When most people get a 'dreaded' jury duty letter in the mail they immediately enter into a state of despair, as if they had been mailed their own death certificate. Not this writer. When I opened the mailbox and discovered I had received my first official jury summons I was ecstatic. It was as if I had received a free front row ticket to my favorite band, or box seats at a Rangers game. This is not a common reaction, needless to say.
Simply utter the words jury duty in conversation and you'll be met with run of the mill puns about an individual's bad luck and worn out adages that paint a despairing picture of our legal system. The humor of these jokes does not escape me, but it does not apply to my situation either.
Growing up with a district attorney for a father might have had something to do with my peculiar programming. I have genuinely fond memories of a childhood spent running around the district attorney's office on College St. To this day there is something uniquely romantic and appealing about the aura of prestige that surrounds lawyers or anyone affiliated with the legal system.
I marked the date for summons and anxiously counted down the days. On Monday morning I was giddy and nervous, walking into the court house with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I sat waiting outside the courtroom doors, trying to remember every small detail I could. Oddly, the crowd around me did not seem as interested in the show to come as I was. In fact, most of my fellow jury hopefuls seemed down right sullen and several would not even show up. I was taken aback. How could anyone NOT be as excited as I was to be called in for jury duty? I felt somehow offended by this change in events. It was as if the world of high profile cases and big shot lawyers that I grew up in was some how marred by this grumbling crowd of would be would be jurors who were acting like nothing more than children forced into doing a tedious chore and complaining loudly all the while.
I do not expect everyone who gets a jury summons to receive it with the same level of unadulterated enthusiasm I did. I'm not that detached, not quite yet. I do, however, believe that every citizen of this country who shouts and cries at the top of their lungs whenever they see “injustice” in the legal system ought to feel some level of obligation to show up and do their part to make justice work. The fact that we even have juries is very unique the world. Anyone who is ever charged with a crime deserves the opportunity to let a group of their peers, not a judge nor a magistrate, determine their guilt or innocence. That is an indisputable fact.
In this writer's perspective serving on a jury can be one of the most humanizing of experiences, one that should not be taken lightly or reduced to the subject of a punch line.
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