Thursday, May 09, 2013

Maybe it should be called jury privilege

I just completed a tour of jury duty, and not for the first time. I have been called about every 2-3 years since moving into our house 16 years ago, and while I have gotten to various stages (from dismissed to alternate juror) this was the first time I sat a whole trial.

Mention that you've gotten a jury summons to a large enough group of people, and there's about a 90% chance someone will bring up strategies for "getting out" of jury duty. I recognise that there are some VERY valid reasons to ask to be excused from jury service, such as caring for an ill family member, being sole caregiver for small children,illness or disability, religious objections,  or being a small business owner with no way to make up for lost income. I myself have gotten deferrals twice for being a nursing mom; I also served a week when I was nursing a toddler, and we both came out if the experience just fine and with our breastfeeding relationship intact. It's when I hear people scheme ways to to look like bad jurors because they don't want to spend all day in a courtroom or want to spend their vacation pay on a trip rather than jury service that I get hot under the collar.

My fellow Americans (North Americans, I imagine)- do you know how privileged we are? During the voir dire of the jury I just sat, one of the lawyers asked who had actually been excited to receive their summons. Among those who rose their hands were two people who were obviously naturalized citizens, who spoke of who fortunate Americans are to have this process. Trial of jury by peers (even if they don't always feel like our peers) gives us peerless safeguards. For a few days or even a few weeks, we are allowed to participate in a process that helps prevent tyranny and oppression by our legal system. And all some people can think of when they get that paper is, "Oh no, the inconvenience."?

Yes, the system could run better, but I believe we are doing the best we can for now. Imagine the coin is flipped: You commit a crime, you are accused of a crime you didn't commit, you are suing someone, you are being get the picture. Do you want people vying to NOT sit your case?


At 5:19 PM, Blogger Melisa Beliwicz said...

Actually yes I would want them getting dismissed. I don't want anyone who doesn't care determining my fate


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