Paul's Internet Landfill/ demons/ Jury Duty

Jury Duty

I hope that I won't get in trouble for saying that I have been summoned for jury duty, and that there is some possibility that I might have to sit in and observe a trial and pass judgement on a fellow human being. I will get to see the legal system in action, and the police won't even have to arrest me! Wow. I can hardly contain my excitement. Honest.

There are a number of reasons I think that our legal system is messed up. For one thing, it is (despite the supposed role of the Crown lawyer) an adversarial system. For another thing, it is very imprecise and hinges on the assumption that people cannot be depended upon to tell the truth, which is why we have an incredibly convoluted method of determining whether we have enough evidence to suspect that an accused person has committed a crime. The method does not always work, it is based upon nearly impossible ideals and it has been corrupted by people who just want to make a buck more than they care about justice. Fine. Ignore all that. I'll probably write something on this topic later on. Right now I want to rant about just how inconvenient this entire process is.

Before I say anything, though, I think that you should keep one thing in mind: I would not mind carrying out my civil responsibilities. For all my dislike of the legal system (which is pretty intense) I understand that I live in a society where we resolve legal issues through this convoluted system, and I understand that this convoluted system could someday attempt to determine my guilt or innocence, and I understand that in order to function -- or even attempt to function -- effectively, our legal system requires the help of "ordinary people." What are ordinary people? Those who do not spend their lives devoted to the law. Those people who have other things to do and represent (or attempt to represent) a true cross-section of society. Ordinary people usually have lives of their own to worry about. We don't have the time to drop everything and sit on a jury for a week or two weeks or two months or two years. Yet, we are expected to put our lives on hold so that justice might take place. Fine. I accept that. As I said, I would not mind carrying out my duties and sitting on a jury, even though the future of a person is an awful heavy burden to put on my shoulders. Fine.

But why in heaven's name does this summons have to come now? This is a critical point of my life. I'm in my last year of university. I entertain thoughts of going off to graduate school. My last semester was abysmal, so it was critical for me to do as much as I could to try and fix some of the damage by having a really good term. I cannot just drop all my courses to sit on a jury; I cannot afford to come back for another year of undergraduate studies. If I was to drop everything and just sit on a jury, my life could be thrown completely out of kilter. I could be set back in my plans by years and years. So why do I have to sacrifice my future so that some punk who was selling hash oil (or whatever the case may be, pun intended) can get convicted? This is the selfish part of my personality speaking, the part that really got stressed out last term and just cannot take any more of this conspiracy to destroy me. I feel like throwing my hands up in the air and just surrendering. I have already been defeated; must every last hope of my success be thrown away? I've already made it hard enough for me to succeed this year. Why must fate rush in at every turn and make my life harder?

The other part of me is shocked at that last paragraph. It isn't easy for anybody to serve on a jury, I don't think. People have car payments to make and mortgages to worry about and children to feed. I don't have those horrendous expenses -- at least, not yet, and hopefully not ever. I have no right to lament like Job because now I will not be able to get into grad school, because now I will lose at least a week of school, because my cushy student life will be a bit harder. I know that our legal system doesn't work very well -- the backlog alone should be evidence of that, never mind our truly messed-up system of punishment -- and I really don't want to get involved with it.

I suppose that I could punt. Assuming I am not already, I could paint myself as a racist, classist bigot, which would mean that nobody would ever choose me as a juror, so I would only lose the one week. In fact, everybody who I have spoken to has urged me to do just that, because being a juror would be so inconvenient. But I can't do that, and I won't. It's not right. If everybody shirked his responsibility like that, we would only have the lazy and the apathetic left to decide the innocence or guilt of those accused of crimes -- and I personally think it is bad enough already that lawyers run the shop, thank you very much. But what can I do? Once again, I am faced with an impossible situation -- either to shirk my duties as a citizen, or to postpone my life or give it up entirely. If you ask me, that is not fair. That is not justice. I have not yet been caught for my crimes. (No, that statement does not imply that I am a criminal.) Why must I have to pay this price when I wasn't even the one accused of wrongdoing? I don't get it.

Postscript ##

As usual, I was overreacting when I wrote this. As it turned out I phoned the nice people at the Sheriff's office and they allowed me to defer my jury duty. I would guess that this ends up happening fairly often, but what do I know? So I faxed the nice people and hopefully they will be nice enough to comply with my request.

And if they don't, you can be sure that you'll read all about it.