Jury Duty


How I do hate to see that yellow cardboard post card arrive in my mailbox. No one likes to be in the jury pool, and I am no exception to this, but like most of the rest of you, when the summons is made, I answer the call. In today’s encounter, it was noted by Judge Skeen, that out of the 195 potential jurors summoned, all 195 showed up! I am almost certain that this is some type of record in Smith county.

There are so many things wrong with our justice system, both locally and nationally, but trial by jury is the one thing that works about half way right about half the time. Please pardon me if this seems cynical, because it is not. If you understand the sad condition of the criminal justice system in general, you will understand that this is really quite a compliment.

I see the jury system as being one of the last strongholds of the people, in the field of criminal justice, which is largely an impersonal, bureaucrat beleaguered system. It may be the only thread holding the fabric of justice together in our society. When a jury is given the right information, and the right instructions, the system works better than any other part of our justice system.

But…well, there is the rub. A jury must depend on the rest of the system to work properly before they can do their job properly. That is, that all the evidence is presented, all the testimony given, and all the instructions given, are fair and accurate.

It is my personal belief, that in Smith county Texas, “reasonable doubt”, gets unreasonable restrictions. It seems that if the district attorney presents a case, the only reasonable course, according to them, is conviction. Any doubt, is considered unreasonable!

Nonetheless, I joined the other potential juries with a sense of duty, and an awareness that such time consumming activities are necessary to the survival of our Republic, but I must admit that there was a sense of relief when the official in charge thanked us, and said: “If your name was not called, you are free to go.”