I'm back at the desk today after three days of jury duty on a criminal case--my third such experience, although the first in Arizona. It was one of those difficult cases--the defendant was clearly a bad guy, but 10 of us didn't feel like the prosecution proved that he had committed this particular crime, and that's the only one we were there to judge him on.
A few random notes about the experience...
I like serving on juries, because each one is a unique experience, where you're thrown together with 11 other people you would have probably never otherwise met and privy to details about other lives you would never have access to. For a writer, it's a possibly invaluable look into other lives and cultures, vocabulary, behavior, etc. generally speaking, the kind of people you're learning about aren't the kind you'd want to spend time with otherwise. Plus if I were ever accused of a crime I would want a jury like the one I was on this week deciding my fate--mostly open-minded people willing to consider all sides of the issue, and to engage in civil and constructive conversation about it.
Which brings up the low point--the fact that at least one of the holdouts was one of those people who makes his or her mind up on the basis of a particular piece of information, an early impression, and then refuses to see the rest of the evidence that makes that first impression not actually true. People aren't always who we think they are. Sometimes they even change. If we aren't willing to adjust our evaluations of them to accommodate who they really are, if we cling to illusions about them instead of facing up to the evidence in front of us, we're not making truly informed decision or doing them (or ourselves) any favors.
I was surprised by the number of people in the jury pool who said something to the effect of "I couldn't make an unbiased judgment because I believe that the law is the law." Well, people, the law says the defendant is "innocent until proven guilty." There is no law, to my knowledge, that says "just because a cop says someone is guilty, that means he is." If that's how you feel, it doesn't mean you believe in the law, it means you're too narrow-minded to base your decisions on reality rather than on prejudice. I wouldn't want you on my jury.
I'm glad I had the experience. I'm glad it's over. But I'd do it again, gladly.