A few months ago I received my first jury selection summons. Based on what I knew about jury duty (TV crime dramas and 12 Angry Men), I freaked out.
It was right at the beginning of the school year. I had just started homeschooling Quentin. And I was also teaching a high school persuasive writing class at a local home school co-op. I couldn’t imagine how I would cope if I was selected for a trial that lasted for a week, or two, or three!
Making a long story short, I requested to be excused. A reprieve was granted–supposedly until school was out in the summer.
“Supposedly” is the key word here, because shortly before Christmas I received another summons to appear for jury selection in early January.
At this point, we had a school routine established. And I was feeling slightly less stressed by all my teaching responsibilities, so I decided to just accept it. Who knows, what if I reminded them I was supposed to do it in the summer, and then I got summoned the week of a family vacation or the week of VBS? There isn’t much to do in a cold, dreary PA winter, so why not spend a few days in the courthouse? They were obviously not going to forget about me! Besides, I had between a 66-75% chance of not even being chosen.
But I was! The odds were definitely not in my favor that day.
I cried on my way home from the courthouse after jury selection. I imagined days or weeks away from my kids while their education and the housework fell apart. I imagined shuffling them from one babysitter to another while all structure and stability disappeared. And I imagined the stress of trying to presume someone innocent and then sorting through the facts in a potentially complicated case. I did not feel emotionally up to the challenge.
But, as is often the case, reality is not nearly as bleak as our imaginings! The case lasted only 1 day. It was clear and concise. There was no need for hours of deliberations. There was a lot of down time, so I was able to get a lot of reading done! I had a quiet lunch hour by myself and a chance to visit some fun little shops without 3 kids breaking anything. And I learned a lot–about the court system, society, and life.
It is always sad to see someone who’s life is falling apart. It is a scary and sober responsibility to have someone’s fate in your hands–definitely not something to take lightly! And it is a sad reminder of how dark, broken, and dangerous our world can be.
Would I be upset to get another jury summons at some point? Absolutely not! The presumption of innocence of the defendant and the judging of the facts by 12 impartial members of society is an important part of our legal system. It helps protect the innocent and convict the guilty. It is a solemn and important civic responsibility.
(And, personally, it was a great chance to sharpen my speech and debate skills as I listened to and mentally graded each of the lawyers on the structure, content, and delivery of their arguments.)