Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Civic Duty

Now I know there are actually people in America that have never received a jury summons in the mail. It does seem strange but is a fact because my mother is one such person and has always wanted to serve. I thought I would be one of those people as well until recently. A little over a year a go I received the summons "You WILL report on such in such date for jury duty." I did. I think there was bad air that day because in the room of over 250 people there was such a rumble of grumbling about how unfair it is to force someone to do this. To miss work and pay to come down to sit here all day and possibly be put on a lengthy trial that would keep you off of work for quite a long time. One lady was down right vulgar in her disgust for the set of circumstances that came her way this day. I kept looking for the armed guards thinking they really do need them. I did not have to serve on a jury that day but on the drive home I got to thinking about it. What if I was the defendant? What if that lady who was so vulgar was the defendant? Wouldn't we want a jury full of people who wanted to be there, who felt that it was their civic duty to fill this temporary role?

A little more than a year later and I am summons again. How does this happen? Not summons all my life and then bang, twice in 15 months! Lucky I guess. So I go deciding to enjoy and examine the process. The actual process itself is quite efficient, at least here in Tucson. They know how to move the masses through, getting the sampling of prospective jurors to each court room exactly when needed. I was included in the first group to go to a courtroom and as it would layout, selected to serve on a criminal case involving possession of a dangerous drug, Meth. Both sides of the case were heard and we were sent off to deliberate with what was so apparent to be huge holes in the case. These holes, or missing information like fingerprints, more information about the other person actively involved, timing of events or size of the purse the drug was found in to name a few, made it impossible to come to a guilty plea. After 5 hours of deliberation we unanimously concluded the defendant was "not guilty" because the State was unable to provide a case without reasonable doubt.

Here is the point to my rambling. I went home last night believing the system had failed. That there were flaws allowing a possible guilty person to go free. After a good night sleep (isn't it amazing what sleep can do for you) and with a clear head this morning I realized that this system, although maybe somewhat flawed, is working just fine. The "holes" my jury group encountered were there probably because the defendant was not guilty. This system we have in place is a pretty darn good one, beats any out there, and I am happy to say that I have done my civic duty.


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