The Jury Summons arrived three weeks ago… instructing me to be in the holding room before 9 a.m. today. Traffic during the commute was congestion-free, so I walked through the doors of an empty courthouse 45 minutes early. I had turned in one page of paperwork and read two chapters of a novel on my Kindle by 10 o’clock, when the clerk finally arranged us with instructions to ‘not get out of order.’ I convinced myself it was my juror number that placed me as the first to enter the courtroom and be seated – and not my punctuality.
The bailiff said, “All rise,” and the robed judge appeared from behind closed doors. After swearing in and a few minutes of instruction, he turned voir dire over to the opposing counsels. Thirty minutes later, the Honorable Tom Lawrence told each party to present its ‘strikes’ and soon called out the accepted jurors. Much to my surprise, he skipped past me and proceeded to name numbers two through five, followed by a couple of more strikes, before identifying the final two members of the five male and one female panel that is likely rendering judgment as I write this recap. A quick ‘thank you for your service’ and 18 people – all seemingly smiling brighter than a half hour earlier – quickly left the building.
On the drive back to my office, I thought about the Q&A that led to the half dozen selected to determine a gentleman’s fate. There weren’t any of those ‘I couldn’t possibly find someone guilty’ answers I heard some of the other six other times I experienced this process. The only question asked directly to me was by the defendant’s side. “I’m not trying to be funny or disrespectful, Mr. Handler, but what exactly is an executive business coach?” When I saw him quickly write something on my questionnaire during my response, it occurred to me that “I help business leaders focus on what they’re trying to achieve” probably wasn’t the right juror for someone accused of defaulting on a contract.
Jury duty is a privilege Americans are blessed to have… yet I don’t know anyone who reacts with a resounding ‘how lucky am I’ when he/she pulls a summons out of the mailbox. There are way too many things going on in our busy lives to take a day or two away from work and watch the wheels of justice slowly turn. Good idea – as long as it’s someone else serving. Then again, if I ever have the unfortunate experience of being party to a trial, I hope citizens fulfill their responsibility and show up at the designated time. I’d sure want someone like me on that jury.