It’s a privilege not all countries offer their citizens. In our great fortune, our country does offer this privilege.
So why, when someone gets notice of jury duty the first thing they want to do is “get out of it?” People try obtaining Doctors’ notes with excuses such as, “She cannot serve on jury duty because the hangnail on her left thumb is under strict observation for signs of infection.” These jury duty escapees attempt being excused because they are desperately needed somewhere else.
Anything in their lives is more important than serving on a jury.
Once I was called for Jury Duty and, having never encountered the experience before, went to serve on my assigned day and time. I would be a good citizen and fulfill my proper citizenly responsibility. And I would surely learn valuable life lessons to boot!
All prospective jurors were seated in black metal folding chairs in a large empty auditorium, waiting to be told what to do and where to go. In front of the room were three fully armed police officers, pacing up and down the aisles. That gave a rather less than welcoming feeling to a room of well-intentioned citizens there to support our free society. At 9 o’clock A.M. sharp, a spokesperson addressed us.
‘You are required to stay seated until you’re called. If your name is called please rise and follow me. Otherwise, stay seated where you are now. There will be an hour break for lunch at noon, and you will return here until dismissal time, 4 o’clock.” This message was delivered in blunt and unnecessarily cold tones. I felt more like a prisoner of the state than a law abiding citizen willingly and freely serving my civic duty.
My name had not been called yet, so I settled back and looked around to discover that I was among interesting but odd company. The man to my right kept gnawing at his left index finger. I wished I had a cuticle clipper and an emory board to offer him so he would stop that annoying crime against the defenseless cuticle. I shifted my gaze to the woman on my left. she had a motion thing going on with her leg. She sat with the right leg crossed over the left and relentlessly elevated that right leg up and then dropped it down; down; up and down and up. A choreographic symphony was going on in my very row. And it was making me dizzy. No matter how hard I tried I could not make the swinging leg stay still. And I couldn’t ignore it; I tried to avert my eyes, but it swung endlessly. The person in front of me was busy texting. She must have had a clever co-texter, because she kept bursting out in a high pitched cackle, indicating her amusement with her electronic pen-pal. Someone directly behind me was heartily chewing gum and snapping it in my ear. After a while I was dizzy from the swinging leg, deaf from the snapping gum and repulsed by the finger-munching molester. And that action was just from my co-jury pool of people. The presiding officers were intimidating, scary and nightmarish.
After all those hours my name was never called. I was forced to sit in that one place all day. When it was finally dismissal time, I left gratefully, hoping that I would never again be called to serve on jury duty; civic duty be damned.