Lessons Learned While Sitting in the Jury Box

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As they called each name, one by one, we stood, walked across the room, and filled the chairs in the enclosed section. We had no idea what we were doing. We had no idea of the identities of the other 13 chosen people.

All we knew was that we were chosen.

Chosen for the jury. {Now you know where I’ve been for the past 3 weeks!}

Jury DutyOnce everything was ready to begin, the judge informed us that this case might last two to three weeks. At that moment, we realized we would be walking a tough road. Bosses were called, families were informed, clients were put on hold. Life as we knew it came to a screeching halt.

And the case began. Lawyers for the Plaintiff (a family who had lost their father to cancer caused by asbestos) and the Defense (Ford Motors, Inc and Volkswagen of America) wanted to sway our emotions and thinking. They battled it out. They brought in expert witnesses that cost hundreds of dollars per hour. Pictures were flashed on the screen. Science data that showed two sides of an argument was thrown at us in the hopes that some of the numbers might stick into our brains.

Please do not think that we, the jury, sat in the courtroom all day listening to lawyers present their causes. On the contrary, there was quite a bit of down time when we were sequestered in a back room…for H.O.U.R.S…and not allowed to speak about the one thing we all had in common.

And there in lies the lessons we learned. It wasn’t the evidence, although it was important. It wasn’t figuring out truth vs. smoke and mirrors, although it was hard to wade through. Nope. These lessons involved coffee, cards, and laughter.

Lessons Learned While Sitting in the Jury Box {Sort of}

1. Attitude is Everything – Everyone knows that negativity spreads. The idea of jury duty is a noble one. But once chosen, the reality hits that all life stops for the days needed to complete the court case. So how should one respond? Anger? Frustration? Irritability? There was some of that at times, I suppose. But the group I was with decided to respond differently. I saw flexibility, encouragement, and understanding from each person in the group. And laughter. LOTS and lots of laughter!

2. Some days there just isn’t enough coffee in the world – Once the trial began, we bounced between the court room and the jury room like lemmings. Realizing we would be doing this, and listening to lawyers drone on and on for D.A.Y.S, birthed the idea of needing coffee on a regular basis. The words, “I have a Keurig I can bring in,” brought grins to faces. Yes, we got the coffee pot through security and everyone chipped in to bring their favorite flavors of the liquid gold.

3. Court coffee = Military grade coffee – When the judge was swearing us in he made the comment that we would be provided with plenty of free coffee, although it tasted like military grade coffee. Once the judge heard we had a Keurig in the jury room, he asked for coffee….at least two times…every day.

4. Trees should be extinct – The United States could save an entire forest if we made all legal documents digital. Boxes upon boxes of paper were used. I’m telling you, three-ring binders out the wazoo!

5. The judge and the court really do want the jury to be happy…to a point – We the jury felt appreciated. We were given thanks a number of times. We had lunch provided and snacks given. During deliberations we were allowed to take a break and go out onto a patio for about 5 minutes. But our phones were taken away. No newspapers. No magazines. No TV. And the day we thought we’d be cute and all dress alike almost caused a mistrial. {I recommend that you do not do that when you are on a jury.} But the Bailiffs understand that jurors are sacrificing many aspects of life to be a part of the justice system and so ours tried to make life as calm and “fun” as possible.

6. Knowledge is power…AND lots of money – These lawyers knew what they were doing. The so called “experts” they called as witnesses also knew what they were doing. These experts were earning anywhere from $250-$700 per HOUR. I wonder how I can become an expert witness???

7. The Wobble – If you have a Soul Line Dancing Coach in the mix, then you must learn how to do The Wobble. Someone found the music, half the jurors lined up after a stressful day of sitting and listening…and they Wobbled. And yes, the Bailiff walked in on us. Apparently people don’t dance on jury duty. She was shocked! Once she lifted her jaw off the floor, we were “hushed” and told to calm down.

8. Common Suffering Brings Unity – All 14 of us were in a stinky situation. Some of us were losing money because no work equals no pay. Some of us were having to work long hours at night to make up for lost time. I had to have my husband take care of the kids and scrounge for others to help out. A few worked through lunch when our technical “toys” were given back to us. For three weeks we shared one table. We represented different belief systems, education, professions, and ages, but we still chose to walk together toward a common goal. We celebrated a birthday, we beat each other at card games, and even though newspapers were banned, somehow the horoscopes always managed to make their way onto the table.

jury duty

Celebrating a birthday!!

The three weeks of jury duty were incredibly hard, but through this experience I have gained wonderful friendships. No one else will have this experience but the 14 of us. No one else will understand the inside jokes. No one else will comprehend the details of asbestos, mechanics, brakes, and hard deliberations quite like the group of us.

A few of my Juror Friends agreed to share some of their lessons learned with you. And be sure to leave a comment below if you have your own jury story!

From Juror # 165: Jury Duty…One ridiculously long five-minute break!

From Juror #55: “Are you aware” this has been a major learning experience? “Plus” I made 13 new friends.

From Juror #125: Enjoyed doing and teaching my passion during one of our “five-minute” breaks…Soul Line Dancing!

From Juror #177: You learn patience. There is so much waiting around, but you get to interact with so many people of different ages and backgrounds. It turns out to be fun.

From Juror #47: Have a sense of humor during the trial.

From Juror #203: The ultimate challenge of thinking outside of yourself on behalf of someone else is one of the hardest and most rewarding processes. Inevitably, it’s made me understand myself more and truly appreciate the variety of souls that I’ve met in this whole process.

From Juror #103: You don’t have to think like or have the same background as someone to establish a friendship. Also, even in a serious situation, a moment of humor makes any situation bearable.

From Juror #141: Jury Duty has taught me that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. My reward was new friendships and lifetime memories.

And one more….

From Juror #85 {That’s me!!}: The judicial system is a difficult machine to navigate. I was baffled by technical terms, felt stupid on many occasions, and overwhelmed almost everyday. I was worried that I would not be able to help make a good decision. But in deliberations, even though I didn’t think I had much to offer, I was able to contribute in my own little way and we were able to be unanimous in the end.

And I think homemade goodies can make a HUGE difference!



Lessons Learned While Sitting in the Jury Box — 4 Comments

  1. Great article! I was an alternate juror about 2 years ago and it was an experience.I have since been summoned twice, thankfully I was able to beg out both times. I went to college with one of you fellow jurors. I can imagine how much ya’ll laughed. 🙂

  2. Adding to Lessons Learned….

    Being forced to spend three weeks (and a small bathroom) with fourteen strangers was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. If I had to do it all again, I would, but only if it were with the same friends.
    Juror #53

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