bunt sign
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Warning Sign

Every day during my recent jury service, there were several things we could count on. One was that nothing ever started on time, but everything always ended early. It got so bad that by the end of the trial, when the judge announced that we were taking our 3 pm break, the jury groaned audibly. The judge had the good grace to ignore us. He was, in general, a good-humored man who took things just seriously enough, without copping an attitude if everything didn't go as smoothly as he might have liked.

Another thing we got used to was the constant and repeated warning that we were not to discuss the case. Not with our fellow jurors, obviously, or with our families and friends. We were also told not to talk about it with our therapists and spiritual advisors, not to Google the case or the locations involved, and not to look up any words in the dictionary. If someone approached us or if we overheard something about the case, we were to walk away.

We got these warnings at the beginning of the day, before the break, and just before we were sent home for the day. When the judge and lawyers were conferring, we were encouraged to talk among ourselves (presumably so we wouldn't try to listen in on them). But we were told to talk about anything except the reason we were all there.

We were also told not to form any opinions until all the evidence had been heard and the jury had been instructed on the law. Naturally, I tried very hard not to form an opinion. Naturally, I failed.

But I did keep as open a mind as I think is humanly possible, from the first introduction of the defendant to the moment we were finally locked in the jury room to do our duty. All I had to do was remind myself he was innocent until we decided otherwise. That's the law, and I fully support it. I kind of wish the other branches of our government still believed in that principle, too.


Still, I would wake up thinking about the facts of the case, as I knew them. I tried not to interpret what I knew, because I realized more facts were going to come out. Or so I thought, anyway. By the time the trial ended, I wasn't sure I wanted to be deciding the case any more. It's not that I wasn't up to the awesome responsibility. It was more that I wasn't sure the information we had would make it possible for twelve people to agree on what actually happened. It's a good thing I didn't allow myself to think more about it or I would have been thoroughly confused, instead of merely perplexed.

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