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Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

The people rule -- it's the American way

Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2010, at 10:58 AM

"Yikes! You've Been Summoned for Jury Duty!" That's the title of a book.

There's another one titled "How to Avoid Jury Duty: A Guilt-Free Guide." Another one is "Ten Ways to Get Out of Jury Duty."

Don't remember hearing anyone use the word "Yikes!" for awhile, but they do use other equally colorful, maybe more colorful, expletives before they say, "I've been called for jury duty."

It's not something people look forward to doing. It's just so, so, inconvenient.

And when you're called, they don't tell you exactly what you're getting into -- I mean as far as what kind of a trial is coming up.

Might be nice if you knew this was a petty little thing, probably only a jury of six needed, not a real biggie and it'll be over early in the day. Or that this was for something involving harm to a child and you're going to be listening to some rough stuff. Or this involves a death, maybe more than one death, it might get emotional and it might shake you up. Or don't think this is a one-day deal -- we need 12 jurors plus two spares so settle in, because you're going to spend the whole week in the courthouse.

It doesn't work that way. That's probably a good thing because if we knew ahead of time what kind of a trial we would be listening to, more of us might be buying those books to find a way to wiggle out.

In general, people who are called to jury duty do not seem to be overjoyed. So one thing that's noticeable to me whenever I go into a trial is that once they're up there listening to testimony, they're paying attention. Close attention.

I've read accounts of trials where the jurors were accused of not paying attention or of getting into a party atmosphere in the jury room. Well, nobody knows what goes on in a jury room except the jurors. But the ones I've been able to watch in this county, they seem to be taking their job very seriously.

That was the case last week when there was a trial going on in Circuit Court that started early on Monday morning and went on all week. The jury returned to the courtroom with the verdicts late Friday afternoon.

There were 12 jurors plus two alternates. The jurors included both men and women in a wide age range.

It was a very long week.

There's something different about every trial. The job of the jury never seems to be a cake walk -- they make some tough decisions.

It may be the American way to complain about being called up for jury duty but it's also the American way to buckle down and do the job to the best of one's ability once picked.

Maybe it's the word "duty" that makes the job sound like drudgery. It's actually an honor to serve on a jury, an opportunity to directly participate in the criminal justice system and represent the people of Greene County.

Lawyers, judges, detectives, investigators, officers, experts on this and experts on that -- might be better educated, might make more money, might have more experience, might dress up fancier, might do lots more talking, than a juror. But it's the jurors, the normal all-American citizens, who are the most respected people in a courtroom during a trial by jury.

They have the last say. It's a powerful moment when a jury walks back into the courtroom with a verdict in hand. The people rule -- it's the American way.



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Anna Rochelle is editor of the Greene County Daily World and can be reached by sending an email to indianarose@fastmail.us or by calling the office at 812-847-4487.