The sheriff greeted us and told a few lame jokes. He’s a friendly guy and has been sheriff in our county as long as I’ve lived here, I think! His wife used to work at the Army hospital for my husband back in his days as a patient administrator. She spoiled my 2 older kids rotten as they were just little bitty back then, and we often visited Dan at work or had lunch with him because we had nothing better to do! Oh, to be that carefree again … but anyway, I digress.
We also met the county clerk, and she gave us her spiel to include her work phone#, email address, cell phone#, facebook id, and twitter name. Now that is personal public servant if I ever heard of one!
Then the bailiff told us to “ALL RISE – the Honorable Judge ——.” And the judge spent about 20 minutes talking to us. I was prepared to be bored – I’d brought my cup of coffee in and was thinking about looking over my personal calendar while I had a moment of down time without my children (my friend ended up watching them for me). BUT surprisingly, the judge actually was pretty interesting to listen to!
He first gave us kind of a history of jury duty. Did you know (but don’t quote me exactly on this for your home school curriculum or if you ever play Jeopardy!) that back in the day, in court, people actually had a jury consisting of people who knew them best, friends and relatives, if they were convicted of a crime as well as of the victim’s friends and family! The 2 groups would kind of debate the person on trial’s character among each other, each trying to convince the other and the judge that their friend/relative was an honest person. Over time – and I can’t quite say when it switched – it was determined that it was best for a person to have a jury of their peers of people who had no idea who they were in order to give an impartial and fair verdict.
Jury duty is admittedly – even by the judge himself – a big inconvenience. I know for me, my biggest concern is child care for my baby if I were to get called upon. As a SAHM with no family near by, I don’t often have a chance to go away without my kids, and often, I feel inhibited asking someone to help me. However, the judge posed it this way: if you were on trial, who would you prefer to have on your jury: someone who was employed, a productive member of society, and someone who valued family and community OR someone who was unemployed, could care less about responsibility, and didn’t feel any obligation to their family or community and happened to be available for your trial because they had nothing better to do anyway? Therefore, those of us who feel the most inconvenienced because of our job obligations or family obligations make the BEST jurors because we tend to do the right thing. Good point, I thought.
I still hope I won’t actually get selected for a trial – especially when they mentioned they knew of at least one trial coming up that was going to require at least 5 days of the jury being sequestered! With the many people who showed up for this orientation, I am hopeful the jury pool will be quite large – and I won’t be needed. If it weren’t for Miriam, I don’t think I’d really mind being on a jury, aside from the great weight of responsibility of discerning the right verdict!
I do think the one guy who showed up about 15 minutes late to orientation, wearing a raggedy t-shirt with a screen print of a huge beer mug on it and some flippant statement about being hung over may be excused today?! Otherwise, according to the judge, unless you have a doctor or psychiatrist’s excuse, the only way to avoid jury duty is to die …