When I attended the Graduate School of Banking, I had an instructor in a commercial lending course that said “Bankers live vicariously through their customers, mainly because they don’t have the guts to go into business themselves.” Last week I lived vicariously through my wife Joanne as she did her civic duty and served on jury duty. Jury duty is something I would love to be called to do, primarily because I am anxious to learn more about the process. Until I get called, I will have to live and learn about the process by talking with others.
For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it starts with notice in the mail, a juror number, an online questionnaire each potential juror needed to complete and a phone number to call to a pre-recorded message on Sunday night to see if you even need to report on Monday morning. Joanne dutifully completed the questionnaire, called the number, and learned that she had to report. Most of her Monday was spent sitting and waiting. She met several very nice people and at the end of the day came home excitedly telling me about a new friend she had made.
About the only thing she learned Monday was that there were 4 pending trials and they needed to seat juries for each of them. Some people in her group were chosen, others were dismissed, and others needed to wait longer. Joanne had to wait longer. Long enough to learn she needed to report again Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday morning she was selected to serve on a drug possession case, and her new friend was not selected to that case. That was all she could tell me, as she was sworn to not talk about the trial. More sitting around and waiting happened Tuesday, with the trial finally starting in the afternoon. She heard the attorney’s opening arguments and the state begin their prosecution. At 4:30 they were dismissed for the day with instructions to report back again Wednesday morning. When she reported on Wednesday, more sitting and waiting. This time there was no information given as to why the 12 jurors were not proceeding with the trial. Eventually they were led into the courtroom for about an hour of the trial, then dismissed for lunch.
Wednesday afternoon brought more progress in the trial as the jurors were presented with evidence supporting the arrest and evidence that supported a not-guilty verdict. Thursday brought more waiting while the jurors were left wondering what was happening. They were finally ushered back into the courtroom to hear the closing arguments by both sides, given instructions from the judge on how to interpret the law and dismissed to make a decision based on what they learned.
Most people do not want to serve on jury duty. They do not want to waste their time waiting to be selected, or not. They do not want to sit through a trial that they don’t really care about. But probably most of all they do not want to make a decision that will most likely have a significant impact on the lives of those active in the trial. Joanne did her civic duty with the right attitude. She made friends while waiting for something to happen. She talked with others in her same situation and learned about them. As small business owners and managers, that is key to our success. Learn about others, make friends no matter what the situation, and take care of business when you need to.
In the end the trial ended with a not-guilty verdict. The judge came in and explained a lot about the case that couldn’t be talked about during the trial, which made the trial make more sense. Joanne actually enjoyed jury duty and learned a lot, and I can’t wait for my turn.