Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jury Duty Today

Today, I went in to report for Jury Duty. A lot of people complain about jury duty and try to get out of it, but I think that jury duty is great. It’s great that our country trusts the common person to decide something of this importance. It’s great for the accused to not have to face a stacked-deck jury, or worse, no jury at all. As I looked around the room I was pretty impressed with the average American faces. The variety, the interestingness, the civic mindedness. I would love to have had a camera. I don’t think that’s allowed. Speaking of which, they confiscated my pocket knife as I entered the building. I got it back when I left.

The judge was very good. He gave instructions and then they called up 24 people (I was not among them). They got asked questions and we were supposed to be paying attention. First the prosecuting attorney asked several straightforward questions with some lessons about law thrown in. A few people were excused for one reason or another, and someone from the galley (where I was) was called to take their place. Then the defense attorney asked questions, but he was much more rambling and funny and generic in his questions. He mainly primed the jury about “presumed innocence” and “burden of proof,” which is always on the prosecution. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed and that this person committed the crime. Like in a football game, he may take the ball 99 yards, but if he doesn’t cross the goal line, there is no score, no finding the defendant guilty. I also learned that “reasonable doubt” is not the same as “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

When I got home I told the family all about it and how "innocent until proven guilty" holds until all evidence has been heard. The accused is to be considered innocent by everyone in the jury until the jury goes into the room and deliberation begins.

I was never called to be one of the 24, so I was eventually released. Twelve of the ones that had to stay will be released, and the rest will spend one or two days in court. Hey, for $10 a day, who wouldn’t want to serve?

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