Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jury Duty, Part 2

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I spent the better part of three weeks on jury duty: three days of jury selection and two weeks hearing testimony and arguments, and deliberating. A father was accused of molesting his young daughters. Guilty or innocent, the situation was simply tragic in so many ways.

But in terms of my own experience, there were a few bright spots. First, I got to meet some truly interesting folks from many walks of life. A software engineer from London, the Cockney district to be precise, and he sounded by his own admission like the Geico gecko. A lady who had worked for many years on child abuse cases (and how she managed to not get kicked off the jury, I will never know). A retired fire chief who had served with friends of mine on the Menlo Park fire department. A young mom from the Phillipines. When we entered the jury room to deliberate, I was fully expecting a heated discussion and a potentially split jury. But such was not the case. I was amazed at how everyone, regardless of their passion for the subject (and there were some very passionate folks, let me tell you!) worked hard to maintain a collegial vibe in the jury room, to thoughtfully work through the issues, to receive others' opinions openly and to offer theirs succinctly.

I did not exchange any business cards and don't expect to see any of my fellow jurors again. But if I do, I will enjoy seeing them.

The other strong takeaway was that it affirmed in me a sense of doing one's civic duty that I'd never experienced before. For me, jury duty was something to get out of. It was a disruption, a distraction that took you away from your job and your family. But my boss was really supportive. He reassured me that it was the right thing to do. He said that at Hewlett-Packard, then-CEO Lew Platt really impressed on him the importance of doing one's civic duty. My boss said that so many people are convinced that their companies would fall apart without them, but that's seldom the case. "It's the right thing to do," he assured me. And he was right. In the end, it was an experience like no other. And I felt good that I hadn't trumped up some excuse or made some outlanding statement during the jury selection process just to get myself excused.

And in the end, I truly believe that justice was served. I was able to walk away from the courtroom knowing that we had rendered a just decision, one that each of us could live with and feel good about.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jury Duty

This is my first post in a long while. I've just got to get better about putting my thoughts down.

I just ended two weeks of jury duty. No, not reporting to jury duty. Serving on a jury. This was the first time I've done this. It was a challenge, because like most folks, I have commitments at work, and I thought seriously about finding some way to get out of jury duty. Friends offered me "sure fire" ways to get dismissed, should I get called to the jury box and interviewed. I did get called, and I tried my best to be honest.

But in the end I just couldn't make up a story to get myself dismissed. Thankfully, my boss really believes in doing one's civic duty (he was a career HP guy, and HP President Lew Platt himself had told him that giving back to the community is what every HP employee should do). You guessed it. I got chosen.

But why two weeks? Kinda long for the average trial, no? This wasn't your typical armed robbery or drug trafficking case. It wasn't auto theft of illegal possession of a firearm. It was child abuse. Father to daughter. The last kind of case I ever wanted to serve on.

The stakes were high. No matter who was telling the truth, lives would be ruined. The family was already destroyed. The child, if s/he were telling the truth, would never be the same. If s/he were lying, it would haunt him/her for life. If the father were innocent, and he were found guilty, his life would would be over. And if he were guilty and found innocent, then justice would not have been served.

These were among the feelings that I brought to jury duty each day. Listening to the testimony was tough. If true, what father would do that? If false, what would that be like for the father?

There were a few positive take-aways. I'll share those next.