Saturday, August 9, 2008

Judgment

My word of the week is Judgment. As in, I had jury duty.
First time I get a notice in the mail to show up for jury duty, and I end up sitting in the box.

The long awaited day started. I headed to the courthouse on public transportation on a beautiful, sunny, breezy day and thought that this was great. I'm providing a service to the community. I should be proud. During the long wait to see if we'd be needed, instead of staying in the sparse room with folding chairs and tables, I was directed up a few floors in the courthouse highrise to find vending machines that worked. Milling around in the lobby were young people in different groups, obviously awaiting word from inside the courtrooms. Big mistake to go to that floor, but I had no idea that's where the courtrooms were. I couldn't help but overhear one young man explaining to the woman with him how his friend had done dumb things because he was young. Yeah, I think a lot of us did. No, I don't think I sat in the jury on that one.

Later, I'm selected, and I get to hear a case. Drunk driving. Don't need the particulars here except that nothing but his car got hurt. Thank goodness. And though I voted guilty, which he clearly was, and he should NOT have been behind a wheel of a car, I felt horrible. Duty is not fun. The woman who happened to be juror number one by luck of the computer draw nearly cried and couldn't say the verdict out loud. She was shaking like a leaf the whole time.

This brought a lot home to me in terms of judgment. As a normal, everyday citizen, the law is pretty abstract, even if I understand the law itself. Something we don't see outside of Law and Order reruns. You have to look at a young man sitting behind that table and know that his life is changed forever for a mistake that could have been avoided. "Thank goodness no one got hurt" might been my first reaction. But someone did. He got hurt because now he's got a record. Juror number One got hurt because it wrecked her to announce that verdict. I got hurt, because I didn't want to say "guilty", and it made me doubt the ability to judge impartially. It's harder than you could realize.

3 comments:

briaspage said...

Do not feel guilty! Sometimes guilty is a wake up call someone needs to hear. You did a great thing not ducking out of jury duty. It's important to have smart people, responsible people like you there and really listening!

KB said...

Try not to think of it as no one got hurt this time, try to think of it as maybe you helped keep someone from getting hurt next time. If this drives it home to this guy how important it is not to drive drunk, you helped stop a potentially worse "next time".

Charlotte McClain said...

It sounds like the jury was more traumatized than the perpetrator. So what if he was young and stupid. That means that you the jury had to be his mom and tell him not to stick his hand in the fire again. Would you feel bad if your child was doing something stupid and you scolded him/her? Please don't feel bad. You did the right thing.