For four days last week I traded in my role with ABC Newspapers for a seat on a jury at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.
After receiving a summons in the mail a few weeks earlier, I didn’t quite know what to expect.
To be honest, I was excited to receive the note in the mail, but as I asked others of their experience, my excitement tapered to a dull roar.
What kind of case will I get? Where do you park? Where do you go in the government center? Do I want to pass judgment on someone else?
After going through the process of sitting on a jury through a trial and everything that surrounds it, I’m pleased to say the system works.
For all the cries of injustice that our system is broken I have to say that from the areas I saw, the process works.
Sure, areas can always be improved and streamlined, but for the most part our judicial branch of government is fair.
Checks and balances are always needed, even in the courts, to preserve the rights of all the citizens.
I won’t go into the details of our trial, but everything was organized and for the most part efficient, given the caseloads and other requirements of the court system beyond the regular duties.
Serving on a jury was something I took as a right as a citizen and something everyone should take full advantage of at least once, if they are chosen.
I wasn’t surprised by angry folks in the jury assembly room Monday morning who would have rather been anywhere else besides that room.
Everyone was inconvenienced to different degrees to be there, from unexpected childcare, lost wages or the headache of coordinating transportation during rush hour.
That was a price I was willing to pay in order to join my peers to come to a fair and reasonable judgment.
Monday morning came and went and so did a lunch break as 84 of the 100 perspective jurors waited in the same room.
After six-plus hours we were released only to return Tuesday morning, still waiting for a case.
My name was randomly selected on the second group called and for the next three days, we worked on a case before returning our decision.
Our judge opened and closed the proceedings with a message of how amazed he was with the 1,000-year-old process in that we can find total strangers to hear a case, come together to deliberate and render a decision and then disperse back in society.
He described the idea as magical and I would certainly have to agree.
Of course, lunch breaks extended for 90 minutes, but as he described that time includes many more tasks than refreshment.
Over Monday’s lunch break I enjoyed a sandwich while protesters with Occupy Homes began a march around the plaza square before heading to law offices and eventually a home that was going through eviction in another great form of freedom we all enjoy in a democracy.
Tuesday and Wednesday included visits to popular food trucks (hint: long lines mean great food) over lunch with stops at (shameless plugs) MidNord Empanada’s Cuban-ada (Cuban sandwich-style empanada) and World Eat Street’s Red Curry Chicken burrito.
Both were fantastic but nearly took care of the $10 we received.
After paying for one day of parking, I quickly learned how fantastic public transit is ($2.75 each way).
Taking advantage of the chance to listen to a disagreement and come to a conclusion is a remarkable form of a democracy and the experience is something I will, no doubt, remember for the rest of my life.