The first week of May is considered juror appreciation week. If you have served on a jury, my personal thanks for your service to your community.
The Sixth Amendment reads in part, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district where the crime shall have been committed …”
Those are awesome words and part of what makes America great. According to Americanbar.org, 95 percent of the world’s jury trials are held here in America.
Years ago, I had a young man appear in court; he had agreed to a plea. While reviewing his plea, I discovered a problem. I told him that I would not accept his plea and that the case would be set for trial.
His wife stood up in the back and asked to address the court. She told me that our court system is why they moved to America. Your right to a jury trial is like many other American rights; it comes with certain responsibilities. Our justice system is the envy of the world … but, it only works when all of us do our part.
Let me tell you a little about what you can expect if you receive a jury summons. Be prepared for some down time, perhaps take a book. Keep in mind that often both attorneys are trying to reach a plea while you are waiting. Each minute you are at the courthouse, you are contributing in some way to our criminal justice system. If the case proceeds, you will be asked a series of questions about your opinion. There is no right or wrong answer; just be honest. If you are selected as a juror, only use the evidence that was presented in the courtroom, do not do any research on your phone. Follow the judge’s directions closely.
Final thought: Being found guilty by a jury does not make you a bad person. Sometimes, good people make bad decisions. It is up to you what you are going to do with the rest of your life. I hope you make good decisions.
LESSON FROM THE BENCH: When you serve as a juror, you not only serve your country, but you serve as an integral part of the justice system, as well. Again, my personal thanks.
Judge Watts’ web page is DonaldWatts.info.