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Pride of Jury Duty

September 08, 1985

Since the Los Angeles Unified School District does not pay its teachers for meeting our civic responsibility of jury duty and we are forced to serve during our vacation time, I grudgingly found myself driving downtown in the morning madness instead of enjoying the first weeks of my sorely needed summer vacation.

Because of the jury duty horror stories I had heard and read ("Jury Selection's Tricks and Tribulations" by Cecil Smith, Aug. 25) I was convinced that the only obligation I would meet for the next weeks was to catch up on my reading.

This was not to be as I soon found myself in Division 52 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court listening to Judge Robert Lopez. "Look around the world today," Judge Lopez advised us, "and know that this very room is the last stronghold of freedom. We need each of you to ensure that our freedom does not end here." Perhaps because of the hostage crisis at the time or perhaps because we took his words seriously, we did not try to be excused.

The jury, selected by competent prosecution and defense attorneys, was composed of a true mixture (by occupation, sex, race and age) of citizens. Judge Lopez, the court bailiffs and attorneys treated us with respect and dignity at all times. We, the jury, were awed with our responsibility (we were serving on a murder case) but it quickly melded into pride as we instinctively trusted one another, and knew that as a group we could reach a just verdict.

Judge Lopez was aware of everything going on in his courtroom and had a marvelous manner of knowing just when to interrupt the formalized actions to explain court procedure, legalese or the reason for delay. Because of him, each of us took our role very seriously and followed his directions with purpose.

Reaching a verdict was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. But it was made bearable as each member of the jury accepted the responsibility by sharing his or her thoughts and feelings, insight and point of view. We deliberated and agonized over evidence and testimony, and terms such as probable cause and heat of passion, and ultimately came to a conclusion.

Thus my first weeks of summer vacation proved to be a profound experience. I was a part of the system and it had worked. Along with attending the 1984 Olympics and marching as a high school majorette in Memorial Day parades, serving on that jury is high on my proud-to-be-an-American list. His honor is right: Division 52 is a stronghold of freedom and I am thrilled to have been a part of it.


Hollenbeck Jr. High School

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