NOT a rant about Zimmerman…seriously
NOT going to be a big rant about guilt or innocence. Seriously.
The news has been covering this thing non stop (gee, thanks, 24 hour news cycle). Millions of newly-minted Facebook lawyers are chiming in on all sides. Blogs are churning out. Videos are being posted. Gun control. Racism. Arguments arguments arguments.
This isn’t about that.
This is about the times people make fun of me for being proud I was selected for jury duty.
Remember that? Well, probably not. I didn’t blog about it. I did have a good Facebook discussion…can’t find the link.
Anyway, a couple of years ago I received a jury summons. I was kind of excited. The day came. I went in, waited around, picked up this girl (the price of being a player is eternal vigilance), filed into a room and then was dismissed. No trial for me that time. I collected my six bucks and went home.
All day everybody was complaining and complaining. People were pitching a fit in the waiting room. They were appealing to be released because their foot hurt or their child was sick or they were inconvenienced. While we waited and the officers of the court courteously asked us to go here and there, the other candidates seemed to be angered and annoyed at every turn. Largely we sat, read, got things to eat and left. It was air conditioned. The seats were padded. I didn’t see it as this huge thing.
Online many people piled on about how they hate jury duty. Some thought it was silly that I was proud to do it. Some people gave me a thumbs up. Some were surprised someone actually took it seriously. However, I’ve also seen posts since that incident where people try their hardest to get out of serving. There are even jokes on the 1,000 Law & Order shows about how juries are full of people “too stupid to figure out how to get out of jury duty.”
Here’s the thing…
If all of the level-headed, put together and generally mature and reasonable people do nothing but dread serving on juries…if the first reaction people get to a jury summons is “UGH! I’ve got to get out of this!”…then who is left?
Our system is built so despots and military tribunals can’t strip our rights away without due process. But if most citizens are so abhorrent to serving that they bend over backwards to get out of performing this basic civic duty, then it’s no wonder juries are going to make some wacky decisions.
I’m not saying the Zimmerman jurors are idiots. I’m sure they made their ruling within the guidance of the court and the evidence provided.
What I’m saying is the people who often complain the loudest often do the least to help the situation. I would ask the millions of people who rage and yell and freak out when they say justice isn’t served (and sadly, it often isn’t), to step up when their turn is called and contribute their small measure of time to making this country different from the nastier corners of the world.
I’m proud to serve on a jury. It’s a way the U.S. is different than most countries. Call me one of these “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” types. I’m fine with that.
For the record, I am always proud of my son. Sometimes more proud than others. When he writes something like this. It’s one of those times.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a brilliant post. Thanks Josh, good read and I agree 100%. I’ve only sat on UCMJ juries (not quite the same obviously) but feel exactly as you do, it’s an honor.
So after we parted ways in the Army, I went on to do a bit of a stint as a courts and cops reporter at my hometown paper in upstate New York. This kind of innoculated me from actually serving on a jury (members of the media tend not to last past the first round of voire dire), but I did wind up watching the process happen more times than I can remember.
And you’re dead-on — people will do absolutely anything to worm out of appearing for jury duty. There are only a couple things I’d add to your post, which I thought was great (other than perhaps being a bit too reflexively charitable to this particular jury):
One is that the jury system’s demand for unanimity in decisions does a bit to protect outcomes from being purely the product of idiots. Yes, juries are composed “of people too dumb to figure out how to get out of jury duty,” but the basic requirements of a juror (even if this tends to be unwritten) include not knowing anything about the case let alone having feelings about people who may have committed the crimes involved — or at least a willingness to confess the same. Even despite this, the requirement that jurors all agree to the decision given to the judge means that the outcome is based much less on the loopiness or intelligence of any particular juror and more on the whole group’s ability to work through the extensive evidence presented within the framework of the instructions given by the judge before they’re sequestered. That’s why these things take north of 12 hours in very many cases.
And that kind of brings me to the second point I’d add – that when these proceedings are given national or even local popular attention, we tend to make snap decisions about them based on any number of personal factors. People get upset or joyous depending on whether the outcome is what they’d been rooting for from the beginning, which I think is what John Steinbeck referred to (perhaps incorrectly) as “teleological thinking” in his nonfiction “Lof from The Sea of Cortez.” If an outcome is what we wanted, then the system worked; if it isn’t, then something must be wrong. It’s working backwards from a conclusion, which has caused problems in other walks of life, to put it briefly.
Anyway, that’s probably a longer comment than you’d want, but it was what I thought on reading this – as well as reflecting on my own and others’ reactions to the trial. Glad to read your stuff again pal, it’s been a while.
No, it’s always cool to hear you chime in on stuff. I respect your perspectives. Great points! And thanks for the well wishes. You are the guy who started me on this whole blogging thing. T-Blog!
I love me some jury duty! I remember your Facebook post and I remember saying the same thing. I served on a medical malpractice suit and it was a great experience. The doctor got off but then I found out a year later, while watching the news, that his license was revoked. I felt a little guilty.
You only can judge what you know at the time. I’m just glad you recognized jury duty is a small way we can keep things going. It’s not like it was a two-year mandatory stint in uniform or anything 😉