This past month, I was summoned by the Thurston County Superior Court for jury duty. I am the type of person that is excited about jury duty. Not only am I a stickler for equality, but I’m also an enthusiastic fan of due process—and quite frankly, most (if not everyone) should be. My background in being an active participant in Mock Trial at both the high school and college levels may have influenced my attitude; this was something I have waited to do for the past five years.
With all the negativity towards law enforcement, our current judicial system as it stands, and media influence, I wanted to take on my civic duty with a positive attitude rather add to the fire. I knew deep down in my heart that I would make an excellent juror because of basic knowledge of courtroom proceedings, as well as the effort I would put forth to uphold the Constitution to the best of my abilities. After the morning of questioning, it finally came down to it. We filed back into the courtroom, and I was selected to be Juror No. 2.
You often hear many people complain abouta jury duty assignment. But why do so many people feel like it’s a chore not worth taking on? . I understand that individuals have scheduling conflicts, obstacles in their personal life, employers that are not fully supportive, the list goes on. But some people just plain don’t want to serve. I think the general attitude toward jury duty needs to change.
If I were accused of a crime and strongly believed that I did nothing wrong, I would much rather have the opportunity to plead my case or demonstrate some sort of defense than be punished right from the get-go. All I could think about when I was sitting up there in the jury box during that trial was how grateful I am to have this be an option for me. I am grateful to live in a country that has some sort of system to help filter out those that have done wrong and should be punished from those that did not do the crimes they have been accused of.
The system isn’t perfect, and I’m not going to claim it is. The courts don’t always get it right. Like I said earlier, there is a lot of negativity when it comes to the court system. And ultimately, there are changes that can be made at the local level by the people if they get out and vote in local elections. Jurors are not the sole deciders of punishment (or lack of punishment) for crimes committed; that’s not their job at all. If people are upset by outcomes of a trial, they should look to the judge and others that are elected to be a part of our judicial system. They can be changed even when we can’t change a ruling or sentence. However, it does take some time for those changes to be made.
Something we can change immediately is our attitude toward jury duty. A positive attitude is better for deliberation and better for the overall experience — for the jury and those that are directly impacted by the outcome of the trial. The system has a potential to change when the right attitude is applied to this civic duty. If people realized it would be easier to get through your time as a juror by being less resentful and having a genuine willingness to participate in a thorough and fair deliberation, the process wouldn’t seem so bothersome.
Alyssa Pietz is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.