I received a letter from the Baltimore City Juror Commissioner stating that it was time again for punishment. Going to jury duty is one of my least favorite things, just a little less than being subjected to watching ‘The View’ nonstop for eternity. The problem I have with it other than being an infringement on my time, is that for the most part it is a complete waste of time. If you’re fortunate you will only have to give up one day as Baltimore has a one day/one trial system. The way it works is that if you don’t get picked for a trial, you only serve one day. However, if you get picked for a trial, your service can run for a lengthy period as the last time I was summoned for jury duty I wound up serving six weeks on a Civil Trial. It was a case where a lady was suing several hospitals for malpractice. As it turned out, of the ten or so times I have been summoned for jury duty that case is the only one where I can say that our time was worthwhile and the decisions we made were crucial to all involved in the case, as money and reputation rested on our decision. Afterwards, the judge told us that it was one of the best juries that she ever had the pleasure presiding over. Whether she tells that to all juries I don’t know, but from my perspective, the jury that I was a part of did an excellent job.
Otherwise, as mentioned, for the most part jury duty is a waste of time. More times that not you’re called on to make a decision about guilt or innocence of someone accused of a crime and in all cases that I’ve been a part of, the defendant has been Black. What happens in most cases is that if there is at least one or more young Black jurors, they will inevitably fail to convict the defendant regardless of how great the evidence is of them being guilty. I’ve seen it happen this way at least three times, and it has to be frustrating for the State Prosecutor as well as many jurors as it comes down to race and the hangups that many young Blacks have of convicting a fellow Black. The sad thing is that the defendants are released back into their communities to most likely commit more crimes…..Just my opinion as the defendants are not found guilty of any crime but in many cases it’s not the first rodeo in the Baltimore legal system for many of them.
Another thing that bothers me is that the judge will often mention the importance of the jury role in the judicial system and why it’s important that a defendant be judged by ‘their peers’. Ahhh, excuse me, but that is somewhat of an insult as I have never been charged with a crime(other than speeding violations) and have no intention of committing any of the crimes that the defendant has been accused of. The saving grace to all of it if you want to look at it that way from a juror’s perspective is that in many cases, the case never even goes to trial but instead you have a ‘plea bargain’ deal where the case is settled before going to trial. With that being the case, you don’t have to sit through a day or so of testimony only to have one or more jurors refusing to accept any or all of the evidence and again having a ‘not guilty’ decision.
I don’t know how many more times I will have to serve as a juror as I don’t expect to be in Baltimore City much longer but odds are they will get me at least once more. I was able to be excused from this last invitation because as I served on a trial for an extended period, I don’t have to serve again for three years, but alas, that time will be up next year, and I’m sure I’ll get the letter again at the beginning of the year. Considering that there’s a limited supply of jurors for Baltimore City that haven’t been convicted of a crime, I’m sure they have me on the ‘hot list’. Well, perhaps I’ll get lucky and only have to serve one day, but if I have to serve on a case, I hope like the last case, it will be one of real importance, and not just another wasted day in court.
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