This week I reported for jury duty…for the third time in half a dozen years, in my third different location as well. As I waited—and prospective jurors do spend a lot of time waiting—I found myself pondering the radical differences between my different jury pool experiences.
My first experience occurred when I lived in Massachusetts, which has a “one day or one jury” program. You show up for one day, and if you don’t get picked for a jury, your duty is done for 3 years. My second experience was a couple of years ago in Albuquerque, where I had to show up every day for a week and wait to see if I would be “empaneled” on a jury. Once the week was over, my duty was done for 3 years. With this third experience, perhaps because of the relatively small number of people available in this rural county, I am on call for 6 months. In my first month, I’ve been notified of 3 dates, but 2 trials were cancelled or postponed, so this was the first time I had to show up.
The one day in Massachusetts was held in a secure high rise building in downtown Boston. The pool of jurors was given basic instructions, then let loose to wait in a large room with a red carpet and lots of different types of chairs, tables, etc. There were lots of people dressed in professional clothing working on laptop computers and, as I recall, very little talking. The week in Albuquerque was also held in a stately, secure building, though with our jury passes we were able to cut to the front of the line for the metal detectors. Again, after initial instructions, we were told to wait in a pair of large rooms, one of which was designated as the silence room. This made sense to me because, with a week of hanging out together, the extroverts made a lot of friends and swapped a lot of stories.
This week I showed up at a small, nondescript building in a small town adjacent to my own. There was no security system and no jury pool room, just a double-handful of chairs in the lobby of the building, which also serves the business office for the court. Since there weren’t enough chairs for everyone, I chose to spend much of my waiting time outdoors, enjoying the bright autumn sunshine, and was grateful for the freedom to do so. I waited alongside folks in cowboy boots and plaid shirts, and most of us were wearing jeans. I didn’t see a single laptop, and mine was probably the only electronic reader present.
A “jury of my peers” has changed a lot in the past half a dozen years. I’ve moved from one of the largest metropolitan areas of the country to a small rural community, and my peers have changed in the process. I find myself wondering if those changes would or will mean anything if I am picked for a jury now.
When is the last time that you took a good look at your peers? Have you ever thought about who you might find next to you on a jury if you were empaneled?
Has it ever crossed your mind to pray for your peers, and for the jury process?