I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A break from my routine

I received a summons for jury duty here in Washington state, beginning tomorrow, which says it will be for two weeks. This is the first time I've been summoned since moving here, but I was summoned three times over the years I lived in Colorado. Twice I was dismissed in trials for people who had been arrested for driving while impaired and were fighting it. I told the attorneys that I felt they were already guilty and could not offer them a fair judgment, since they had already admitted they were driving under the influence of alcohol. I was summarily dismissed.

And once I sat on a jury for three days. A woman was suing a man for an alleged rape, and I listened to the presentations of both the assertion of rape and the arguments in the man's defense. These took two days, one for the witnesses and aggrieved party to testify, and the second day for the defense to make their case.

The hardest part for me was to listen to everything and not be able to discuss it with anybody: not the other jurors, not my partner, simply nobody. I had some very strong opinions about what was going on here, and it was my duty to keep those thoughts to myself. Were the other jurors feeling like I did? Was I wrong in thinking that this woman was making it all up in a fit of pique? That's what was emerging in my mind as I listened to the arguments.

I am not sure how I would have fared in a long trial, because just in those two short days I was having difficulty letting myself get involved in any other activity. I was obsessed with the trial and couldn't read or otherwise distract myself. If I went for a walk, my thoughts turned constantly to the arguments that had been presented to me, and I couldn't talk to anybody about it!

Fortunately, we were given our final instructions on the third day and went into jury deliberations. What a relief to finally be able to talk about it! And interestingly, all but one other juror felt as I did. Since we had one holdout, a social worker who also acted as an advocate for rape victims (how did he ever get on this jury?), he brought up some interesting theories of the possible reasons this might have actually been what the aggrieved party said it was. But it was a stretch, a real stretch.

 It turned out that most of us were in total agreement about the woman's real intentions in this trial, to make the young man suffer. We finally all came into agreement, and within a few hours after we began our deliberations, we were able to deliver a "not guilty" verdict. When I walked out to the parking lot, the young man was walking out a free man after being in jail for something he did not do. Not to mention the time and expense involved for all parties.

Now I will find out whether I will end up on another jury, or if I will be dismissed or not needed during this two-week period. Since I'm retired and have no job to worry about, you'd think I would be excited about this break from my schedule. But frankly, I'll miss riding the bus to the coffee shop and hanging out with the regulars, attending my regular classes at the gym, and basically having my daily routine disrupted. I am also planning on a trip in mid-November to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I wonder what happens if you end up sitting on a long trial: do they break for holidays? (Probably not.)

It's been raining here all day and all night, for several days in a row. I walked with the Fairhaven walkers yesterday anyway; we only had a few sprinkles as we made our way through Whatcom Falls park. Thirteen of us showed up on a dreary day, and we walked through wide avenues covered with leaves, painting a colorful tapestry of gold, yellow and browns. Even when it's raining, it's really beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest. I would have taken some pictures but I was afraid of getting my camera wet, so I left it in the car.

So begins another Sunday morning as I sit here in the dark, partner sleeping lightly next to me, and the day about to begin. Tonight I'll call the juror telephone line to find out what tomorrow will bring. In Colorado, I was required to attend at least the first day for orientation, but this is Washington state and things might be handled differently. I'm glad I visited my previous experiences as a juror in today's post; my feeling about the situation has shifted to one of curiosity and a possible new adventure.

Have a wonderful week, dear readers. Until next time!


Jackie said...

Being on a jury is interesting; I am thankful for our judicial system and fine citizens such as you.
Sending you smiles from the Western North Carolina mountains (we've been here in the Smokey Mountains for 12 days and will drive home to the South on Monday.)

Linda Reeder said...

I have served on juries for two trials during a two week window quite a long time ago now. It was interesting, and since it was the King Co Courthouse in downtown Seattle, I had fun exploring the city when I was off duty. We got long lunch breaks. We found one your man not guilty and the second was a mistrial because the judge got sick. What bothered me most was the obvious withholding of evidence on both sides. It was hard to get the whole story.
In the last five years i have been called two or three times a year, had to report in, sit around, only to be dismissed, probably because i had a close relative, Corey, in law enforcement. I don't want to be called anymore. Now that my retired life is my own, I resent intrusions into doing what I want to do. Does that mean I'm old and set in my ways? :)

The Broad said...

I have never been called for jury duty and have found your post to be very interesting. I admire your commitment to doing your service and the seriousness with which you take your responsibility. I have often marvelled at the capacity for jurors who sit on cases -- like the O.J.Simpson trial -- over a year kept like virtual prisoners themselves.

O-town Ramblings said...

Your jury experience sounds interesting. I would have had a hard time not being able to discuss things too! Good luck this week. I'll be waiting to hear if you end up having to serve.

Linda Myers said...

I've only been called once. I sat in a big room for two days and was then dismissed. I think it would be fun! Hope you get an interesting trial.

Rubye Jack said...

I don't think I could sit still for hours within a confined space, but admire anyone who does. The people who are able to do those long trials as jurors must have a love for mystery. I hope it is an interesting trial for your sake. For me, there's other ways to be a good citizen. :)

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I have never been called. Most of my friends who were summoned said their experience was boring...they waited around but never were actually used in a trial. That happened to our college president, too, who said a few days of boredom was a small price to pay for living in a democracy! Thanks for sharing your experience...I never thought about how difficult it would be to not be able to talk about information as it is presented!

CrazyCris said...

I think the hardest for me would be not being able to discuss the case even with my partner! Tough!

I'm kind of fascinated by the whole jury selection process in the US. I've never met anyone who's participated in one. What happens if you work... must really annoy your boss for you to be gone so long!

Here in Spain I have no idea how the Jury system works... Never heard of anyone in it.

Anonymous said...

I have been summoned before, but was dismissed before trial started. I was glad, because it would have been inconvenient for me. Good luck with your new adventure, however it turns out!

Rita said...

It would be interesting. (I agree with you on the ones where they already said they were driving under the influence.) But my first thought--I wondered about whether or not you were taking that job with your old boss and when that was supposed to start, if you were.
If you get on a case, I hope it is a good one...that won't go over the two weeks. :)

Gigi said...

I've been summoned a few times, but never picked. Actually never even reached the point of being turned asked about anything. I figure the one time I get picked it will be an exceedingly dull trial. I can imagine that the not talking about it, must be extremely stressful! That would eat away at me.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Ah..I was called once but we had just moved and the commute was 110 miles one way..I was dismissed because they did not want to pay that much mileage. I have always wanted to be called..I keep hoping:)

Bragger said...

I've never been on a traverse jury, but I did serve on a grand jury. I think I would most hate the things you mentioned, not being able to talk about it to others. I would also hate the restrictions (no reading, no texting, no surfing the net) while I'm on jury duty. :)

#1Nana said...

I keep hoping i will be called to jury duty. Only once in all the time I've lived in Oregon have I been called, and then the week my number came up, there were no trials.

Have a great week.

Red said...

I have been called for jury duty three times and never had to serve. I think it would bother me as you said it did.
My son near Vancouver says they have been having rain for days.
Did you feel any earthquake this morning?

Sally Wessely said...

My first reaction to reading this was to think how you were able to resolve you feelings about being called to jury duty by writing this post. Isn't it interesting how blogging helps us to clarify our thoughts about things as we write?

I served on one jury trial for attempted murder. It was a very interesting experience. As I went through the trial, I was convinced the guy was guilty, but as you said, it was so difficult to know what others were thinking. In the end, we were all in agreement on the first vote.

I enjoyed serving on a jury, but I do think how disruptive it could be to my life if I were called. I've had quite a few summons over the years, but only ended up actually sitting on the jury once.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I hope you post more about this. I'm 76 and have never been called for jury duty. I don't know why as I would consider that an honor as an American citizen. And I so look forward to learning more about what happens. I'd never thought about being out and about while serving. Somehow--I guess from movies and television--I always thoughts the jurors were sequestered. When does that happen???? Peace.

Buz said...

In Texas you can be automatically excused if you're over 70 years old. You can even claim a permanent exemption. Of course, you're not that old. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I liked the read.
Jury duty is something each citizen should answer the call for.
I was called, answered, went to the orientation and ended up being selected.
And the other jurors elected me their foreman.
I stood up in court and did my thing and forgot about it.
Then a few years later I was called again. This time I had health problems — that I still have and was not called in for the duty. Now, I am past the age limit (76 hear) and my wife has also served and is now at 76 but would not be able to serve anyway for her health problems.

In the trial in which I was the foreman, we had one holdout for "not guilty" for a long time but they wanted to go home so relented and agreed — making it a unanimous decision.