It was a dreaded day when I had to report to jury duty at 8:15 am in the morning. I had already put it off a few times, yet I’ve lived here in New Jersey for 19 years and never got called to serve until now. (I’m sure the fact that I’ve moved a lot and lived in a few counties contributed to my not ever being called.) I stood in the check in line to give my little juror piece of paper and get my instructions. I was off to Jury Room A to find a seat. This was a huge room, with 2 very large flat screen TV’s. I had brought a bunch of things to read and catch up and wasn’t interested in being lulled by television. This was my 1st secret I discovered while on jury duty- use my time here to learn something and take time out just for me. So I brought a course that I had bought on CD and put it on my Ipod. It also had a work book so I could do the exercises. This was really great and I was able to learn a lot on my 2 hours that I waited to be called. The thing I didn’t understand was all the people who simply just read the paper, talked on the phone or watched TV. I didn’t quite understand why they didn’t want to take more advantage of their quality time waiting. And there were a lot of people- about 200 or more.
Finally around 9:15 am someone came over the PA to let us know we needed to sit tight and be patient. Eventually a person came in the room to show us a video and to explain to us what would happen next. My 2nd secret that I discovered about jury duty was that I needed to be ok that I was not in control of this situation at all. I was here for a reason and needed to abide by the rules of the county. This I had no trouble with because growing up, I was always the kid who won the award for being the most cooperative. It was just a little nerve wracking not knowing what would happen next and not having much control over it at all.
Right about lunch time was when I got the call to go outside and check in with about 25 other people. We all lined up and a policeman escorted us over to another building. It was a maze of corridors, stairs, and tunnels and we finally made it to the judges court room. We all sat down and the judge began speaking about the case. It was a civil case and they only needed 3 more jury members. They passed out 4 sheets of paper with a bunch of questions that we needed to answer. The judge went through all the questions and if you answered yes, he made you stand up and he would take your name. The first question is would it be a hardship if you were on the jury. I of course said yes and stood up because I was self-employed and if I didn’t work, it would be a hardship on me financially. After we went through all the questions, we had to break for lunch.
After lunch was when I was called up to speak to the judge and both lawyers. I have to say I was a bit intimidated and nervous. I had to explain my hardship and they sold me on being on the jury because it was going to be a short case and I could bring my computer and work during our breaks. So I was picked to be on the jury- Petit Juror #5. After I got on the jury, this was where I discovered Secret #3- when you tell people you’re on a jury, they immediately go the place of what you needed to do to get off. This really shocked and amazed me. For one, I can’t lie very well and for those that can, I guess they can get off the jury easily. I wonder how this affects our justice system- when the premise everyone has is how to get off serving on a jury. Not that I was thrilled to be here and be picked to be on a jury, yet it felt like I would be able to contribute something that I might not in any other way be able to do.
So the rest of the story is long and I’m thinking about doing a blog series on my experiences as being picked as juror #5. What I discovered about this experience is Secret #4- it helped discipline me in a way that I haven’t been doing for myself in a while. Because I work at home, I tended to have a more lose schedule. Being on jury duty, I had to have a schedule and in fact got more work done, even while I was on the jury- go figure! I had a great attitude about being on the jury. As it turned out, I met some wonderfully kind and inspiring people who under any other circumstances I might not have ever met, much less spent 9 days with them. If it wasn’t for my other jury members, this could have been a miserable experience. Instead, we all had a similar caring and kind attitude which made serving all the more worth while. In fact, I miss my jurors- we spent a lot of time talking about food, recipes, exchanging great resources, and just laughing and carrying on. I’ve not laughed that much in a span of 9 days ever! [Photo- that’s me and Lamont Burr, our officer who took wonderful care of us during our stint as jury members. He took care of our parking everyday, made sure we knew where to eat lunch, and use the restroom, internet, etc.]
Next time you get the paper in the mail summoning you for jury duty, think twice before getting upset and trying to get off the jury. Think of it as a time of discovery for yourself and maybe even possibly being able to help others, meet new people and have some great experiences. There’s a lot we can do to make our voices heard and participate in the justice system.