Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Suggestions for Serving Justice Better

I began my jury duty service with mixed emotions. The prospect of being relegated to $40 dollars a day for a stretch of time was frightful, while the idea of serving on a real life jury was in fact intriguing.

We gathered in the jury room to watch our introduction film. It began with actors in bad costumes portraying an archaic trail of an accused community member. Wrapping them in chains and if they sink to the bottom of the lake they are innocent, if they float it’s a guilty verdict. Next, we learned about the evolution of the jury and judge system into what we have today. Soon, Diane Sawyer was prepping us for our own journey into the jury box.
Throughout the entire film there was an emphasis on the civic duty and privilege of being a juror. For a moment, I was struck with a small burst of pride in participating in an imperfect yet respectable system of law. However no matter how much pride or even desire I had to become a juror, I still couldn’t shake the fear in the pit of my stomach.
Thoughts about projects at work and most of all the financial hardship that serving would cause overshadowed every positive emotion. Not to mention that the majority of the time was so extensively boring and it often felt like I was in hospital waiting room, which only added to my anxiety.
This sucks!
Our justice system is so important to the maintenance and progression of our civil liberties that we should be excited about jury duty. But how can we be under these circumstances?
Here are my suggestions for improving our jury duty procedures in order to ensure due process and essential freedom in this country.
• Most importantly, there needs to be payment reform. Perhaps subsidize employers to provide full wages for days out for jury duty or offer better government funded compensation.
• Schedule cases to allow for people to work a part day. Many people have pressing projects at work and dismissing at 2:00pm would allow them at least some time to work on them.
• Be more courtesy when calling a group of potential jurors into a courtroom- aka DO NOT call them 5 minutes before they have been told they will be dismissed for lunch! I get mad easily when I’m hungry and I am positive that I am not the only one.
• What would help in the above scenario is to provide FREE snack food
• In the lounge put some comfy lounge chairs or couches to create a more relaxed atmosphere
• Maybe paint the jury room a calming color like sky blue and have chairs that aren’t brown…it really did feel too much like a hospital waiting room
• Have more entertainment option: A larger supply of magazines, maybe some board games or playing cards, have more than one television (which was off every time I went into the juror’s lounge!), just get creative people!
• Maybe have a raffle where people who get chosen for trials get the chance to win something exciting like Broadway show tickets or gift certificates.

I think if these suggestions and other improvements were made to the jury system people would be more eager to serve. Even calling friends to brag because they got picked! The real winner would be all of us in this society because the more impartial and less disgruntled a jury the better the outcome.

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