I frequently see on social media where someone has been called for jury duty. The post is frequently followed by half-joking advice on how to get of it by telling the lawyers you believe in the death penalty for littering or will vote the way the space aliens tell you. Far from my usual practice of snarky comments, I will post a simple message stating “thank you for your service.” Since I am a proud member of Generation X and we practically invented irony, I wonder if some people think I am being sincere. I am. There are large number of campaigns to remind people of their right and duty to vote in elections, and not any that focus on the right and duty of a jury. In a national, state or even local election, your vote is one of millions, thousands or hundreds. On a jury, it is one vote out of 12. Since most juries require a unanimous result, unlike an election, your service is of even more importance. In effect, you can, with your single vote, render an effective veto over any verdict. In addition, a juror has a pretty good idea of what the effect is of their decision, whether to award an amount of money or the conviction of a serious crime, the jury will have personally heard the arguments and pleas of all the people involved.
Thankfully, almost all jurors I have interviewed have taken the issues seriously, listened with healthy skepticism all of the evidence, and struggle with a fair and just result. In fact, I have more problems with potential jurors who try to say what they think I want in jury selection so they can get on the jury, than jurors who make up excuses to get off.
“Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.” –Atticus Finch
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.