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.

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