“safe for democracy” . . .

DSC_0424_4I’ve been in a kind of time-out this week during the day. When I went in on Tuesday as a potential juror, I was surprised to be empaneled on the jury for a criminal case in the Superior Court of this district. The experience was a real eye opener.

First of all, there’s a new courthouse building with large high-ceilinged rooms and technology such as TV screens on which introductory videos were played for the jury pool. More important, there was a tone and approach towards us jurors from the get-go: which was a highly respectful and appreciative tone towards the privilege of serving as jurors, for our taking the time and paying the expense (driving and parking fees) for serving on juries.

We learned that the American jury system is unique in the world. And that visiting jurists from Europe and Asia are befuddled by how our system can get individual citizens to serve on juries on their own volition. We were shown that having a vote and serving on a jury are fundamental rights and obligations for our democracy to work.

A judge came to the jury pool to thank us all for being there and for being patient while the trial lawyers prepared to argue their cases. When we were empaneled, our judge did the same thing, thanking us and instructing us not to talk about the case with ANYONE, not our spouse, not by email, not to each other. . . until the deliberations were completed. We, the jury, complied. Most of the time that we were sequestered in the jury deliberation room when we were not in the courtroom, we were near silent, not much chit chat among ourselves. We were polite but kept our distance socially.

Our case was estimated to last for four or five days but yesterday, we returned our verdict at the end of the third day. It was a complex Read the rest of this entry »