What is Truth?

In these last few weeks I had the opportunity to be an active participant in our justice system. I served on a federal jury for nine days. It was an experience. Most people’s reaction, when I told them I was on a jury, was “You couldn’t get out of it?” Actually, I probably could have. I also knew that, as inconvenient as it was, I was able to serve without hardship, and that I could be unbiased and judge the defendant as fairly as possible. It is truly sad that the foundation of our justice system – trial by jury – is so dreaded and many people seek only to remove themselves from the process. I have been called to serve regularly every three years. I think the longest I went without being called was five years. I did not seek to be thrown off the jury because, if I were on trail, I would want someone like me on the jury. In the end it was not a pleasant process and I endured it. I’m off the hook for the next three years.

Why was it so unpleasant? Well, for one, you are being lectured at most of the time. For the most part this only happens for 4 hours. This judge does recognize this challenge and actively seeks to give the jury many breaks to support the people in the jury from not getting too overwhelmed. Another thing is that since the lawyers are unfamiliar with the level of intelligence of the jury, they tend to repeat their points over and over and over again. It was like being back in school again. However, this topic was nothing I was really interested in. One thing that supported me in staying focused was reminding myself that the result of this process would affect someone’s life – significantly. That knowledge helped bring me back into focus when my mind drifted. The main reason this particular jury experience was so unpleasant resulted from the fact that at the end we were a hung jury on two of the three counts we were deciding upon. So after the whole process we did not succeed in our task. The judge spoke to us all afterward and was quick to reassure us all that that was indeed the process and that what happened was exactly how the system was designed. However, to many of us it still felt like a failure.

What I realized was that this process was not about truth. It was about how the law was written and about evidence. Most of the jury believed the law was poorly written. My belief was that if the law was so badly written that it did not accomplish what it was written for, hold those that write the laws accountable. If it is broken, fix it. If the government did not have enough evidence to prove the case, whether or not you believe this man did the crime of which he was accused, hold them accountable to play by the rules that they are enforcing. In the end, it was an eye opening experience. As the judge kept reminding us, this man was innocent of what he was accused. It doesn’t matter what you think he did, what other crimes he may have done, or how you felt about his lifestyle. What mattered was this: did the government present enough evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crime? If you can’t convince 12 people of your case, then the answer is no. It is up to the government whether they will retry or not.

It is not a process I wish to repeat. Yet, I know one of my strengths is being able to see many different perspectives. This is a great asset in this process. I also know that this process is the foundation of our judicial system. It is something that should be undertaken with honor and commitment. It may be annoying to you. It was to me. It may be scary to you. You never know what you are in for. It may be a royal pain in the ass. Two weeks out of your life where you have to rearrange everything around this process is a pain in the ass. Still, it has to be done. It is your duty and responsible as American citizen. If you shirk your duty, it will fall onto the shoulders of another. Someone else will have to do what you were too unwilling, scared, or uncommitted to do. I will try to remember this the next time, probably in three years time when I am again summoned for jury duty. I hope that you will do the same.

 

In love and light

Celina

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2 Comments

  1. I like your perspective a lot, Celina, and agree that I would want a juror like you if I were in that position to be on trial. That said, I confess that I have just asked my doctor for a note to get out of jury duty. Pretty soon I won’t have to because I will have reached that “Golden age” but for now, it’s very difficult for me to sit in one place for long periods of time due to health issues. When I wanted very much to be called to jury duty, I never was. Now I seem to get called about once a year.

    • Thanks. I hope I’m never on your jury. 🙂


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