By: Scott Stein, VP of Client Services, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
While the nation is watching closely as the George Zimmerman trial continues in Florida, I had my own unique perspective on the justice system this week – jury duty.
Those who’ve been contacted for jury duty know that the call to the Jury Hotline the day before usually means you don’t have to report the next day. In fact, that was the message for three of the four days of my jury duty week. The call for Tuesday, however, was different and there I was checking in with the bailiffs on Tuesday morning.
As I stood in the hallway waiting, I was thinking that I hope the process goes quickly and I don’t get picked so I can get back to the office. It also appeared that most of the others on the jury panel felt the same way. I’m not sure if any of us really WANTED to be there, but most seemed to feel civic responsibility to serve when called.
With fewer than 40 people making up the jury panel, I knew the chances of my name being called for the initial 20-person jury pool were greater than 50-50, so I really wasn’t surprised when the clerk called my name. Sure enough, after questioning from the judge and attorneys, my name was called a second time when the 12-member jury was announced for the one-day trial.
After opening statements, we heard from two prosecution witnesses and one witness for the defense. After closing arguments from the attorneys, the jury had the case by early afternoon.
While the testimony and arguments were interesting, the time in the jury room was most fascinating to me. It was a diverse group – a teacher, a cab driver, one retiree, a daycare center owner – and others. We talked about the testimony and evidence, considered everything that was presented to us. Everyone participated; everyone listened; no one dominated the discussion. We took a look at all possibilities before rendering our verdict.
As a long-time reporter in my past life I spent a lot of time covering the courts. I’ve always been impressed with the way the courts operate in Brown County. Of course, you’ll always hear different arguments from those who find themselves sitting at the defendant’s table.
Having now seen the courts from the perspective of the jury box and jury room, my impression remains the same. The American judicial system may not be perfect, but it’s probably the best you’ll ever find.
Have you ever served on a jury? What did you think of the process?