As I rifled through the mail, I found an envelope that stopped my heart; I knew it would turn my daily routine upside down. It was a summons to jury duty.
For most people, jury duty ranks right up there with root canals. We imagine musty rooms and being forced into intimate conversations with strangers we’d never encounter in our daily lives.
But the main thing people dread is the inconvenience. Jury duty is kind of like being stuck in an airport while a snowstorm ravages the countryside. Your life and your routines are put on indefinite hold (especially if you’re sequestered). And there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.
Fortunately, I’m an introvert. Give me a book, and I can be content just about anywhere. Disrupting my routine is another matter. I’m a stay-at-home mom whose kids were home for the summer and whose husband was working 12-hour days. He really couldn’t take off, and I had no one else to leave them with. I panicked.
The panic lasted until we had our big casting call. Several hundred potential jurors gathered in a cavernous room to pick a week. Fortunately, I was able to schedule my jury duty for after school started. My husband would have to leave work early, but that’s a lot better than having to stay home all day.
Three weeks later, I showed up at the courthouse early Monday morning. After a lot of “hurry up and wait,” I got called for a trial. We started with voir dire, which is fancy legal talk for getting rid of jurors the attorneys don’t like. The questions they ask give you hints as to what the case is about. After several jurors were excused for a history of drug use, I wasn’t surprised that the defendant was charged with possession with intent to sell.
The prosecutor made a convincing case. But then the defense attorney got up and shot the whole thing full of holes. He even managed to impeach the testimony of one of the police officers, which threw everything else into question, too.
When we started deliberations, everyone agreed that the state had not proven intent to sell. After the judge made it clear that we could consider lesser charges, it was pretty easy. We convicted on simple possession, and the judge later told us she thought we made the right decision.
Only one of my fears about jury duty panned out. It did indeed disrupt the lives of everyone in the family. My husband had to leave work early. My kids, who are used to having me constantly available, had to adjust. But I couldn’t have asked for better jury members. Every single juror was intelligent, logical, and committed to rendering a fair verdict. If I ever (in some weird parallel universe) found myself in the defendant’s seat, that’s the kind of jury I would want.