A friend of mine was called up for jury service this week. As a joke, he posted a question on Facebook on ways he could get out of jury service. Friends replied with various suggestions such as “shave half your face so the judge thinks you’re crazy,” “pretend you are sick,” and “tell the judge you are pregnant” (my friend is a man). They suggestions ranged from funny to pathetic. But the bottom line is that so many of us think that jury service is a joke and waste of time.
Probably due to my career as a prosecutor and now a trial lawyer, I’ve never been chosen to sit on a jury. While I’m sure I could be impartial and fair in either a criminal or civil trial, I think that attorneys feel I might have some “insider” knowledge or might persuade a jury to a particular verdict.
Since 1994, I’ve had the privilege of trying many, many cases in front of juries. I’ve tried criminal cases and civil cases. Small “fender bender” cases and large wrongful death cases. Cases that have lasted for half a day and ones that have taken weeks.
What I’ve taken away from each of these trials is that no matter what the kind of case, whether the outcome is someone’s liberty or is about compensation for an injury, jurors ultimately take their jobs extremely seriously. Sure, they enter the courtroom wishing that they could be anywhere else but there. They are nervous, or bored, or confused, or angry. But, from the moment that jurors take that solemn oath to be fair and impartial and to render a true verdict, I have rarely seen a juror not take that oath to heart.
Not every case has gone my way. But it is the rare time that the jurors don’t get it “right.”
The next time you get called for jury service, don’t look for the excuse to get out of it. Listen to the judge’s preliminary instructions and the questions from the lawyers. If you think you can be fair and impartial, then let the court know when you are asked.
I’ve never met a juror who didn’t feel satisfied with going through the experience.