Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Observations from Jury Duty

So I've just had jury duty and now that it's over, I can talk about it allllll I want. But for obvious reasons, I'll keep things not too identifying here.

I had a few observations that I figured I'd write about. Nothing earth shattering or anything, but interesting stuff (to me.)

First of all--I know there is an enormous amount of privilege that plays into our legal systems, and this situation was no different. I mean, there's the mere fact that I was able to take paid time from my job for jury duty. Of course, that's required of all full time employees, but what about the folks who hold 1 or more part time jobs? And aside from that, I didn't need to arrange any child or dependent care. In the process of impaneling there are places to ask for exemptions for this kind of thing, but I wonder how easy it is to actually have it granted and be excused.

Anyway--the privilege theme definitely played into the case I heard. It involved one person, a doctor, who was painted as this incredible person, and the proof presented for that was an ivy league education, military duty, volunteerism with a church youth group, and wealth and prestige (all of which don't prove that he didn't commit a crime.) The other person was a working class man who was portrayed as "looking like a drunken homeless person" because he was wearing all black at the time and had a large beard.

It was transparent to me that this attempt (by the defense) to portray one man as so amazing and the other as worthless was classism as its finest.  I can say that it did not play into my decision making, but some of my fellow jurors did bring up these issues. That is troubling to me.

Ultimately, given the structure of our legal system, I think we made the right call on this particular case, but I'm not sure that everyone involved made it for the right reasons.

Aside from that, my second revelation is how difficult something like this might be for someone with anxiety issues. I consider my own struggles with anxiety as mild to moderate. I can really fixate on things and stress wears on me both mentally and physically, but I don't ever have full blown anxiety attacks. But throughout the entire process I was so anxious. Our case wasn't particularly high stakes, but I was still incredibly concerned about the gravity of making the decision and if we were doing the right thing.

I kept wondering if we (I) had been swept away in the bravado of the lawyers or if we were getting to the root of the truth. And in our deliberations, were we being swayed by strong personalities in the room, or had we reached a true consensus?

I'm still feeling my heart rate raise just a little now in thinking about it, so I guess I'll wrap this up.

Overall, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad that I did it...but it was also troubling to me for these reasons.

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