The day after returning home from the Pastors' Retreat we went to the post office to retrieve our mail. Along with all the bills and other junk there was an official looking envelope for me from the county. Surely not. I had received a jury questionnaire a few weeks prior. I filled it out, writing in the comments section that I was a stay-at-home-mother to four children, including a child under the age of 5. I've always been excused before for stating that, so I was surprised to get this notice saying I had to report for jury duty.
I first saw the notice on a Thursday night to report the following Tuesday morning. I thought about calling in to get it postponed, but a quick look at the calendar told me there was no better time than the present. A very gracious friend and fellow homeschooler of 5 agreed to watch my 4 until The Man would be home about 1 p.m.
I, along with about 70 other people, showed up at the courthouse about 8:45. Every available seat, including the jury box, was full. People kept coming in and standing in the aisle. I saw one man sitting by himself at a desk. "I hope he's not the defendant, " I thought. "He looks guilty."
It turns out he was the defendant. The judge presented the non-disputed facts of the case. "L" was a known drug user. "L" was accused of being involved several years ago (7 or 8?) in the murder of "H," a known drug dealer. The judge went on to list the names on the witness list. We all had to go upstairs to fill out either a questionnaire or a hardship form. Those that filled out the questionnaire (do you know defendant, witnesses, etc.) had to reappear at 9 the next morning for jury selection. Those that filled out the hardship form had to come back at 1 that day to see if they would be let go or made to fill out the questionnaire.
The judge had told us to expect a 3-6 week trial. I filled out the hardship form. Due to childcare and homeschooling issues, I stated that it would not be feasible for me to serve for that duration. I was excused.
Since I wasn't going to be on the jury I came home and checked the Internet for any information on the defendant or case. It bugged me that the murder had happened so long ago, but the man was just now being tried...ah...by the time he was connected to the murder he was already doing time for another violent crime.
I checked the county court system (Google your county and court docket, enter your name or those of your friends' and find everything from traffic tickets to small claims cases to worse) and found out that this man had a long record. Is he guilty of murder? I don't know. But he looked guilty. Does that make him guilty? No. Would looking innocent make him innocent? No.
I am glad that I'm not one of those responsible for determining whether or not he is guilty in the current case. It did make me wonder: should I ever be accused of a crime (TOTALLY hypothetical), who would be in the jury of my peers? Would half of the pool vie to be excused out of inconvenience? Would my fate be in the hands of those who had nothing better to do that day? Would I look innocent? Since this is MY hypothetical instance, we are going to assume...no, we KNOW...that I am innocent. But would they know that?