Thursday, February 1, 2018
In my last month of my 30s, I was summoned to report for jury duty.
"You won't even have to report," they said.
"You won't get selected," they said.
"There will be lots of waiting around, you will be able to get work done," they said.
Um, no. Long story short, I was selected and agreed to be the jury forewoman for a criminal trial. I was pretty much in shock throughout the whole first day - jury selection and then the majority of the trial proceedings. We were not permitted to speak to anyone - including other jurors - about the details of the case until after the trial was over. That was almost the hardest part. The second day, the lawyers completed their questions and gave closing arguments.
Finally, deliberations began.
Have you ever imagined being closed into a room with no windows with 11 strangers to try to agree on ONE single thing? How about FIVE things? I had never imagined this prior to now, but let me tell you it was a challenge. It took us almost 14 hours of deliberating to agree unanimously on each count.
For me, the answers were very clear. I felt there were so many inconsistencies in the physical evidence and in the police documents that there was no way I could say the defendant was guilty across the board. But there were 5 separate charges we needed to come to a consensus on. And it turned out, we all had very strong convictions but not necessarily in the same direction.
By the end, we found the defendant guilty on 3 charges and not guilty on 2.
I learned a lot about working with others, who think very differently from myself.
how few people understand systemic racism (or thinks about WHY someone may be dealing drugs, is poorly educated (within this first world country), has very limited choices for earning a living wage)
how few people understand the dynamics of people who live on a different socioeconomic plane
how hard it is for some people to follow the instructions given to them, requiring them to set aside emotions or "gut feelings"
how people's fears can guide their decisions as opposed to compassion
how people believe compassion means putting yourself in someone else's shoes, when really it could mean imagining an experience the way someone else may view it, NOT YOU
how quickly people are to judge others based on CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
how few people understand what racism can sound like and look like
how time consuming it can be to try to get someone who doesn't know you to see things your way
how truly difficult it can be to get someone else to remember we are all innocent until PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT guilty
how gut wrenching it can be to pronounce someone guilty of a felony in a court of law, especially when you don't believe the law is ethical, but even when you do
how much work we have yet to do to change the way our society functions.
If we want to drastically reduce crime, poverty, we must drastically increase education. It is the only way forward. I double down in my career choices, and in the way I will choose to spend my professional time going forward.
It brought tears to my eyes once I finally sat down, after I had answered the court's questions about how the jury decided on each count. It's still making my eyes sweat to think about how momentous a day yesterday was for the man whose fate we had a hand in deciding.
I know this blog was created as a post-cancer journal. Here I am, post-cancer, on the eve of my 40th birthday, continuing to learn about the world around me and the meaning of life. I still feel like I can never say thank you enough to those who supported me 7 years ago and continue to laugh, live, and love with me today. I know one thing for sure by now. We are only here for a short time, and so little is within our control. But what we can do is to help others. The only way I can return the love that was shown to me when I needed it is to show compassion and love to others. I will continue to do my best at that, growing and learning every day I get to gratefully do so, even into the next decade. I hope you'll join me.