Why I Love Jury Duty
You know the feeling. You open up your mailbox, and immediately break out into a cold sweat. There it is: the official envelope. Before you even open it, you know - you have been summoned for jury duty. Your head swims, thinking of all of the other things you had planned for that week.
You may worry about the responsibility that will fall upon your shoulders in deciding the fate of the case. Well-meaning friends may share with you their formula for getting excused. But despite the inconvenience and pitiful juror pay, I actually feel a sense of pride and duty when I am called. As a matter of fact, I am writing this article today while seated on the floor in the over-crowded, poorly climate-controlled juror selection room at my county courthouse downtown.
Serving on a jury isn’t exactly convenient.
It is easy for us to complain about the interruption to our normal schedules, and to be generally irritated at the compulsory nature of being summoned by the court to appear. I understand that, and believe me, have struggled with the same thoughts—especially this morning as I was sitting in stand-still rush hour traffic, dealing with much more hustle-and-bustle than I am used to as a stay at home mom and homeschool teacher.
But as I arrived for the day, I noticed people—around 200 of us, to be exact—of every race, age, economic class, and most assuredly, every political persuasion, all gathered together today because it is our civic duty. It is our privilege and honor, as citizens of a free country, to report today, and should we be selected, to serve as members of the jury. We will sit in a trial and hear testimony from both sides, and we will be charged with the responsibility to decide the facts of the case before us, hopefully ensuring that justice is served for all parties involved.
It isn’t like this in all countries. There are folks in many areas of the world today who, when accused of a crime, will not have a chance to present their case in court…to proclaim before their peers their innocence…and to have an impartial jury decide if they are telling the truth.
Should I be selected today, I will count it as my honor and privilege to serve amongst others who are most likely not “like me”. I will have a chance to have an equal voice in deciding the outcome of this case, and I will have the opportunity to see things from the viewpoint of others with whom I would not normally interact on a regular basis. I would hope that if I were ever to be standing trial, the parties selected for my jury would have the same desire to see justice prevail at all costs.
This is why I think serving willingly is so important.
In this compulsory grouping of unlikely peers, we build a type of diverse community. We reach beyond the things that divide us, and strive to find the things that we have in common. In serving on a jury, we learn to have faith in the quality of the good people in our own community, and these lessons carry on with us when we return to our regular lives outside of the courtroom.
Of course, our system isn’t perfect. We all know the stories where the jury has gotten it wrong—where people are awarded millions of dollars for spilling their hot coffee in their lap, or bad guys have been allowed to walk free because of a technicality. But by and large, the people who are selected to make the justice system work have one thing in common: a desire to see the truth.
If you love your country—if you love your city or your community—when the inevitable happens, and you receive that official envelope in the mail, take a deep breath. Try to remember that you are thankful to live in a nation where you have the opportunity to be heard by your peers. Be thankful you will be sitting on the juror’s side of the courtroom and not in the defendant’s seat. And most of all, be glad that official envelope is from the county courthouse…and not the IRS.