I find it a little ironic that soon after I publicly pledged to soften my judgments in 2013, I was summoned to appear in the 4th District Court in Provo for a jury selection process.
This may be hard to believe, but in my 64+ years, I’ve never been asked to perform this honor! And while many consider jury duty an inconvenience, I was excited to serve. I wanted to put years of watching courtroom dramas – including the classic Perry Mason – to use, but I was disappointed.
While the case concerning aspects of “eminent domain” wasn’t exciting like a murder trial would be, it was important. The jury was being asked to determine whether or not the Department of Transportation paid the landowner the “fair market value” of his property as described under the law. And I was eliminated; voted off the jury; sent packing.
For the rest of the afternoon, I tried to figure out why. Was it because …
- I looked too eager to serve? (I smiled a lot.)
- Because I only made 2 comments? While many jurors replied to many of the 25 questions directed to all of us, I only raised my hand twice to share these important responses:
- “Yes, I work for the state as I am an educator for Jordan School District.”
- “If we (meaning the jury) don’t smile and say hello to you attorneys, don’t YOU take it personally.” (That was in response to the prosecuting attorney’s explanation that no involved lawyers would respond to jury members outside of the courtroom. “But don’t take it personally,” he added.)
- Because I honestly thought I could set aside my biases to determine what was “fair market value” as described by the law? I noticed one of the “chosen ones” expressed beliefs that landowners should receive a bonus when forced to sell their land. I almost raised my hand to remind everyone that such a bonus would come from tax-payers’ pockets. If I had said that, I might have made the cut as the prosecution would have chosen me to counter-balance the “pro-bonus” juror. Right?
- Was I booted because I work in Salt Lake County – home to more liberal citizens than those of Utah County?
- Or because my phone vibrated too loudly?
- Perhaps because I brought Diet Coke into the courtroom where drinks were prohibited?
- Maybe it was because I wore jeans, and the judge thought that was disrespectful.
Who knows, and while I will never learn what excluded me from this educational experience, I think they will ask me again. Why? Because now they have my number, and besides, I’ve read a lot of John Grisham!!