Friday, October 19, 2007

Jury Duty. . .Perhaps

I am scheduled for jury duty next week. That doesn't mean that I will actually have to serve, only that I am available if needed. The first time I was called after moving to California many years ago, I had to be in the jury room every morning. Eventually I was on a jury and the trial lasted 9 days. Under the current system in Los Angeles County, I call in every evening, starting with the weekend, for a week. If my group is called, I go to the courthouse the following day and I am available for service for just that one day. If selected for a jury, I am there for the duration of the trial; if not, I have fulfilled my legal obligation that day.

As I mentioned earlier, I did serve on a jury in a criminal trial one time. And, after that experience, I firmly believe that everybody ought to experience the role of a jury member at least once in a lifetime. It really is an awesome responsibility. You have the freedom of another person in your hands. You don't want to make a mistake and send an innocent person to jail. And, contrary to the easy opinions we form when watching TV news, court, and/or tabloid shows, the weighing of evidence is a serious matter. I know that my view of the justice system and criminal trial procedures was deeply affected by serving on a jury. In my particular case, we acquitted the defendant because there were just too many missing pieces in the evidence which did not come close to being "without a reasonable doubt." People who criticize jury decisions generally have never sat in a jury box and passed judgment on another human being.

ADDENDUM ADDED OCTOBER 29: As instructed, I called in to the automated system every evening last week. And I got the same message each time; I did not have to report on the following day. This time around I fulfilled my obligation on the telephone, not at the courthouse. But if everything remains as it has in the past, I will be called again in about 18 months.

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