Throughout my adult life I have held the belief it is my privilege, honor, and duty to be willing to serve when called for jury duty. I have been chosen for this duty three times in the last two years, and now it seems mostly to be a colossal waste of my time and effort.
I am willing to serve, have the time to serve, and believe myself to have the kind of balanced perspective, life experience, and practicality to see the issues set before me and render a fair judgment. Apparently, it’s not enough. At my latest turn at presenting myself for the August jury pool, I came away with great frustration and the realization that no matter my level of intelligence, understanding, willingness, time or fairness of mind, I will never be chosen to sit on a jury on the Kenai Peninsula.
That may seem to be a fatalist remark, and so it is. It is my fate to ever be ordered to appear and never chosen, held hostage by a system that in trying to find the ultimate in fairness, rejects those to whom fairness is priority. Why? Because I have too much life experience, or I ask too many questions, or they don’t like the way I dress, the color of my eyes, any number of reasons.
Ask me a question, and I will answer honestly the precise question asked. Do not assume that my silence means anything other than that you have not asked the right question. In the instructions from the judge, we are never asked or told to volunteer more information than what is asked. This is misleading. I learned that attorneys will make assumptions, false assumptions based on a poorly-written question.
Have I or anyone in my family … well, yes, actually. It doesn’t matter what kind of case, I or someone in my family has probably experienced something. Let’s see, considering parents, all six kids, cousins and others, yes, it’s all covered, and it touched all our lives, devastated families, and caused all manner of problems. But here’s the thing … it’s all in the past. It has made my life richer and I have understanding of both sides issues that many people may lack. Shoplifting, burglary, grand theft, kidnapping at gunpoint, spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, assault and battery, rape, drug smuggling, and murder, all have been part of my family dynamic.
I am not afraid to share that there was a dark side in my family. There has been alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, and nearly everyone has had cancer. It’s a rich history to be sure, and yes, I’m writing a book about it. The point I’m making is that I realize I’ll never be selected to be on a jury.
Maybe the reason I’ll never be chosen is that I am a Christian, and my faith is my life. If I mention the name of God even once, that’s probably a red flag to any court. If asked, I will answer that I’m well aware of Jury Nullification. If you are educated about the United States Constitution and know the rights of members of juries, I’m sure that is automatic de-selection.
It is a sham and a travesty that a “jury of your peers” does not include those who may possibly be able to understand the side of the accused as well as the side of the prosecution. It also precludes those involved in law enforcement groups or supporters of the rule of law. Nor does it include people who have taken the time to become familiar with and take seriously the rights and responsibilities of being a juror.
With the rich family experience and the ability to assess and understand both sides of an issue, a proponent and supporter of the enforcement of the law, a Christian, and someone who believes in both proper judgment and mercy, I will never be chosen for a jury. And that’s a shame.
When I receive my next jury summons, I will write a letter to the District Attorney and the Court, detailing my family history and ask to be excused. It would save a lot of time.