I am not sure that I was entirely truthful earlier this week. I’m not sure that anyone else with me in the room was either.
We were together in a courtroom, having been chosen as the pool from which a jury would be selected. The presiding judge asked a series of questions. For each question, if our answer was a yes, we were told to stand up and then he went around the room asking for our juror number, which he jotted down.
Some of the questions were straightforward. Was anyone not a citizen of the United States or not a resident of the city? Then, after being asked to listen to a long list of police officers’ and detectives’ names, we were asked if we knew any of the aforementioned people. But some of the questions were trickier.
We were asked if we would give more or less credence to the testimony of a member of law enforcement than we would to anyone else. That was one of the ones that perplexed me. I was raised to respect the police and still do, but at the same time I also am aware of corruption on the force, including tampering with evidence. Depending on the impression made by an officer, I might give either more or less weight to his or her words than to someone else’s. As far as I was concerned, there really wasn’t enough time to think through the complexity of the question.
Then, the accused violent offender was asked to stand. We were asked if anything about her appearance might prejudice us. I’m pretty sure that most of us weren’t truthful about this question; only two people rose to say yes. The fact is that we humans are incredibly susceptible to people’s looks. I didn’t rise to my feet, not because I didn’t feel myself getting a first impression (and those do have a lasting impact) but because I didn’t want to offend some of the people around me who would make their own guesses and judgments about why I was answering yes, and possibly be hurt by what their guess of my reasoning was.
And so on and so forth. The experience was both uplifting and depressing. It was heartening to see so many people assemble and take their civic duty seriously. It was depressing to feel how overburdened and sluggish the legal system is. It was uplifting to see an extremely diverse group of hundreds of potentials jurors treating each other with respect and courtesy. It was distressing to think how badly national, statewide and local politicians and educational elites run things, helping to ensure a steady stream of young, violent offenders.
I was not chosen for the trial, for which I am grateful. While I appreciate the concept of being tried by a jury of your peers, I’m not sure that is what actually takes place or that justice is best being served.