Last week I was called to jury duty. I was one of those delusional citizens who was a big believer that every American should perform their civic duty, and I’ve served on two criminal cases. My sheer enthusiasm for our justice system has been completely altered from this last experience.
I waited in the jury holding room for a few hours until I was called into a court room with about thirty other jurors. We were the third or fourth group called to be jurors/alternates on a double homicide case. I’m not gonna lie. My ego thought being on a murder case would be exciting.
The court room was freezing, dark and had this evil/negative energy. I will not say the judges’ name but he was a hard ass. I witnessed juror after juror saying whatever they could to get off the case and the judge would go after all of them like a lion goes after a gazelle while at the same time marveling at this own power.
My anxiety started to surface. I did not feel safe. The judge barked at us that he would hear hardships and if anyone had any airplane tickets or surgery in the next few weeks because this trial would go on for a month.
Hands went up right away. One man had a flight in a week and was berated by the judge, shaming him for scheduling a trip when he needed to devote a whole week to jury duty. Then came the hardship cases who mercifully got a side bar to explain their situation. He was not letting anyone go.
One by one potential jurors were being interviewed in the jurors’ box. They would answer questions meekly so the judge wouldn’t attack them. It seemed he thought everyone was lying, trying to shirk their civic duty.
Then my number gets called and it’s my time in the jury box. Luckily all of the jurors were already picked so they were picking alternates. My heart was racing and my hands were sweaty.
There was this poor woman behind me who started crying. She was raped and her family was stalked by her perpetrator who very much resembled the defendant. I could hear her shifting in her seat and hyperventilating. The judge could care less and made her sit there as she was near passing out.
Then there was the guy whose family was shot by gang members and was reliving that horror. The judge could care less about any of these potential jurors’ trauma and distress.
I started to experience panic. I wanted to be a good girl and not make waves so I shut down which is exactly what happened to me when I was raped and tortured many years ago. My survival mechanism became to just leave my body. I decided that I would just answer the questions honestly and get the hell out of there.
The problem is that they didn’t ask me if I had been a victim of a violent crime so I didn’t disclose it. Then my ego said that it happened so long ago, so how could it still bother me? Before I knew it I was picked as an alternate and then dismissed for the day.
Complete panic/PTSD took over and I literally couldn’t function. I had to get out but didn’t know how, I was already sworn in. The whole weekend I couldn’t sleep or eat. I had so much anxiety and stress that I got a wicked migraine. I had to call the court and call in sick that Monday.
Calling in sick was a huge problem. They held me in contempt of court and demanded I come in the next morning at 8:30am. I went in the next morning at 8:30am with doctor’s notes stating my PTSD, migraines and Lupus. At 9:00am the judge berated me in front of the whole court.
He didn’t believe my doctor’s notes and yelled at me but I was dismissed. He told me that I would have to come back in six months to serve jury duty again
I had every intention of being a good citizen but was unable physically and emotionally to serve. I was literally bullied and punished by a judge who treated jurors like convicted serial killers. I finally got why the majority of Americans don’t want to serve. Why 32 million of us are called a year but only 3 million show up.
There is something wrong with the system that shames and treats potential jurors like they are irresponsible, immoral, criminals. What happened to this judge and the justice system’s humanity? That is why jury duty is a soulless experience and nobody wants to do it.