A Powerful Duty

For the first time as a citizen of the United States I was called upon to do my civic duty – serve on a jury. Interesting to note that most people do not like to serve on a jury and will make up excuses. Having never served on one before, I was curious. The wait is long and boring. You are encouraged to bring a book to read since you cannot take your phone if it is a camera phone – forces you to either read, write or observe human nature.

It was already 3 pm. Having been at the court house since 8:30 am, I was convinced that I would not be called upon. Court ends at 5 pm. I was proved wrong when my number was called at 3pm along with 24 other individuals. I learnt that it depends on if it is a criminal case, they pick 12 jurors or if it is a civil case, they pick 6 or 7 jurors. The lawyers have the pick of who they would like to be in the jury box. I am presuming that they look for a certain profile that will help their case – be it a jury that will think rationally or emotionally.

This was a civil case – medical malpractice. When the clerk call the juror to the jury box, they ask you all kinds of questions that will eliminate any doubt that you can look at the facts of the case without any prejudice. They of course ask your name, profession, family, and past employment history and if there are any experiences or people you many know that may impact you to have a bias. That did eliminate quite a few of the jurors. But finally they settled on the seven that was finally chosen.

It was interesting to note that the diversity in the seven jurors – two women – one white, one ethnic, five men – four white, one African American. The ages of all the jurors ranged from 20′s to 60′s. The experience was a good one – a memorable one for all of us especially the five of the seven who were on a jury for the first time. Also interesting to note that of the seven – three of us were naturalized citizens – all from different countries – the UK, Canada and India.

While on a jury you are not allowed to discuss the case in any shape or form with anyone until it is over. A serious responsibility, if violated is considered in contempt of court and can be punished by fine and/or imprisonment. I found myself catching myself on various occasions as I discussed different topics with my fellow jurors. I had to tell my kids too that they could not play 20 questions to appease their curiosity and nodding my head was just as wrong as telling them.

The interactions between us jurors led us to discussions on various topics including the state of the economy and the bailout for the Big 3. We all agreed that the rest of the country had absolutely no clue how to run an automotive company and we in Detroit feel quite passionately about our cars. If they all drove American cars maybe they would not be so apathetic. As we spent more time with the case, our personalities showed – the sports enthusiast, the mom – who made sure we had candy, group leader – who took all the notes.

As we came to the last day we were ready for the case to be over even though we all loved hearing ‘All rise for the Jury’ every time we entered the court room. We needed to go back to our regular lives. We made a unanimous decision to bring in lunch so that we could save time and would do our very best to come to a decision by 5pm. The final witness was examined and cross examined and the lawyers made their closing arguments and then the judge gave is our instructions. At 4pm we were sequestered in the jury room for deliberations.

I did not think about it then, but as I think about it now – I realize that women think emotionally. As we selected our foreperson and went around the table making our decision – we were 4 and 3. We would like to come to a unanimous decision but by law we only need 6 of the 7. We went around the table explaining why we chose our stand – based on our belief and the evidence that was presented. As each person gave their point of view – the focus were on the 3 that were still undecided. As each point was discussed and deliberated the gap closed – it was now 5 and 2. There were more discussions – interesting point to note that we did not need to look at any evidence. We had seen it so many times it was committed to memory. It is now 4:45 and it is now 6 and 1. Even though there was an option to go ahead the team wanted a unanimous decision. The discussion centered around how nurses are a passionate lot who are patient advocates and care for their patients. It is now 4:55 and the final vote is taken – it is Unanimous! Phew.

The decision was presented before the court and it was all over. At the end we had made new friends, had a better understanding of all that goes on the hospital floor, had a renewed respect for nurses and learnt a whole lot of medical terms. We had all just played a very important role in doing our civic duty.

I walked to the parking lot to get into my car and noticed the other juror knocking on my window. His battery died and needed a jump start. I did not have one but the court clerk who was parked next to me did. As he got his Lexus up and running – I said to him softly – “Now if you had an American car you probably would not have had a problem.’

At the end of it all – I felt good – did my civic duty and an American car saved the day.

5 Responses to “A Powerful Duty”

  1. Manoj says:

    Cheeky last line. Welcome to the world of bloggers.

  2. mypov says:

    Hee hee. Thanks! Am enjoying it so far.

  3. Gypsy Girl says:

    hey… the new blog id.

  4. Savita says:

    Hi Malini ,

    Nicely written.What an experience…

  5. Malini says:

    Hi Savita,
    Thanks. It is quite a powerful duty – for the people, by the people.