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Jury Duty and More Jury Duty

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:44 AM

Two weeks have gone by since I wrote my last column about reactions to jury duty.  I’ll cut to the chase: I got exempted because of my poor French skills (I’m not proud of that), and the fact that I am health care proxy for my 91 year old father who lives in The Bronx.  In the last two weeks, Dad has taken a turn for the worse. I will head down to see him soon, something that I would not have been able to do had I been selected, so thank you, Sheriff’s Office, for your understanding at a bad time.

On a more cheerful note, I’ve had some wonderful conversations with friends and emails from folks who have been called up for the selection process. One reader was convinced that if she thought about jury duty often, she would get called up and sure enough she was:

“I tend to believe in the law of attraction...What I think I create. Well.... I have been thinking briefly, but profoundly about this event and I "knew" that this was coming for me. When I received the notice I felt such a contradiction of feelings. I felt excitement and terror all in the same bundle. I think I am bilingual enough to be chosen, but I really don't know how strict their demands will be. I have such mixed feelings especially because I am a teacher and my students and I are beginning to build a strong and cohesive community together, I feel worried about them as I imagine the possibilities. So, my rendezvous is Wednesday, October 13th (I am not one bit superstitious) I hope and wonder and dread what the outcome will be.”  She wasn’t the only teacher that heard the call of Lady Justice; I’m wondering how many teachers if any will wind up as jurors.

What I find truly interesting is that some people that I spoke to and heard from by email expressed an honest concern about doing the job properly, whether it’s following the nuances of the case in both official languages or going in with preconceptions about the accused.  I received one email that explained this worry with a story that I’m going to reproduce here:

“I've honestly been working on not judging people by their looks for a good twenty years. When our daughter was tiny, we went to the fair and she wanted to go on a bouncy castle thing. Adults weren't allowed beyond a certain line. She had to take off her shoes and in her excitement got a knot in her laces. A big guy, tattooed arms, shaved head and leather vest approached her and I was about to scream ‘Get away from my kid!!’ when he knelt down, untied the knot and gently lifted her up on the air mattress. I try to remember that.”

Other people’s reaction was to ask me how I “got off.”  There was a fair amount of understandable worry that they might be perceived as being more bilingual than they really are.  For example, at the courthouse, one of my friends got into trouble when she said, “I don’t speak French.”  This was not what the lawyers wanted to hear; they wanted to know whether or not potential jurors could understand French.  When my friend quickly explained that she meant to say that she didn’t understand French, she received her exemption.  Yet another friend who is over the age of 65 - which is supposed to be an automatic exemption - tried calling up to get out of going in but was told that he had to go – I, on the other hand, was exempted by phone.  Go figure.

Meanwhile the process continues, and I wonder if the search for a juror will move to another locality where they will try to find twelve more not so angry men and women who will give the accused their fair shake at justice.  If you see a yellow letter in the mailbox, try not to panic.

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