Civic Duties

I just spent two weeks of my life serving on jury duty.

When I got my summons, I was incredibly excited.  Jumping-up-and-down-and-squealing-excited.  I've never been called for jury duty, and I've always wondered what it would be like, so I just couldn't wait.  There are all sorts of reasons to not want to serve on a jury (it's time-consuming, you have to miss work, it's disruptive to your daily life, etc., etc.), and it seems like the majority of people try to get out of it, but I was the opposite:  I wanted to make sure I got ON it!  So, I let my bosses know when my report date was and counted down the days until it got here.

When it finally arrived, I got to head downtown to one of NYC's courthouses!  (This is why I got to do so much downtown exploring the past couple of weeks)  It was a strange combination of exciting and boring, at first:  there was lots of waiting and sitting around and standing in lines, but also we got called into real courtrooms!  With a real judge and real lawyers and a defendant sitting right there!  It sounds a little lame, but it was all so new to me, I was just soaking it all up.

The interview process to choose the jurors was extensive, but it was just such a novelty, I really didn't mind.  And sure enough, dreams do come true:  I got picked to serve on a criminal case!

Thus began a two-week process that was fascinating, confusing, frustrating, and enlightening.  (The entire trial process was fascinating; the testimonies and evidence were confusing; deliberations were frustrating; and what I learned about human nature was quite enlightening).

I may have been taking the whole thing too seriously (but then again, when the decision you make is going to affect the rest of someone else's life, can you ever take that too seriously?), but I felt really invested in the case, and making sure that I was being fair and just and as open-minded as I could be.  It felt good to discuss things with my fellow jurors, to explore evidence, to hear their opinions, to really exercise my brain.  I haven't gotten to argue this much since my sister and I shared a bathroom and neither one of us wanted to clean it.

Unfortunately,  the whole experience ended with the judge declaring a mistrial, due to circumstances beyond the jury's control.  We never got to finish our deliberations and come to a consensus.  Two weeks of everyone's time (judge, lawyers, jury members, people who came to the trial every single day) was wasted, not to mention lots of taxpayers' dollars.  I felt disappointed.

It's taken a while for me to debrief myself about the whole thing, and be able to get it out of my head.  It really consumed my time and my thoughts and my prayers for those two weeks, just hoping for the wisdom to see all the evidence clearly and make the right decision.  The fact that we didn't get to conclude the whole thing has really weighed on me in the few days since.

But, I'm still proud that I did my civic duty and served on that jury.  I imagined if it was me on trial for a crime.  Would I want myself on my jury?  I decided to make sure the answer was "yes" - and to be as fair, unbiased, logical, and reasonable as I could possibly be.  Jury duty is just like the right to vote and free speech - it's another part of what makes our government, despite some definite flaws, truly great.


  1. Haha this is so funny, I remember when my bf was going to potentially be on jury duty and was in dire dear of getting chosen! I think you're the only person who has ever looked forward to it, although I don't think anyone would be unhappy to serve jury duty if it wasn't for work.

  2. I like hearing about your experiences! I got called for civil court once, but they didn't select me. I was a bit disappointed-- it seems like such an interesting window into the process of democracy. And it's nice to hear that you took your responsibility so seriously! Plus, some of those courthouses are so gorgeous-- 60 Centre Street, the Supreme Court across from your photo has a beautiful WPA-painted ceiling, and they even have a row of old wooden phone booths where the court reporters used to call in scoops to their respective newspapers! The booths have little hat and umbrella stands, a relic from the days when men used to dress a little fancier. So cool!

    1. Oh, wow, I wish I had gone into the Supreme Court building! Sounds just beautiful, and so historic!