Yep. It was my turn. I received the noticed in the mail. It listed all the reason that WERE NOT accepted as excuses. Gave me directions to the Common Pleas Courthouse. Told me to show up Monday, promptly at 8:00.
Well, show up I did – myself and 150 other registered voters of Franklin County. After a show of hands, I’d say 95% of us were first timers. None of us knew what to expect. All of us had switched previously scheduled appointments, left families, employment, and all other obligations to be here for our call of duty.
As I looked around at this “random” sampling of people, it fascinated me. As I asked God to help me see people through His lens, it fascinated me even more. It was no coincidence as to who I sat next to at any point of the week. (Even the lady whose cough could be heard around the world). I didn’t feel the need to play a role, I simply started a conversation when I felt led, approached another when I felt so inclined, and even stole away for a few quiet moments when given an opportunity. In all of the ins and outs, opportunity was available, a purpose was meant to be seen, and a lesson was meant to be sought and caught.
So what did I learn? Cognitively, I learned a ton about our judicial system. I now hold it in such high regard. I learned that life’s interruptions can have tremendous benefits. Benefits that would not have been seen and acknowledged had said interruption not happened. My husband stepped up to the plate and then some. Momma was not home, life has been a bit different. I also gained the perspective of a full-time working parent. Time afforded for husbands, kids, meal times, household chores, exercise, and a myriad of in-between details that need attending are managed a bit differently. People all live very different lives, driven by very different passions and pursuits. It simply was a beautiful display.
To give you a glimpse of God’s plan for me – we started with 150 jurors in the pool. We were to serve a term of 1 week. If we were assigned a case and that case was completed we were done. If we were not called, we were to wait to be dismissed any time between 2-4:00. Within 5 minutes after orientation, they called 25 names. My name was called. After a long survey was completed, unique to this case, and hours of questioning, at 4:15 pm, the bailiff read the names of 10 people. My name was the last one called. No one else was called for a case that day, just the original 25. The 10 of us were then instructed to return to the courtroom as opening statements would begin. At 5:00, the judge announced that this case would take place not only the rest of the week for the full day, but would run into next week Tuesday… The judge asks, does anyone have a problem with this??
Yikes. My thoughts ran to…
Lord, when I prayed ‘not my will but yours’ I didn’t think I would be the one called to the longest service on one of the most intense cases? You haven’t forgotten that 11 people are living in my house currently, right?
Sometimes stating the obvious helps clear my head. God is so patient.
So, the trial went on. To give you a picture, we were located in the largest courtroom, with not 1, not 2, but 3 defense attorneys each representing a different client, the judge was a “visiting” judge who would not be presiding next week, and I was labeled the alternative juror which meant I needed to be present for all the proceedings, but would not be needed for the final deliberation. Truly, I’m not making this up.
So, in light of this information, my week quickly changed. Appointments were cancelled and rescheduled, work and volunteer opportunities needed to be notified, school details shifted, and most importantly, the morning and afternoon kids juggling needed new management. And the beauty?… I found myself rolling with it. My husband rolled with it beautifully. The children rolled with it. Was it ideal? By my standards, no. By God’s standards? Yes.
I learned to truly appreciate this opportunity. I figured, if I was to be there, I would put my all into my duty. After all, it was one week and 2 days. Life could resume again after that right? Today, at the late hour of 4:15, the judge dismissed the case. Yep. I went from the latest juror there to the earliest juror released. And now, with plans cancelled, I’ve been given the gift of a non-scheduled 2 days. AND, I won’t be late for trick-or-treating on Monday! In fact, in all the ironic ways, we as a jury, became close. We were a bit hesitant to see it end and to say goodbye. We may never see each other again, but we enjoyed each other’s company, bonded in the experience, splashed a little joy on one another, even shared a little faith. All because we were open to the opportunity of putting our minds to hearing the evidence, sifting through the facts, and rendering a fair and just verdict.
We even had a chance to talk to the defense attorneys at the abrupt end. We do live in a country that provides a way for disputes to be handled in a manner that tries to be fair and equitable, utilizing the average citizen in the decision making process. A privilege I won’t soon forget.
Have you had jury duty? What was your take?