The Surprising Truth About Jury Duty
Jury duty. It’s not that bad. Yep. I just said it. Jury duty is not that bad.
I’ve been getting jury duty summons since I’ve turned eighteen. Before I even open the envelope, I get heart palpitations and start thinking of all the reasons they should excuse me. For days leading up to the call in date, I nervously glance at the envelope, hoping that I won’t actually need to report.
When I got the summons this time it was no different, but instead of freaking out about it, I reminded myself that new experiences are like little pieces of gold to add to my writer’s treasure chest of stuff to pull from when creating a story.
Then the Friday before I had to report in, my next round of work on Learning Not to Drown arrived. This time, it was my first pass galleys which was super exciting for two reasons: 1. I got to see what the page layouts will actually look like on the inside of the book and 2. this was possibly my FINAL CHANCE to make any changes!
So naturally when I was selected to be juror number 7 on a civil trial that was projected to last 3-4 weeks, my first response (silently in my head, of course, as I was taking the oath) was “you’re f&@*ing kidding me.”
Everyone else’s first response when I told them was, “Didn’t you try to get out of it?”
First of all, I’m not going to pretend to be a dick just to get out of something.
Second of all, my super power is telling the truth.
Third of all, the case was a civil suit and not criminal. I’m pretty much emotionally incompetent to deal with a criminal case. For me, the “what if I was wrong and s/he didn’t do it?” would be enough to give me nightmares for the rest of my life. This case we didn’t even have to determine guilt, we just had to figure out how much money the plaintiff should be awarded. (By the way, this is easier said than done.)
Last of all, very few people actually want to be on a jury. We all have places we would rather be than in that courtroom. It’s not easy for anyone to miss what they’ve got going on in life for a few days or a few weeks to be on a jury. I’m not an exception and neither were the other forty-one people in the room hoping to get out of it.
Fast forward a week and a half. The case ended up being presented much faster than the judge had assumed. It was presented in six days and our deliberation lasted two more days.
And guess what? Being on a jury was not nearly as awful as I had been led to believe. Yes, it was a pain to cancel appointments and make childcare arrangements, but past all that, it was basically like I got signed up for a class I didn’t intend to take. I paid attention, learned some new stuff, took notes. The bonus was the experience was a great character study for me. I took notes on the trial, but I also took mental notes on everything from the way the one expert lifted his eyebrows to accentuate his point or how the defense attorney always buttoned his jacket before he started talking. Writer’s gold.
For the full experience, I volunteered to be the presiding juror. Luckily, the eleven other people on this jury were incredibly smart, respectful people who were able to deliberate the case without getting angry or shouting. Thanks to them for being completely reasonable–if not delightful–human beings.
The next time I get that little envelope in the mail, no heart palpations needed. Not that I ever want to be on a jury again. But if I have to, no biggie.