December 9, 2011

Jury Duty

     I missed Wednesday's blog post because I was at jury duty. Though I wish I had been able to post, I am glad that it was for a good cause.
     My first impression of jury duty came from adults complaining that they had been called, and what a nuisance it was. I never heard anyone say anything positive about it, and I learned that when you get called, the first thing you should do is try to get out of it. So, that is what I have done for the last sixteen years. The first time I was called, I was attending college out of state. My mother called me and said I got a letter in the mail and that she would tell them I wasn't in the state, end of story.
     The next few times I was called, I was a single mother working at a piddly job. But as piddly as my job was, it was my only job, and the only way I had of supporting myself and my son. That was an easy excuse. Then I moved up in the world. I got a great job making great money. I had wonderful benefits: paid vacation, retirement plan, medical insurance, free dental work, child care supplement... but no days off for jury duty. The next two times I used a new and interesting excuse. Did you know breastfeeding mothers can be excused from jury duty? I proudly checked the box and thanked my baby boy.
     This year when I got the call there were no excuses. I am unemployed so no need to request time off. I reside in the county where I was called. The thought of breastfeeding my 2 1/2 year old (who has gotten in trouble at preschool for biting) is frightening. So, off to jury duty I went.
     What I found out was that it is not something that needs to be avoided at all costs. There are people that have a legitimate excuse, but there shouldn't be a scramble every year to make up a sob story so you can get out of it. I found the process to be very interesting for most of the day. There were some long waiting periods, but I brought a book so the time passed pleasantly. One thing that I did not expect was to get a renewed faith in our judicial system. I am not a blind promoter of the United States. I see MANY things that need to be fixed. But as far as the fairness of a criminal trial goes, I think we're right on. Whether or not you agree with the outcome of a trial, be assured that our government takes every opportunity to make the trial process as fair as possible.
     It is surprising to me to hear myself make a statement like that. I am typically very critical of the government. But I am also big on having an open mind, so that's the way I reported to jury duty. With a closed mind I would have been irritated for being inconvenienced. With an open mind I got a first hand look at why we live in a wonderful country.

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