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Struggles of the Biased and Unimpartial
By Fay Funk
The past month has been among the most hectic of my life. Not that I’m complaining; I like being busy. Between my new job, writing and sewing projects, a band that’s finally accomplishing something, and a million parties both work-related and not, I have maybe thirty minutes of goof-off on the internet time a day. I’ve seen very few pictures of cats this month. I don’t know what famous people are up to anymore.
But that momentum all came to an abrupt, screeching halt this week. I have jury duty.
I tried very hard to maintain a positive attitude about it. The judicial process is interesting, and at one time I entertained the idea of law school, and here was a change to see the whole thing firsthand. And hey, maybe I would decide to set an innocent person free and send a bad guy to jail. I could do some good.
Indeed I was reassured of all of these things by the government workers doing jury intake. Me and my fellow jurors were told how important we were and how totally not a waste of time this process was over and over and over again. While we sat. And sat some more.
As I sat there, I thought about small things, both bad and good. I forgot the charger to my work computer and I was afraid it was going to die before I finished everything up. Not that it mattered, since the few power sources available were being jealously guarded by outlet trolls, and I’m sure that if I went for one it would start a war. I had my book, but I’m almost done with it, and I didn’t plan ahead enough to get another one. I’m at serious risk of becoming bored.
It was not all bad. We got a two hour lunch break on day one, and the courthouse is right next to the mall, so I got my Christmas shopping done without having to deal with any crowds. I learned that P. Diddy punched Drake for flirting with Cassie, and that Chris Brown is also mad at Drake for taking Karrueche Tran out on some dates, and I’m a better person for knowing that.
I made mental lists of common crimes and friends and family I know who have committed them, so if I get called for a case I can claim a personal connection. I have people for petty theft and a few for DUI’s. Marijuana possession was my ace in the hole, but Oregon has voted to legalize it so I’m up shit creek there.
There are big things I thought about in jury duty, also bad and good, but mostly bad. My shoulders tensed and I felt myself shrink down, as the juror intake staff called up those who would sit on the grand jury. I was relieved to not hear my name. Grand jury trials are long, but mostly, I don’t want to be associated with that particular judicial process anymore.
I have a tendency to trust the system of government we have. I admired it enough to pursue a political science degree in college. There is a lot about our government worth criticizing, and a great deal that needs to be changed. Racism, sexism, and corruption all complicate the road to equality. But for most of my life I have genuinely believed that the processes our founding fathers put in place would work to improve our government. We knew coming into this experiment that the government would be flawed, we knew we had to be open to criticism, and we knew we would have to be open to change.
The first time this belief was shaken for me was Sandy Hook. I thought this was it, the horrific tragedy to finally change gun laws, to show our country that interpretation of the Second Amendment has some serious flaws, if not perhaps the amendment itself. And I watched as nothing happened, as our elected leaders bowed to the NRA out of fear for their careers, as the number of school shootings jumped up to ninety-five, as of December 2014.
I’m left very cynical of the political systems in place once again due to the lack of indictment in both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. This time is a bit different though. The flaws of the grand jury system are right in front of me, and not just because I have jury duty now.
More than anything, the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases have highlighted the flaws of the grand jury that I never would have known about before. It’s one-sided, except in the Mike Brown case, when prosecutors took a different approach and presented all of the evidence. I’m displeased by both the rule and the exception. I’ve learned that prosecutors rely on police officers for reelection and guidance on cases. No wonder fewer police officers face fewer grand jury indictments. It all runs so deep, woven together by the systems I thought I trusted, with racism inherent throughout the whole thing from start to finish, not just a complicating factor.
So I am relieved that I was not called for the grand jury. Though I doubt they would have chosen me, had I expressed my newfound distrust of the grand jury system, which I would have.
There is a sliver of good, a remnant of the positive thinking I tried to maintain in the lead up to jury duty. Maybe if I’m chosen for a trial jury, I can be the juror I wish existed in so many other cases. Maybe all that talk about how valuable this process is was more than just talk, maybe it was truth. It’s not much, but it’s something to get me through the day and my thoughts on the process, both big and small.
I have another day of jury duty tomorrow. I’m thinking about the pair of shoes I need to take back to Macy’s after they sold me two right-foots. I’m thinking about the work I can hopefully finish before my computer gives up. And I’m thinking maybe something bigger, something better can happen tomorrow. That I can make a real difference.
#Real #SchoolShootings #JuryDuty #MichaelBrown #EricGardner #Racism #Sexism #Corruption #NRA #Law
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