Just a Thought
By Michelle Sanford, Staff Reporter/Columnist
September 17, 2010
They found me. After more than 15 years on the run, the Office of Jury Commissioners found me. My sentence? One day of hard time at Worcester District Court of waiting and waiting and then hoping and praying I am not picked to serve on a jury. [back]
I had not gotten a jury duty notice for more than 15 years and I naively thought because it had been so long, the chances of them actually finding me again was zilch.
I received the notice concerning jury service in the mail. I love the way the outside of the envelope says in big capital letters: JURY DUTY: YOUR CIVIC OBLIGATION. Instead of opting out of it, I chose to get it over with. The morning my sentence was to begin, I woke up early because we were told to be there by 7:30 a.m. So wearily I made the drive to the Courthouse.
Once I entered the building and went through security, I was directed to the jurors' room to wait, and wait, and wait. Finally, around 8:45 a.m. (tell me again why I had to be there at 7:30 in the morning?), a video was shown to everyone about how jury trials work and what questions I might be asked by the judge and the attorneys.
Not long after, Judge Richard Tucker came in and spoke to the group. He gave the whole spiel about what a privilege it is to serve, blah, blah, blah. About 10 minutes into his discussion, I started to stare at the walls when he said something that caught me off guard.
He told the story of the day he was presiding over a trial and noticed some tourists from Korea who were sitting in on one of his trials. Once the trial was over, he went up to one of them and asked him why he would want to spend part of his vacation sitting in a courtroom? "Where else could we come and watch a jury trial?" was his response.
At that moment I learned that the United States is only one of a handful of countries, which affords its citizens jury trials. Spain, India, and Germany have abolished them. People in China and Cuba have never even heard of them. In England and Australia, jurors are summoned and accepted without allowing attorneys to question them. After Judge Tucker told us this story, serving as a juror meant something more to me than it did 90 minutes ago. Maybe it is a privilege I thought. Maybe it is also a responsibility.
I find it ironic that there are thousands of people who would give their right arm to become a United States citizen and who would consider it the highest honor to serve on a jury if they had the opportunity. And yet so many of us born here (me included) regard this constitutional right a nuisance when it's really upholding part of our country's advanced citizenship.
I never did get picked to serve that day. And in another three years, I may be called again. And yes, I will serve again, but hopefully with a better mind-set.
(But honestly, it would be okay with me if I had to wait another 15 years.)