Jury duty is a way to serve our country

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 11, 2012

Two weeks ago the letter most of us dread arrived. I cringed as soon as I read the word “jury” on the outside of the envelope; I knew what was inside.

Inside my fears were confirmed — I was selected for jury duty and needed to report the following week.

A frown came over my face.

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My thoughts began flying.

“They don’t need me. I’m busy.”

“I don’t have any time to spare. It’s not like I’m just sitting around with nothing to do. I’ve got a job.”

Then, as a mostly law-abiding citizen, reality set in.

It’s a scene that is likely repeated at least a few hundred times each year in Adams County.

Adams County’s Circuit Clerk Eddie Walker seems like a nice guy, but no one likes him when he’s interrupting your life.

“I’m just doing my job,” Walker will tell you.

He’s correct. A key part of his role is issuing summons to registered voters to be considered for a jury.

But few if any of those prospective jurors are very happy about the prospect.

So there we were Tuesday morning, approximately 60 of Adams County’s finest, begrudgingly sitting together opining about all of the things they normally would be doing.

Looking around the room, it was clear that the potential jury pool is indeed selected randomly.

Interestingly, the group appeared to match the county’s demographics. Approximately half were black; half were white. Ages ranged from barely old enough to vote to barely young enough to walk — one lady was, in fact, in a motorized scooter.

After a few brief introductions and explanations, the process began.

Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson was the presiding judge.

In probably five minutes or less, Johnson had most of us feeling guilty that we’d ever considered ways to dodge the call of civic duty.

Johnson explained to the group that although it may seem like a pain in the butt and an interruption in our already hectic lives, jury duty is among the most important duties a citizen is ever asked to do.

He challenged us to think about what kind of a jury we would want hearing our case if we were directly involved in the legal proceedings.

Although Johnson didn’t quote it, the words were reminiscent of the Biblical scriptures known as the Golden Rule — treat other people, as you’d like them to treat you.

That still didn’t prevent a few folks from working hard to try and wiggle out of the service. Johnson did a good job in trying to vet out the fibbers versus the people who really would be disenfranchised by the process.

Today, as we celebrate Veterans Day and all of the things our nation’s veterans have done for our country, I can’t help but laugh at last week’s jury duty process.

How incredibly petty and silly to think spending a day devoted to the justice system was so incredibly difficult?

It’s sort of an insult to the folks who have given serious time — and lives and mental and physical health — to our country.

The process was a good reminder for me, and I expect others, too. Our country is great, but it’s only great because citizens get involved and volunteer their time willingly for things such as jury duty. But our country is also great because we have volunteers who put their lives on the line for the rest of us by serving in the military.

To each of those men and women, we pause today to say a deep-felt “thank you.”


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.