Fear and My Jury Duty

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This month I had planned to write about fear and then jury duty happened to me. Again.

This is not my first jury duty rodeo.

Once when I was in my 20s, I got busy with school and did not read the newspapers or talk much with anyone about current events which made me the perfect candidate to sit on a jury for a murder case. I could probably write a blog series on that experience all by itself. Maybe someday I will.

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What I’d like to start with today, though, is how much I rely on and cherish my ability to speak freely. During that (blessedly short) trial in 1995, I was repeatedly instructed not to discuss or investigate the case. I did not until after we found the defendant guilty of first degree murder. (He was something of a small time Ted Bundy. Really.)

In this most recent superior court case, I was again instructed not to discuss the procedings so many times, I thought my eardrums might burst from repetition. Now the instructions included a mind numbing number of electronic ways we should not mess up our empty minds with researching the case or communicating about it.

We also could not discuss what we heard with our fellow jurors. It was almost comical to hear difficult testimony and then go back to our small room to talk about those Seahawks.

In addition to the judge of many words who gave us the instructions multiple times, I sat in the juror number three chair with my legs crossed in front of a laminated print out detailing all the ways I should not communicate and how I could be held in contempt if I did.

I kept my mouth shut until the case resolved, and I noticed something while I stayed mum.

I find it extraordinarily hard to write when someone is constantly telling me to keep my mouth shut.

I’m not saying I think jurors should blab. I’m saying I don’t want to be in a profession (like lawyering) where I feel constrained like that. I’m saying I treasure my ability to speak and write my experiences more than a good number of other things in my life.

And I’m explaining why my blog has been gathering dust on the web.

This month was supposed to be about trying things that scare me. I think I’ve done that by:

1. Passing through security checks multiple times a day at that towering courthouse (they took my lunch fork!).

2. Facing an intense voir dire with potential vocal jurors questioning the process while a prosecutor and pro se defendant asked us awkward personal questions.

3. Once again knowing I might have to make a decision that would affect others’ lives so deeply.

I spent a good deal of time praying for all the players in the stifling drama of the courtroom while fumbling around looking for my own center.

Maybe I need more than a month to write on it or think of what to say with my new found freedom.

For now I’m turning over how much of the story is mine to tell even after I am no longer facing that laminated sign telling me how many ways to hold my peace.

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