Sunday, February 03, 2008

Jury duty

How in the heck is it already February? January was a pretty good month over here, all things considered. It was hard in the beginning, and again at the end...that's why I haven't been blogging much.

The past week or so, I've been in a sort of fog. It has just been a really WEIRD week. I wasn't at my job until Friday because I was on a jury the rest of the week. Wow, what an experience, let me tell you!

Last Monday morning I entered a small room, complete with a long business-like table and fourteen chairs, soon to be filled with 13 people I had never met before. This room, and the people occupying it, was to be my life for the next four days.

The case we were working on was quite interesting. It involved a "stolen" semi-truck (really sold by the driver) that had previously been sent from Georgia to a mid-western state, complete with close to 70 HD televisions. The defendant was not the man who reported his truck stolen, nor the man to whom he sold the televisions and tractor trailer. From my understanding, these two men are still free, at least for the moment. No, our defendant was a man who had received some of these televisions, along with many members of his small community. It was our duty to determine if this man knew the televisions were stolen when he received them.

I was surprised at how little we completed that first day- I imagined that we would be in court from 9-5, with maybe one hour for lunch in the middle. Not so! We sat in court listening to lawyers and witnesses from 9-11, then had a two hour lunch break. We were in court again from 1-3 and then the day was done!

Tuesday and Wednesday seemed a bit longer, but we still had reasonably long breaks. Not once did we break for less than 1/2 hour, and one day we had a 2.5 hour lunch break. During this time I got to know my fellow jurors, so that was neat! On Tuesday one of the other women and I walked to the largest library in the metro area. I had never been there before, but it's huge. Of course, I couldn't walk out of the library without a pile of books-- this time, there was a Christian fiction novel, a few baby name books, and three books on traveling to Belize.

On Wednesday a fellow juror and I had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Truly, I'm an American girl when it comes to food, preferring pizza and chicken to Chinese, Hungarian, or Vietnamese cuisine. However, the woman who invited me was a homeschooling mom, a strong Christian, and willing to accept the children God blessed her family with. We had much in common and I was eager to talk to her, so I took a chance and went along. I enjoyed her stories of traveling, yet another thing we have in common. We spent over an hour just talking and bonding...she was certainly the juror I felt I connected with the most over the course of the week. I had sesame chicken, which was delicious, and also tried Thai Iced Tea. Oh, my gosh-- SO good. I asked the waiter how it was made, and apparently it has something to do with condensed sweet milk in the tea mixture. It was more milky than most iced teas, but would be dangerous for me if I had it around frequently.

On Thursday the case was turned over to us, the 12 main jurors. Two alternates were sadly escorted to another room, unable to talk about the case with us-- we missed hearing their opinions. It's all so very secretive. If we had a question, or wanted certain evidence, we were to knock on the door leading from the jury room to the courtroom, hand the court marshal a piece of folded paper that had written on it our request, signed and dated as well. He would then hand it to the judge, who'd discuss the request with the lawyers and possibly fulfill it.

After about four hours of deliberating, we were able to reach a unanimous decision- not guilty. From that point, the process sped up. It was about 4:45 when we finally reached a decision, and five minutes prior I'm positive all of us thought we'd be returning to the deliberation process on Friday. We were led one last time into the courtroom, the judge was handed our "not guilty" paper, and read it aloud to the court. We were dismissed and not even ten minutes later were walking out to our case, alongside the now free defendant and a friend of his. We congratulated him and chatted for the 5-minute walk to the parking garage and then it was over. I bid a goodbye to my fellow jurors and hopped into my car, eager to get on with my normal life but also sad that the experience was over.

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Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. Comments warmly welcomed! :-)