Monday, April 1, 2013

Emotion: Not Just For Movies

The Husband and I had lived in Massachusetts for a year and a half when I got the dreaded JURY DUTY notice in the mail. My initial reaction was typical: a groan, a statement that I'd act as crazy as I needed to, and going off about how new residents always get targeted for jury duty. The Husband said not to worry - I'd be free and clear from any criminal cases since he was a DNA Analyst at the MA crime lab, and that would certainly be a conflict of interest. So, I had a strategy. I'd be back at work the next day, no problem.

There were three problems.
  1. The case was a civil trial.
  2. After 8 hours of questioning, they still hadn't picked enough members for the jury, so we had to come back the next day if we hadn't been called yet.
  3. Once I got called that second day, I couldn't think of anything crazy enough to sound crazy, and got selected.
Four problems, if you count that they'd assured us most trials last one to three days, but this trial would last three weeks.

I thought I would hate it, to be honest. I thought there would be a couple interesting pieces, and the other fourteen days would be an exercise in staying awake. Then we learned the premise of the case: a Harvard professor's wife was suing two very esteemed doctors, an oncologist from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a radiologist from Brigham and Women's Hospital, for malpractice in the death of her husband. She claimed the lesion that took his life was visible in an X-ray taken 10 weeks prior to his death.

I thought I could deal with that for three weeks.

What I wasn't prepared for was the sheer amount of emotion packed into the end of the trial. While we deliberated, everything was pure fact - could we see the lesion on the X-ray, did we have any evidence of malpractice, etc. Then we went into the court room, and when the judge read the verdict of "Not Guilty," the first defendant let out a gasp so loud you couldn't help but feel it inside you; all her relief and her joy and her gratefulness as she sank down in her seat, that this trial--that she'd no doubt worried over for five years--was finally over. It took me three weeks to get there, but I finally realized jury duty is so much more than a trial. It's real people's futures. It's closure for the past. It's moving on.

Have you ever served on a jury? What was the case and what are your lasting impressions of it?

[For full details on the case, click here!]


  1. I have been recused each time I report for duty, I'm so glad you shared that experience with us; important reminder that it's not just a duty, it's an act of compassion and caring. (Btw, my tiny 70 yr old mom was recently the foreman in a murder case.)

    1. Wow, that's great! The judge for this trial handpicked our foreman after "studying" us for three weeks, and she was definitely the most fair/smart/patient of the group. Was your mom chosen the same way, or elected by her peers?

  2. I have never served. Thank goodness. Patience is not my strong suit. :)

    1. I think you'd do just fine. It's good for character study!



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