A couple of years ago I went to court as an observer because a lawyer friend of ours was representing a sister and brother who were suing another sibling in a very complicated case concerning their parents' estate. As I listened to my friend give his opening remarks in a convincing voice, laced with passion and drama, I felt as though I was watching a play unfold on stage and my friend was the 21st Century Perry Mason.
I was on a jury once in Superior Court, but it was a long time ago. To be honest, I don't think I handled myself very well. I was barely 21 years of age and still green around the edges. I certainly was not mature enough to make a decision on an armed robbery case. Although eleven members of the jury felt the defendant was guilty, I had a hard time making up my mind. I don't recall the details of the case, except that I was the same age as the defendant, and I probably didn't want to see someone so young go to jail. I do remember that other jury members were eager to go home and put this case to bed, so they patiently reviewed the evidence with me again until I finally came around and joined their position. I'll never forget the scared look on the young defendant's face when our foreman told the judge, "Your honor, the jury finds the defendant guilty as charged."
Last year my husband was a jury foreman on a case in which an obstinate young man challenged a policeman who stopped him for talking on his cell phone while driving, which is illegal in California. Not only would the driver not give him his license or registration form, he locked the doors of his car and ignored the policeman completely. Eventually two other officers showed up to help deal with the problem, but the situation escalated and the driver ended up being taken away to the police station. He was found guilty, of course, but what a waste of judicial resources and people's time.
I realize that the law says it's my civic duty to serve on a jury, and, of course, I believe in a fair judicial process. But perhaps mandatory jury duty should be replaced with a voluntary system. If jury duty were voluntary, I might be willing to step up to the plate when it's convenient, but as it is now, I just keep my fingers crossed that I'm never called.