceived differently for people who receive a summons. Maybe they should call it “Jury Service,” or “Jury Assignment.”
During my most recent turn in the jury process, I was called to be questioned in the jury box, but I was not chosen to be a juror. After I was questioned, the prosecuting attorney said, “The People would like to thank and excuse juror number seven,” which was me. It might have been because I recognized someone on the list of potential witnesses, and had interacted with him at one time. It may have been due to some of my answers to the questions they asked, or because of the way I was dressed that day. Whatever the reason, it was an option of the prosecuting team to select or not to select me based on whatever criteria they chose. I believe that my dismissal may have been due to the fact that I work for The Madera Tribune. Who knows?
The jury selection process is very interesting, but I think it must be very frustrating for the judge and all the others who are actual participants in the trials. It takes a long time and many rejections of potential jurors before the “perfect” complete set of jurors has been chosen.
I have served on a jury only one time, and it was the very first time I had ever been in a courtroom. My badge number was the very first one called, and they placed me in seat #1. Throughout the jury selection, they never moved me from the first seat, and I was chosen as Juror #1. The trial lasted about a week. When we went into deliberation, I was chosen as the foreman. Never was I more shocked in my life than when I became the foreman of the jurors on that trial.
The experience of being a juror was not as intimidating or torturous as I had dreaded it would be. In fact, I found it very interesting. Before serving as a juror, I had always thought I could never vote to determine another person’s innocence or guilt. However, after sitting through an entire trial, I found that my decision was much clearer than I thought it would be. As jurors, we do not judge a person. We only try to determine if that person committed something that is against the law. The evidence we see and hear in the courtroom is what we use to establish in our minds whether the person should be found guilty, or not guilty of the crime.
In deliberating, the jury of my peers were not able to reach a verdict for the trial in which I was both a juror and a foreman. We were what they call a “hung jury.” In this case, we had one juror who refused to vote the same as the other 11 members of the jury. Alas, I was the one who had to break the news to the judge. The trial was considered a “mistrial.” And the defendant had to be retried on a later date. Thus, our jury was dismissed, and the jury selection process began again.
Meanwhile, the members of the jury had a potluck in the deliberation room that day. All was not lost for us.
Have a great week!
— My love to all,
• • •
“Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God.”
— Romans 13:1