Jury Duty: Lessons Learned in Court

Jury Summons

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

The day the pink and blue summons arrived, I cringed. What would I have to reschedule? I admit it. I was not excited about exercising this privilege we have as a result of living in the United States. I tempered my reaction because my boys were watching. Those boys of mine . . . they saw right through my, “It’s okay. It’s what we all get to do sometimes.”

Scrabble justice 1

I reported Monday morning, with an iPad, a book . . . and a niggling feeling that I was going to end up on a jury. Distractions peppered my attempts to read as I waited. R. The process was fast-paced with an introduction and a thank you from a county judge. Tthen a video that explained more about jury duty. Shortly after that, juror numbers and names were called and people gathered into various-sized groups to be taken to a courtroom.

Scales of Justice

My hope of slipping through the morning, invisible, ended when “Juror number 21__, Jeanne Takenaka” boomed across the speakers. I took my questionnaire and my purse and joined the line forming in the middle of the room. We were led to a courtroom and given precise places to sit. For the next two hours, I listened to the lawyers’ comments and questions, and the answers of potential jurors. Before lunch, the thirteen of us still seated in the juror’s box were the jury. The trial was slated to go three days. “Oh joy,” was the response of most of the jurors.

I grabbed a quick lunch. We all returned to our assigned seats. And then the trial began. It was a much more subdued affair than I’ve seen on television.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What struck me most were these things:

1. We were deciding the fate of a real, living person,not some character on television. What this jury of his peers decided would determine the course of his life for years to come.

Lesson learned: Our words and choices can have lasting impacts on those around us. Especially in a legal setting.

2. This case wasn’t as cut and dry as some may have believed when we walked into the courtroom that first afternoon. Both sides did and said things that impacted the other. Some choices made were bad choices with lasting consequences.

Lesson learned: Don’t be quick to judge another. There are often underlying issues that must be considered before making a judgment—in the courtroom and in life.

3. Genuine bonds formed in a short time with people from very different backgrounds. We had two young men on this journey, some older men, six women, all of them professionals, and all middle-aged. One man was wheel-chair bound, and not excited to be there, but what a gentle spirit under the gruff exterior. We shared two days of our lives together.

Lesson learned: Common experiences can draw people together. Maybe it was knowing we were stuck in this situation together. I’d like to think we made some genuine connections, even though most of us will probably never cross paths again.

Scrabble justice 2

4. Each of us wanted to make the right decision. There were strong personalities on the jury, but we all wanted to end up at the right decision based on the evidence given. It was difficult to do this with only the evidence given. Many of us thought around the bigger picture the evidence indicated, which made it hard not to speculate.

Lesson learned: It’s not easy to decide another person’s fate. Okay, maybe it is sometimes. But in this situation, where some details were incomplete or gray, knowing our decision impacted the defendant weighed on us.

5. I appreciated the demeanor of the judge and the lawyers. They were organized, professional, but also approachable. After the trial ended, they asked us for our feedback about how they could have done things better. They were level-headed and calm from beginning to end of the process.

Lesson learned: When in a position of power, humility and calmness go a long ways toward gaining respect and getting things done.

Though I’ve been summoned five times, this is my first opportunity to actually serve on a jury. Yes, it was an inconvenience on my schedule. But, I would do it again, if called upon. And I’d go into the situation with lots of prayer. We never know how our decisions will impact others.

What about you? What have your experiences been when you’ve answered the summons for jury duty? What lessons have you learned through the jury duty process?

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12 thoughts on “Jury Duty: Lessons Learned in Court

  1. I, too, have served on jury duty. Twice. And each time, I was on a case. I echo each of your points in this post. What I thought was an open and shut case, certainly was not. Absolutely, do not be quick to judge. Our judge was full of integrity. So thankful he serves our county. Another lesson learned is that it is highly advisable to not be your own council. In other words…Get a lawyer if you ever need one! We are all good at something and there is a reason a lawyer is a lawyer! Just saying!!! Also, trust your gut. I was adamant about one situation, and it turns out I was right. Not that I had to be right, but these are people’s lives we are talking about. Fight for what you believe is right. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Jury duty is a privilege. I would most definitely do it again. Blessings to you.

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    • Gail, you’re right that there’s a time to trust your gut. I’m glad you did, for that person’s sake! It’s so important to remember our decisions affect other people. I’m so glad you shared your experience!

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  2. You really brought home some good points. Judging another person and the impact your decision has on their life. I’ve never had to serve, but if I ever do it will be with prayer. Meanwhile I ask myself, do I judge other people in life? How does that affect them? Me? On what do I judge~ appearance? Speech? Actions? God is my judge~ on what does He judge me?

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    • Mom, good points. We need to be careful not to judge others by what we can see of their lives. God knows their hearts. And we are not their judge. God knows the full story. God will judge us by the same standard we use to judge others. Yikes!

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  3. When I lived in California, I received potential summons, but never had to report. That was always a relief. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by TV; I expect lots of arguing, and I don’t like listening to arguing. Back in Wisconsin, a family friend served on a jury and enjoyed it. She hoped to do it again. Hmm.

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    • Terri, I can’t say for sure, but I bet there is a lot that goes into the mix of a volatile courtroom. The lawyers, the judge, the facts of the case being judged . . . I imagine that most of the time, cases are conducted in an orderly manner. Of course, I’ve only been on one jury, so I can’t prove that point. 🙂 If you ever get to serve, try to dismiss pre-conceived notions. 🙂

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  4. Good thoughts and love the lessons you learned. I actually have a summons (I have successfully gotten out of any previous summon requests) in hand so I really appreciate this post. Blessings.

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  5. I’ve only been called once. I sat through the selection process but wasn’t one of the final 13. (Probably a good thing, as I was 8 months pregnant…) I loved watching the process and reflecting about our role in government. I wish there was a way to make jury duty less of a hassle – I do believe it’s an amazing honor and something people should be able to do more willingly.

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    • I like your perspective about jury duty, Annie. I firmly believe God knows who needs to be on each jury. I have never tried to be on a jury, but the two times I I came close/was on the trial (this most recent time), I left it up to God to determine if I would or wouldn’t be on the jury. The first time was for a capital murder trial, and my hubby and I were eight weeks away from moving, and the trial was slated to go for six weeks. God knew what needed to happen in that case too. 🙂

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  6. Jeanne, I have yet to serve on a jury. Since I homeschool, that has helped me sneak out of it. But now the girls are older … they can stay home alone! So, I sort of dread that letter coming. But you made me think twice about it. I don’t think I’ll dread it as much now. When I see it, I’ll probably think about you and your sweet words.

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