Readers have a lot to say about the subject. One has a good overview:
This is a classic love/hate relationship. The vast majority of people believe that trial by jury is the fairest and most important aspect of the American justice system. Most would rather by judged by a jury of their peers than by a judge. Most who do serve come away from the experience with a more positive impression of the justice system than when they walked through the courthouse doors.
The hate part comes in because jury service is never convenient. We love jury service – just not this week; it takes time, and all of us have very busy and important personal lives; juror fees barely cover out-of-pocket expenses, much less lost income; it can be enormously stressful to have judges and lawyers ask personal questions about our suitability to be a juror in a particular case; and if selected, it requires a great deal of concentration to follow the evidence and then to deliberate effectively with people who might not view the evidence the same way. So don’t confuse grumbling about the inconvenience of jury service with hatred for the experience itself.
A reader grumbles:
I'm a middle school English and history teacher, and I loathe jury duty. Let me tell you why.
Jury duty means I've got to call in a random substitute teacher. These people have ranged from (all true experiences) a fresh-out-of-college wannabe "American Idol" star who offered my students candy, a person whose foreign accent was so thick my students couldn't understand a word he said, an 85-year-old man who didn't read my lesson plans and took the kids out for PE to play soccer (I don't even teach PE), to a mentally unstable woman who spoke about her bowels. Not kidding.
Jury duty means my test scores will sink. I'll have to reteach lessons. I'll have to resubmit attendance rosters, call parents because the kids misbehaved, and generally clean house. In terms of the extra workload, after-hours and unpaid, jury duty sucks.
What about non-salaried, non-professional workers? Those of us who get paid by the hour, and to whom jury duty represents a enormous threat to our financial solvency as a result of lost wages? Those of us who work in jobs where jury duty is not a good enough reason to miss work? (Even though firing someone for missing work for jury duty is nominally illegal, you might happen to live in a "Right To Work" state like me, where you can be terminated at any time for any reason.) Or what if you work at a small company where your employer can't be expected to hire someone to cover your shifts and then fire that person once your open-ended absence is over?
Under these circumstances, jury duty is not only some eye-rolling bother but a potentially devastating fate to be avoided at all costs.
I’d also like to note that if you are self-employed, like myself, a day in jury duty means a day without pay, since if I’m not working, I’m not making any money (there are no personal days off with pay for the self-employed). Additionally, jury duty is generally 8 to 4. My last child gets on the bus at 7:50 and the courthouse is forty minutes away. I also have a 17-year-old autistic son who gets home at 2:30. Therefore, for me to serve on a jury, I have to find a babysitter for both before and after school. And because my son is autistic, my sitters charge $20 an hour. Can you understand why every time I get a jury duty summons I call up and beg to get out?
Before last week, I looked down on people who tried to get out of jury duty. It's a civic responsibility, and I deeply believe in a fair trial by jury. Then, of course, I was called to serve at the worst possible time – my last week at my job before I moved to a different state. I already had several major things going on, and sitting on a jury was going to really inconvenience me, not to mention my bosses, who were already short-handed. The judge didn't care about that, nor the fact that I worked in the newsroom of the local paper.
During voir dire (the process of interviewing prospective jurors) I also learned I was one of the luckier people in the process. One woman brought along her toddler, even though it was explicitly prohibited, because she simply didn't have anyone to look after her. Another man walked with a cane, and the courtroom and jury area were not at all handicap accessible. The process also involved sitting for long periods of time, which was uncomfortable for more than one person. So it's not just the factor of time that makes people reluctant to be called.
I ended up being an alternate juror, so over a course of four days I had to sit through four hours of jury selection, eight hours of witnesses and testimony, and six hours of deliberations – without having a voice in the verdict. The other alternate juror and I couldn't say a word during discussions in the jury room and we didn't vote in the outcome. We were compensated for our time; we got $15 just for showing up, then another $40 per day for being selected, plus round-trip gas mileage. We also got lunch on the final day when deliberations ran long.
I agreed with the final decisions, but it was frustrating to go through all of that and in the end not have any say in what happened. I would happily sit on another jury, but only if I were a juror whose voice would be heard.
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