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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury

 photo judge-judy_zps1e216844.jpgI have never been on a jury. In fact, I've only been called for jury duty twice. Once was just a few weeks after Annie was born, which allowed me to defer. The second time was a few years ago, when I answered a few questions, sat around for several hours and was then dismissed. But for the past two days, I was part of a mock jury.

My spot in this exercise came when I answered an e-mail from a local survey company. The compensation offered was enough to make me take the 5-minute pre-qualification survey, after which a person from the survey company called to ask me additional questions. I must have answered those right because the next thing I knew, I had been selected. 

The only information I had was that I would be required to give my opinion and my time for a total of almost 20 hours over two days. Seriously? Two days to spout off my opinion -- I was born for this!

It wasn't until I arrived at the survey center yesterday that I learned that my fellow volunteers and I would be hearing plaintiff and defense testimony in a court case. (Which I can't tell you about because I signed an agreement that I wouldn't.) We heard live opening statements from the lawyers and settled in to hear witness testimony.
It was tedious because we honestly sat all day and watched testimony, filled out a survey, watch testimony, filled out a survey, lather, rinse, repeat all day long. Today, after only a few hours of videotaped testimony and live closing remarks from the attorneys in the case, we were broken up into two juries and sent off to deliberate. 

As the facilitator was calling the names of Jury 1, I was praying that a.) I was assigned to the jury that got to convene in the conference room with the cushy chairs and b.) I would not be sentenced to an afternoon with the blowhard know-it-all or the juror who said "Whew! Thank you Jesus!" every time a witness testimony wrapped up.

Happily, I got both my wishes, although it turned out there was another blowhard, who'd flown under my radar, assigned to the group I was in.

When our self-appointed jury foreperson took a poll of the room, we were split about 9-3 in favor of the defense. I promised myself that I was just going to (mostly) listen. Well, you can probably guess how that turned out. 

Despite the fact that one juror started her thoughts on the case with "You know, I watch a whole lot of 'Judge Judy,'" we had really positive discussions. We pored over the exhibits, asked for clarification of the law, and very civilly came to a unanimous agreement on each of the counts we'd been asked to consider. 

The other jury, the members of which all saw and heard the same exhibits and testimony my jury did, made opposite determinations on the counts than my group had. Kind of amazing, huh?

I learned a few things:
  1. I am so glad I never had an inclination to be a lawyer.
  2. It is possible to ask the same person the same question 27 different ways and get the 32 different answers. 
  3. Nice guys may not always finish last, but they sure come off better as witnesses than hostile and evasive people do.
  4. It is entirely possible to change your mind about something every 45 minutes and still be confused when you finally make a decision. 
  5. If you want the good snacks, you have to snag them early.
One other thing that I learned from this experience is that being a juror (or in this case, a mock juror) is important -- and hard -- work.  I prayed my way into the jury room, asking that I might have humility and wisdom to make the right decision. If we had been a real jury, making decisions about real millions of dollars, I might have been overwhelmed by the task. 

Even so, I would love to be seated on a real jury someday, blowhards and "Judge Judy" fans and all.


Cyndy @ Back in the Bush said...

I've never even heard of this! It sounds like it could be interesting, in the right case. I hope you were compensated well!