Giving You My Mind, One Piece at a Time
This is the first post in a new category that I have created called “Stories Worth Sharing.” This category will be used to relay stories from my past, commentary on current events and anything else I consider “worthy” enough to be shared.
This particular post was inspired by an Internet meme going around about the composition of juries. I posted the meme to my Facebook feed if you want to see the original inspiration.
My story is different, but interesting nonetheless. I have been called to jury service 10 times, but I have never been selected to serve on a jury. Now, I realize that most people would give an unused limb to get out of jury duty, but I consider it to be one of the greatest responsibilities we have as voters in this country, and I would proudly serve. But I know that I never will, and here is why.
First, a few statistics: I’ve been called for jury selection ten times, five in the state of California, two in the state of Texas, once in the state of Washington, and twice in the state of Georiga. Of those ten times, I made it to final jury selection eight times. In those cases, one ended in a plea deal and all were dismissed, I was dismissed by the defense six times, and once by the prosecution.
Today’s tale centers on the last two jury summons, which occurred in Forsyth County, FA, Judge Bagley presiding. You’ll understand why the judge is important later in this episode.
The first time I was called to serve was before the new jury quarters had been built, and the room held (overflowing) about 70 people. When I looked about the room, there was not a single person of color there. Not one.
When we filed into the courtroom for screening, the defendant was an African American male, charged with aggravated kidnapping, theft, etc. The crime was car-jacking a white woman and forcing her to drive to an ATM machine and withdraw cash. She was released unharmed, but a gun was used in the commission of the crime.
One of my first thoughts was, “My God, how can this man get a trial of a jury by his peers, this room is filled with crusty old white men” (there were only six women in the pool of 30 potential jurors).
After the initial screening questions for disqualification for profession, conflict of interest, history of being a victim of violent crime, etc., it was time for the individual juror questioning.
Now, I was seated in the second row, within the first 12 people to be questioned, so odds were good that I would serve as even if they had not used any of their disqualifications yet (each side gets two), I would at least be questioned.
When it got to be my turn, the first question that the prosecutor asked me was, “Have you ever served on a jury before?” My response to her was, “No, this is the ninth time I have been called, but I have never served.”
Her next question was, “Why do you think that is?” I responded as follows:
“Because I am intelligent, logical and persuasive and I understand that a jury is not bound by rule of law and can make a decision based solely on whether or not they feel the crime was justified. A single juror can lead an entire panel to vote in their point of view simply by being able to argue the case better than either set of lawyers.”
I was immediately dismissed by the prosecution, the defense attorney didn’t even get a chance to question me. I locked eyes with him, and we both smiled. This was a huge signal to both of us that she had no case against his client, and that I had just given him a big clue as to how this case might turn out for his client.
Fast forward almost three years later. By now, the new jury holding room had been completed and there were probably 300 jurors in the overall pool. This time there were a couple of Asian Americans and maybe a half a dozen Hispanics, but still no African Americans in the room. We were divided into groups of 30 again and sent to our respective courtrooms for interviews.
I’m talking about the numbers here because it’s significant to note that if Judge Bagley only saw one group of jurors 50 weeks out of the year, and at least two years had passed, that’s a minimum of 3000 jurors since I had been in his courtroom.
As we filed into the courtroom, Judge Bagley put his hand over the microphone and leaned over to the court reporter and said, “Ahhh, Ms. White is here, this should get interesting.”
They reached a plea deal during the lunch break and I didn’t make it to questionining this time, but I felt honored that Judge Bagley remembered me after all the time that had passed. I guess that’s how you make an impression on someone.