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An Insult to Loyal Jury Members

September 01, 1985

For shame, Cecil Smith! How dare you damn the jury selection system after one incomplete experience (Other VIEWS, Aug. 25)? When our jury notices arrived (at different times during the year), one of us was excited at the prospect of a brand new experience, and the other, annoyed with the inconvenience. Both of us, however, emerged from jury duty impressed with the seriousness of the responsibility and the value of the lessons learned in the areas of civics, law and human relations.

Labeling the system "a massive charade" and referring to Mark Twain's acerbic lines concerning the absence of intelligence and honesty are insulting. Waiting around to be called is indeed boring; performing a citizen's privilege and responsibility is stimulating and serious. Jury duty draws upon one's powers of observation, patience, tolerance and intelligence. It epitomizes volunteer (the pay is token) citizen participation in community decision making. It can only work when taken seriously.

The experience gave us the opportunity to meet and know the variety of people who compose our community: dentists, schoolteachers, postal employees, mechanics, housewives, retirees and students, the kaleidoscope that is our population. We were all pulled out of the context of our personal plans, special interests, talents and prejudices. Somehow, the judges and attorneys had to find out who we were before allowing any of us the privilege of the responsibility for a fellow citizen's freedom and future. Thus, the questions and the excused.

No snap judgment should be made in the courtroom. Your conclusion that "the first dozen people . . . were just as capable as . . . the final dozen . . . " is erroneously made from your own lack of understanding of and experience in the court system. Were you to sit in the defendant's chair, you would feel more strongly about your attorney's selection of the best possible panel of fellow citizens to sit in judgment.

Jury selection is part of the insurance that an accused can expect: a fair hearing in front of peers. We must all be be protected against indictment by prejudice. Finding out who we are through interrogation, is the court's fairest way. While jury selection might seem like wasted time, protection is worth the wait.



Lake San Marcos

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