There’s a cliche about jury duty.
Only a chump gets stuck serving on a jury.
Anyone with any brains, so it goes, can get themselves excused.
Well I may be proof of the cliche.
This chump served on a jury.
And it was a blast!
A couple weeks ago, I received a summons in the mail.
I admit I had doubts about serving. I thought briefly about concocting a good reason to be excused.
Don’t get me wrong. Unlike some, I always wanted to serve on a jury. I’ve spent years in courtrooms as a reporter, covering trials. I even testified as an eye-witness in an attempted murder trial. I’m proud to say I helped put a guy away for 25 years to life!
But I didn’t look forward to spending a long, boring day at the El Paso County Courthouse.
Experience has taught me that reporters never are chosen for juries. We always get bounced from the pool.
But rather than beg off, I reported to the Jury Commissioner‘s office in the courthouse.
There, I met about 300 people waiting in line, filling out forms, reading magazines, watching TV and otherwise killing time.
But before long I heard my name called and off I went to the fourth floor and the courtroom of Judge Christopher E. Acker.
There, I was seated with 11 other potential jurors.
He gave us a basic overview of the proceedings. We were going to decide a criminal domestic dispute.
A woman claimed her ex-husband — they were married 20 years and had three children — had violated a mutually agreed upon “no contact” clause in a court protection order.
Acker turned us over to the prosecutors and a defense attorney for questioning. During the Q & A, we learned two of the four women in the jury pool had been convicted of domestic violence. A third woman had worked as a paralegal in the prosecutor’s office. As I expected, they were excused along with the fourth woman along with two men.
Shocking to me, I survived and got to hear the case with five other men: Jim Reeder, a high-tech expert, George the retired teacher, Kevin the retired Navy officer, Craig the cellphone sales exec and Ben the teacher/musician.
It was a great experience. Ours was a classic “he said, she said” domestic dispute. Our immediate verdict was unanimous: the man was stupid.
But, we also agreed there was reasonable doubt about whether a crime had been committed. We didn’t think he intended to break the law. And the judge had told us intent was an element we were to consider.
I appreciated the thoughtful work of my fellow jurors. I enjoyed meeting them and getting to know a little about each of them. In fact, I’d enjoy hoisting a cold beer with them someday!
And it chipped away the skepticism I previous held toward juries. Ours was serious-minded and determined to get to the truth. And I’d like to think they were a pretty representative group of all juries.