NOTE: The first part of this post is a generic story about jury duty.
At the very end, I’m specifically and briefly going to address the case. Just a warning for those sick of reading about race, and politics.
As soon as I was old enough to vote, I’d been hoping to be called for jury duty. At 18 I was a lover of social studies and American history. Also, I loved the movie Twelve Angry Men and thought I would be wonderful speaking up for justice (at 18 I knew EVERYTHING). As the years wore on without being called, my sense of wanting to perform an official civic duty only grew stronger.
Finally, last month my jury summons came and my current life conditions (financial and employment-wise) were not as enthusiastic or patriotic.
From the moment I pulled the summons out of the mailbox I was torn. I was at once elated (Finally!) and freaked out (Why now?). I wanted to serve, but I need to pay my bills. As long as I was unemployed, I was happy to be on the jury, but I didn’t want jury service to interfere with my job search opportunities.
Regardless, unemployment is not an excused absence from jury duty. In fact, unemployed, ignorant people seem to be the jury system’s sweet spot. A juror has to make a time commitment and be completely free from outside information. The unemployed, ignorant are perfect. So, being unemployed, not necessarily uninformed, I sent back the card thinking “Well, if I’m not working, I might as well realize my lifelong dream of being on a jury.”
In the weeks between sending back my response and the court date, I got a temp job and the money that comes with working. After several weeks of no money, suddenly my civic duty dream took a back seat. Luckily, while the Justice system expects citizens to participate, they are very good about not placing unnecessary hardships on jurors. A perfectly acceptable excuse for dismissal is working for an employer (including self-employment) that doesn’t compensate for days of work missed for jury duty. [Jury duty does pay $19 a day which is adorable.]
When I realized what was happening career/jury-wise, I contacted the courthouse who told me I was too late and I’d have to come in and “Tell it to the Judge.” Direct and awesome quote!
The case I was up for is a marquee case in Cincinnati, one of those where the white police officer kills an unarmed black man. In short, this was my dream case for my dream civic duty and I was doing everything I could to get out of it.
Today was my day in court. Because of the nature of the case, there were way more potential jurors than a normal day. The Courthouse staff was bulked up and doing a great job of keeping order. The jurors gathered in a room where the Jury Commissioner explained the protocol and gave general juror instructions. In a room with just over 240 Hamilton County residents, I could see a good cross section of sex, age, and race. So at least that part of jury selection is working.
We were brought to the courtroom in groups of about 60 where the presiding Judge gave us case-specific instructions and gave potential jurors a chance to explain their hardship reasons for not being able to serve. In my group there were people with child care issues, planned trips, health conditions, financial hardships, and a even a horse care issue. Even the hardship excuses were representative of different lifestyles.
I thought the word “hardship” seemed a little dramatic for me, but truly, two weeks of lost income would have been rough. I did get excused. Hopefully though, I’ll get called again. Like I told the guy next to me after he told me he thinks America doesn’t do a thing for him, we each need to be concerned for our piece of what’s right with America and make that work as best we can. I’m still a civics geek after all these year!
And now some politics…
One Angry Woman
I was happier than I thought I would be to be released from jury duty. Just sitting a few feet behind the defendant Ray Tensing in this high profile case was unnerving to me. I believe he created the situation that resulted in him killing Sam Dubose and he should have to face the consequences of his actions.
I’m sure, however, I could have listened to the Judge’s instructions and judged him according to law. He’s being charged on murder and voluntary manslaughter and there are legal definitions that guide how to determine guilt. As a juror, I would have had to put my personal opinions aside and make a decision based solely on what I heard in the courtroom, what the Judge’s instructions were, and what the law says.
My relief is, based on what I know about the first trial, and what I know about criminal justice in general, Tensing may not be found guilty, and I wouldn’t want to be on a jury that had to let him go free based on the letter of law.
I’ve about had it with bad cops ruining it for the good police officers who make the vast majority of law enforcement. And I’ve about had it with these bad cops being defended based on the 2-3 seconds before they pulled the trigger because “they feared for their lives” and not being prosecuted for the minutes leading up to those seconds where they abused their power and authority to escalate the situation. #JusticeForSamDubose