Jury Duty

It makes some sense to write about one of our civic duties or obligations on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday (observed officially next Monday).

Jury Duty.

Recently, the Wisconsin Governor was called to serve and actually was selected as an alternate juror on a case.  It would have been a horrendous example if Scott Walker had tried to get out of the service, but nevertheless, I was glad to see he did what was asked of all citizens.

(He was dismissed before deliberation because one of the people involved in the case had donated to his campaign - which the Governor brought to the attention of the judge.)

In Eau Claire County I was called for jury duty and then chosen to serve on a sex assault case.

The case was very interesting.  It starts with the opening statements by the prosecuting and defense attorneys then the witnesses they hope will make their case.  Closing arguments provide a recap and a final plea to the jury to see their version of events as the truth.

Each of us on the jury took the case seriously.  We weighed the evidence, talked about it, and eventually reached a conclusion.  It wasn't easy and I think the seriousness of the crime and the damage you could inflict if convicting an innocent man created a somber sense of responsibility in the jury room.

It wasn't like 12 Angry Men or anything like that.  It was a one day case and deliberation finished within a couple of hours.  We returned a verdict of guilty.

After the trial, when the defendant was taken to jail and attorneys, family, and onlookers had left - the presiding judge answered questions.  It was only then we learned the accused had a long list of prior charges and convictions.

For the justice system in to work in our country, we need to have our peers (that's you) willing to give time to sit, listen, and deliberate.  That's not an easy thing in our quick culture and the concept can seem a bit like a waste from the outside.

In a cynical, laugh at others society - it is refreshing to have things taken seriously.  Think about, if you are in court seeking justice or accused, you certainly want everyone involved to be serious and searching for truth.

The only way that happens is that when we receive the notice in the mail inviting us to serve, that we do our civic duty and serve our fellow man and woman.  It's another way to be a good citizen.