23 February, 2012

Jury Duty

Eleven years ago I served as jury foreman on a criminal trial here in Los Angeles. It was a short trial, a domestic abuse charge. The jury eventually hung because of two jurors who simply could not accept the fact that there was no valid reason for a man to EVER strike a woman—"Not even in self-defense?" I asked, and they shook their heads.

By coincidence I was unemployed at that time, and during lunch break one day went to a job interview for the job I still hold to this day. Before, I had always considered jury duty to be something for rubes. "Do you really want to trust your fate to twelve people who couldn't get out of jury duty?" was the old joke.

But afterward, I realized that it had actually been a really interesting process, and over time I also came to realize how important it is to have fair (or as fair as humans can reasonably get) jury trials. These days, whenever anyone complains about jury duty (especially folks who get paid time off for it), I point out that jury trials are part of the reason we don't live in a country beset by warlords, death squads, and brutal tyranny. As much as people like the rhetoric about how absolutely awful things are here in the U.S. these days (and they certainly have been better), we're a long, long way from many of the privations that other, less fortunate people have to deal with on a daily basis.

I'm serving jury service right now. Yes, it interferes with my job; but it's important, and in the long run, I'm glad to do it, I'll be glad to serve on a jury if called, and I'd be damn glad others are too if it was my ass on the line.

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