I’ve surrendered my courthouse residence
My duty as Juror #6 ended yesterday afternoon. And today, I woke up with an extremely painful headache. Stress (both good and bad) manifests itself in many different ways, and everyone’s body handles it differently. My body likes to bottle up all the pain during the ordeal, and then unleash it in a fury when the event has passed. It’s how I made it through finals in college and grad school and it’s how I make it through huge work project today.
The past 7 days in the courthouse were nothing, if not stressful for everyone involved. The case started within 30 minutes of our panel being selected, and we were rushed head on into the facts of the case with the first witness. We were tossed and turned each day by what was reported, each a small puzzle piece of the prosecution’s storyline. I tried my best to be a blank slate, receiving all of the information simply at face value, and not adding in emotion. I definitely sucked back the tears and stopped my head from shaking in disbelief or my mouth from opening. I tried to keep my eyes off the defendant, just because I didn’t want to see their reaction to anything and let that influence my decision. I took about 75 pages of notes over those 7 days… and I doubt any of my fellow jurors had less than 50 in their hands for deliberations. And each day, I left just feeling heavy. My dreams were filled my fellow jurors and the names of witnesses, and it took a lot to empty my head of all the things I concentrated so hard on each hour we were in there. I listened and shushed so others could be heard during deliberations, and I argued unsuccessfully with logic and reason on one of the counts in contention. No feelings were hurt, no ill words were exchanged, but passion was present in every single juror while making their conclusions. My heart sunk when we walked into the courthouse yesterday to hear the verdict being read because there was nothing celebratory about any aspect of this case, and Juror #5 rubbed my hand when she saw a couple of tears run down my cheek. Too many lives were ruined because of a single act of stupidity, and the only happy ending is that justice prevailed in the end.
Some people mock jury duty and try their best to get out of it. Some of us think our time is more valuable if it is spent doing what we do every day. But I don’t think I wasted any part of my life these past 2 weeks in the service of the court, and if anything, it has enhanced my life experience. It makes me realize that everything I do in the service of improving education is worth it… and that I live in a community where all sides of the legal process are working to ensure my safety and justice as preserved. I will forever be scarred by being so intimately acquainted with the facts of this case, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to contribute personally to legal process.
But despite the headache, there is one fact that will always stand out in my mind. This case involved a do-gooder. A person who didn’t have to intervene, but did. That person saved a life with that simple act, as he/she was compelled to do the right thing and couldn’t just ignore what they saw. For all of the inhumanity in this case, this person’s act seemed to redeem all of that evil with his good act. And that’s where the case will reside in my heart… that despite everything else I saw, Baby M will grow up in a world where good people do truly exist .
As you know, I’m a huge fan of jury duty, for exactly the reasons you wrote so beautifully about. I left my stint on jury duty feeling so empowered, so enthusiastic about being a part of the justice system. Sounds like your case was much more involved and interesting than the one I got!