I received a little blue postcard announcing I had been selected for Pierce County Superior Court jury duty.
In America we are promised the right to a trial by a jury of our peers. This sounds good in one way and admittedly works better than any system in the world, but there are problems with the system which makes it less than perfect.
When it comes to jury duty, I consider myself to be a 3-striker. Strike #1: I have career experience in casualty, medical, disability and life insurance. Strike #2: I worked in the real estate business. Strike #3: I retired as a police officer. Most attorneys are not going to want a juror with my kind of knowledge and background. I know too much for their legal mumbo jumbo to work. They typically take one look and reject me.
Even if I can be completely fair and impartial, I understand the attorney’s fear. In a perfect world, from the criminal defendant’s viewpoint, a true jury of his peers would include 12 criminals. I am not yet a criminal and cannot truly be considered a peer from the defendant’s viewpoint.
A bank robber might think a jury of his peers should include 12 bank robbers. A chicken thief should have 12 chicken thieves as a jury of his peers. You can quickly see this jury of your peers idea is not perfect.
Back in the 1970s I served on a Pierce County Superior Court criminal assault case before becoming a police officer. I take jury duty seriously. After all, people’s lives are in your hands. A juror has the awesome responsibility of deciding if a defendant is innocent or guilty and sometimes what the consequences will be. Then there are the victims. They need to be treated fairly and responsibly. In a civil trial often significant money decisions have to be made.
Many citizens try to get out of jury duty for no good reason. Some citizens try to get on jury duty for the wrong reasons.
Prospective jurors try lots of tactics to be excused from jury duty, one of which is depicted in my fun cartoon during void dire (to speak the truth) jury selection process.
If you try this necktie tactic and are booked into the Pierce County Jail for contempt of court, please do not tell the judge you got the idea from my column unless you want to share a cell with me.
I reported for my first day of jury duty on April 7, 2014, at 8:00 a.m. At the end of the jury orientation, they announced they had 9 jurors too many. Any volunteer was able to leave early if willing to give up the $10 daily juror pay and $20 milage benefit.
While I was willing to serve, I reacted to this announcement like a felon, serving 99 years to life, finding the door to his cell open. I was out the door and down the road like a scalded dog. In by 8:00 am; out by 10:00 am. I never had to go back after that.
I called in every day to see if they wanted my Juror Group 73, but they never did. It was easy duty and I must say that Connie and her crew do a fabulous job of making our jury duty obligation as painless and pleasant as possible.
Had they needed me, I would have been there to help make our system work.
If you are invited to serve, say yes if you can.
David Tunno says
Your basic premise is wrong. Our laws do not “promised the right to a trial by a jury of our peers,” as you claim, but instead, a fair and impartial jury. It’s in the Constitution and the Supreme Court case laws. The concept of “peers” stems from the law that the jury pool itself (not the actual jury) should represent a cross section of the community where the trial is being conducted. In and of itself, that is usually a tall order, but there is absolutely no truth to the concept of a jury of one’s peers as you have been led to believe by those who repeat that message, including media reporters who also don’t know the law.
Joseph Boyle says
Thank you Mr. Tunno for taking time to enlighten us. I confirmed that you are correct and I am incorrect in regards to my premise.