Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Check the Jury pool

I was called up for Jury Duty and want to share my thoughts on the experience.

The judge in our orientation video was bragging about how fair the jury system is. The video mentioned a few times that it was so important for us to be there – waiting specifically inside the jury pool room. They had books for us to read, some cat puzzles, chess and trivial pursuit. Twenty odd strangers in the room at  8:30am – it was dead silent. After maybe four hours I took my headphones off and noticed that the room was still dead silent.

I spoke up and asked if anyone wanted to play chess ... more silence, now awkward ... finally a nice older man said "are you going to play with imposant and all that?" then agreed to a match. It was a delicate glass chess set, with a rook missing and a cracked bishop that couldn't stand up. Another juror gave us some paper and we improvised new pieces. Since the silence had broken, people all over the room began talking about their kids. My chess opponent blundered because it was difficult to see the paper pieces.

A judge came in to make an announcement – wearing those fancy robes like they do. The lawyers had settled the case without going to trial, but she didn't want us to feel like we came in for nothing. She told us that the lawyers only settled because of the hanging threat we posed. The thought that all of us random jurors could stop pooling down in the basement and become empaneled to pass judgement struck fear in both sides of the legal entanglement. Our "common sense" would have the final word, no matter what evidence – in fact no matter what the law states. Our jury pool was a stochastic killing ax held high by the judge; and I was struck by the plainness with which it was explained.

They wanted us to feel that our role was meaningful. But like a piece in that broken chess set, I played a pawn in the Massachusetts Court System.

[Juror orientation video]


  1. Interesting... have you listened to season 3 of serial? It's a window into the criminal justice system and the courts... I found it very interesting. https://serialpodcast.org/

    1. No actually - haven't listened to it but heard about it! thanks for the suggestion./