I just completed a three week jury duty on a criminal trial in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve been on a few other trials over the years so this was not a new experience for me. While I agree that it is not very convenient to put some of your routines on hold (including this blog), and it may cause real hardship to some to serve, I feel compelled to say that I wish some of my fellow citizens would be a bit less grousing and a little more welcoming of the opportunity and privilege to serve as a juror.
In the past decade or so, I’ve noticed the courts (at least in Los Angeles) bend over backwards to make you as comfortable as possible. The judges and attorneys seem very respectful, they listen with what seems like endless patience and consideration about whatever story someone has about why they need to get out of jury duty. In the case of this trial, we had what I felt like would be a cooperative and attentive jury. However, when it was time for deliberations to begin, behaviors of a few of the members stood out as being less dedicated to arriving at their best judgment of the evidence presented, and more concerned with the relatively minor inconveniences they were experiencing. Some abdicated their responsibility to follow the instructions, some let their egos and biases get in their way of fully participating. I can’t imagine how it happens when people’s lives are on the line some will resort to complete selfishness of taking care of their temporary needs, or outright ignore the judge’s instructions. It was frustrating and just plain sad to see this behavior.
You may ask why I’m deciding to use this blog about sharing meals to discuss jury duty. Well, the answer is because when participating in either of the these activities – jury duty or sharing meals – you are demonstrating your concern and care for the welfare of your community.
It may not be the most pleasant thing to hear about or be assigned to discuss violent crimes, but sadly they do happen. Our system allows us to participate and help shape our society. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system, but it’s what we have. (And, if you don’t like it, you can always get involved to try to change it.) You have the best chance of influencing society positively when you let your voice be heard, so please use your voice with responsibility and care. Just like when you make the time to share a meal with someone you care about, you’ll be glad you did.