This Viewpoint has to do with a personal experience that I found extremely enlightening. Summoned to jury duty, I reported to the courthouse Monday of last week to find that—if selected—I would be one of the jurors sequestered while hearing a capital case in Pike County involved the death of a child. The trial was expected to last up to a week…in which the jury would basically be out of touch with the rest of the world.
After a long day of questioning the jury pool was reduced quite a bit…but still substantial. We reported Tuesday morning with bags packed for several days in case we were chosen since we would be leaving straight from the courthouse. As it happened I was selected. After getting to McComb and settled in the jury room we were ultimately told that the defendant had signed a plea and that our services would not be needed after all.
I tell all this because of the impressions with which I was left. For one thing, I was impressed with the selection of the jury. The judge and attorneys asked extensive questions to help ensure both defendant and victim would get a fair hearing. The people in the jury pool answered with amazing forthrightness and honesty—even if some of what they had to relate was of a very personal and potentially embarrassing nature. The jury that was ultimately seated was one that I found extremely impressive. It was a true microcosm and cross-section of society. In getting acquainted with them for the several hours we were together I was impressed by their intellect, sense of fairness and commitment to duty.
None of us wanted to be away from our family and loved ones or our personal business and responsibilities for several days without even the basic distractions. It would be a grueling and emotional trial held away from home. Lives had to be put on hold. But without exception, people were willing to do their duty and determined to do be as fair and impartial as humanly possible. They were dedicated to doing right by the victim, the defendant, and society. Justice and upholding the rule of law was the priority on everyone's mind and everyone took their responsibility seriously.
In an age of cynicism and factionalism I observed people from all walks of life, ages, and races determined to put aside any personal issues for the sake of making our system of justice work.