Jury duty may seem to some a bit of a doddle, but just because you are sitting down most of the time does not mean it is not onerous. It may not be immediately physically demanding, it is, however, mentally and emotionally demanding. It is almost impossible not to engage with what is happening for the accused. The whole structure and set up of jury duty forces you to confront the guilt or innocence of the man or woman in the dock. Their life is on the line and it is, in part, in your hands; only a psychopath would not feel that.
The Jury Selection Process: A Job or a Duty?
You need to be paying attention at all times to the arguments and evidence being put forward by both the prosecution and the defence. You cannot miss a minute! You need good hearing and a clear head. Most often the juror will put himself or herself in the position of the victim and of the accused to imagine what it is like and to try and understand the motivation and rationality of the various arguments. It’s more gruelling than working as a cleaner, let me tell you, I know from experience.
It is definitely a duty and it is rarely easy, especially if it is a long drawn out trial. The sustained pressure and stress you can feel as a juror is not readily imagined by most people. Usually in life we are only really looking out for members of our immediate family. Suddenly, you are thrust into the midst of a collection of very intense people and they are looking to you to concentrate 24/7. They are expecting that you will deliver justice and the weight of those scales can bear down upon you.
If you are caught up in a long trial, these people, these fellow jurors can become like a surrogate family, with all the dysfunctionality that accompanies most families at various times. On a twelve-person jury there will be several people you identify with, that you most probably agree with, and may even empathise with. In much the same way, there will be several jurors who you just can’t stand, who really rub you up the wrong way, and who you vehemently disagree with. This is reliably true in any group of twelve people whatever the circumstances, but it is intensified in this pressure cooker atmosphere. Do your duty and then get the hell out of there. It isn’t usually pleasant, but it is an integral part of our justice system.