|Rural Asotin County with Lewiston Hill in background|
I received a summons for jury duty. It came in the form of a questionnaire which appeared in our mailbox. I completed and returned it, noting my age and my cell phone number. I also noted that I do not have a land line. The instructions said I was to serve during the month of April, and they would call me. I wonder if I even survived the initial screening.
I’ve been lectured about the importance of jury duty. Really, I’d be quite happy to do my civic duty, but willingness to serve is no guarantee that you will serve. Meanwhile, it’s simply inconvenient to keep oneself available on the chance that court officials might call. Let’s face it – I live in fear that I will simply forget to check my phone.
|"I'm tellin' ya -- there's somethin' in here."|
I bet I’ve been called for jury duty eight times over the years. I was called so often in Nezperce County (Idaho) that I began to wonder “why me?” In that system, potential jurors were required to call in every Thursday evening during the month and listen to automated instructions. Most of the time the message was simple: “There is no trial scheduled for the upcoming week.”
|Nellie no longer hurries.|
Once I was asked to appear and waited with others for two hours while the attorneys settled the case. Seemed like a waste of time. Another time I was chosen as an alternate. I sat with the jury until it was time for them to deliberate and then I was dismissed with the judge’s hearty thanks. I was truly disappointed to be the odd man out, but oh well – I served as appointed.
Once, several years after moving from Idaho to Washington, I received a summons for jury duty in Coeur d’Alene. (I can’t remember what they call that court.) I read and re-read the summons, finally concluding that it was indeed an Idaho court. I stated on the questionnaire that I was a resident of Washington and asked if the summons was an error. I never heard from them.
|"It's a little cooler on this side of the road."|
But – if you’ve seen what happens when a potential juror is late or doesn’t show – well, it makes you think twice. They’re taken to a room in the back where someone speaks in hushed but stern tones. Then the sheepish errant one comes out holding a pink slip – probably a fine. No, I don’t want to be that person.
|Bess pauses to reflect|
Recently someone suggested that we should have professional jurors. “We need jurors who understand the law,” this individual said. At first I rejected that idea because I have been educated to believe that I have the right to be tried before a jury of my peers. But then I remembered that the last time I was called for jury duty, one of the selection questions was: “Have you had previous jury experience?” Very few hands were raised (“many are called but few are chosen”), but one woman said she had served on a jury in the Chicago area. Both attorneys were immediately attentive and questioned her closely. They asked her to explain the details of the Chicago case, which she was clearly happy to do, illustrating that she understood the case and the system. And yes, she made the cut. I did not. KW