David Pepper describes his recent jury duty experience in his March newsletter as "eye-opening and educational." You can read the whole newsletter (it also includes updates on county business, Pepper's new Going Green survey and the results of his February transportation survey) on his web site . The newsletter should be posted by late Monday or early Thursday. Here's a snippet.
Jury Duty: Just Do It.
(You'll Be Glad You Did)
For two weeks last month, I set aside almost my entire schedule to do something most citizens dread doing. Jury Duty.
And I have to say, I'm so glad I did. It's not only a citizen's duty-it's an eye-opening and educational experience that benefits every citizen who does it.
I happened to serve on the grand jury (probably would not have made it onto a regular jury). For two weeks, I and 10 other dedicated citizens from all across Hamilton County heard case after case, and deliberated about whether or not to indict fellow citizens for alleged crimes. I can't reveal any specifics, but I can tell you how rewarding the experience was in general.
First, jurors are the key to the entire system working. They are needed. And when you sit on a jury, it really is a nice reminder just how much our system is citizen-driven. In the end, the fate of each case was our call, and we took that responsibility seriously.
Second, your tax dollars are paying for the entire system. So jury duty is a great way to see up close and personal those tax dollars at work-particularly the public servants (the prosecutors, the victim advocates, the police officers, sheriff's deputies, court reporters and others) that are working hard to create a safe and just community. I must say, overall, I was encouraged by what I saw.
Finally, and most importantly, as we debate and deliberate how to make our community safe from crime, there are few better ways to understand the challenges we face than to be part of a jury. While too many citizens experience crime in their own community, many others are fortunate to live in safety, and rarely experience crime face-to-face. For them, the issue of crime is of course important, yet a little distant.
Jury duty changes that quickly. Many mornings or afternoons were filled with our collective silence, or sadness, or confusion, or outrage, as we confronted case after case of addiction, dysfunction, violence and worse. Broken homes and shattered lives, over and over and over.
Newspaper headlines may cover the high-profile crime stories-but at grand jury, the sheer volume of troubling cases every day is what comes through most loud and clear, showing just how much work we have to do to improve things. It also underscores the enormous challenge our public servants are up against when we ask them to make our community safer. In the end, they are a small, dedicated team taking on an enormous set of problems that most of the rest of the community rarely sees.
Needless to say, the next time you get a jury notice, try not to groan. Or grumble. Or put it off.
If you are able, just do it. You won't regret it.