Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jury Duty

Today was the first time in the 4 years I've been a US citizen that I actually had to show up for jury duty. I was pretty excited. I know most people view jury duty as a drag, a hassle, something that keeps them from their job and if they can think up an excuse for dismisssal, they will use it.

To me, jury duty is a privilege. It's an honor to be able to help out the community and contribute to our country in any way I can, including jury duty. I worked hard to become a US citizen, so a jury duty summons to me is a confirmation that I am a citizen of the greatest country in the world. There are plenty of countries whose citizens have no right to a fair trial, and even less of a right to contribute and voice their opinion regarding the legal system.

I thought people would dress up for court. At the very least, I thought business casual would be proper attire, even if it is for jury duty. I even wore heels! I never wear heels!However, as I looked around at my fellow jurors, a lot of them wore jeans, t-shirts & sneakers.Personally, I feel a need to dress up when I enter the court building, no matter what my purpose for being there is. I have the deepest respect for our judicial system, I respect our court and I feel that replacing my jeans and sneakers with skirt & high heels was appropriate for the occasion.

Like many of my fellow authors (don't try denying it), I am a voyeur. I love watching people. And let me tell a voyeur like myself, jury duty is fascinating. My book & my iPod lay untouched in my purse while my baby blues scouted the jury assembly room.Now let me be clear, I'm not a creepy kind of voyeur in any way. I just like watching people, seeing people interact, noticing how they interact with their fellow citizens. It provides for a lot of good material for my writing because I can find a literary character in each and every person I meet. Within this jury assembly room, I saw people from all walks of life, and while I was watching them, it made me realize the point and the importance of jury duty.I thought to myself, "If 12 people from this room, with all their differences in career, finances, life experiences or social status, can reach an agreement about a case, that has to be fair..." The gentleman next to me was studying for an exam in truck driving. The business woman across from me was calling everyone in her office, letting them know everything that needed to be done for the day. A couple of students had their noses buried in their school books. We were all different and if we had been picked to sit on a jury, no matter how different we were as individuals, by the end of the day, all of us would have come together and agreed on a verdict. It's fascinating, isn't it?

The video they showed us made me want to be on a jury. Unfortunately my job doesn't pay for jury duty and my husband is currently out of work, so financially it wouldn't be a suitable time for it. I was still disappointed to be excused so fast. But there will be more opportunities I'm sure, and I'll be more than happy to grab them. It's a privilege, not a duty.

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