Some jury duty reflections

August 22, 2009

activism / culture / life

I spent the last several days in jury duty for Dekalb County, Georgia, starting on Tuesday and ending on Friday. Because my viewpoint changed over the course of those few days, I want to offer some reflections on the experience. I’m not specifically interested in talking about the trial itself, but rather how it impacted me.

For a little context, I was first notified of my impending jury duty a month or so ago, and was really unhappy about the inconvenience of it. I went to the selection day and spent the day hoping I wouldn’t get selected. I answered the questions, though looking back on them I was not as thoughtful in my answers as I would like to have been. It is possible that some of my answers, had I had more time to think on them, would have disqualified me from serving.

So in light of my feeling of misrepresenting myself on some issues of justice and treatment of the poor and oppressed, and the fact that there are always important things to be done at work, and so on, I was very upset when I got selected. The trial then began on Wednesday.

During one of our breaks during the trial, I happened to speak to Troy Bronsink, who is a dear friend, and told me that he was glad I was on the jury. I didn’t really understand, but then he reminded me that juries need compassionate, critical thinkers and many times do not have them. I was humbled to be referred to in this way, but it really made me look at my task in a different way. Other folks said similar things.

So as the trial progressed, I was able to be constantly reminded of my own role as a seeker of true justice, which I think Dr. Cornel West explains so well when he says, “justice is what love looks like in public.” While I have no illusions about the sanctity of the judicial process, and no illusions that I was engaged in grand practices of activism, it is profound to be reminded that one’s voice can still contribute to justice for the poor, oppressed, and victimized through something like this.

Now, in case you would want to ask, in spite of all this the trial was ruled a mistrial in the end.