I have traveled the world and I love my country. Agree or disagree, I will not turn my back on the rights that generations have died for. One of those rights is a trial by jury.
Yesterday, I was called to jury duty. What is most intriguing is that every year for the 5+ years I have received a jury summons and every year, I was excused before the reporting date. That in itself is annoying as my life and business is in limbo until the night before. Why the county is obsessed with me for jury duty is beyond my comprehension. I have friends who have lived in Vegas for over 30 years and never once have been called. Not once.
This year, I reported. While it is my civic duty to serve and I don't mind, as a business owner and the sole owner and operator of my social media management company, if I don't work, I do not get paid. That is income that my household needs. That worries me, not the time needed to serve. However, I went into the reporting date allowing whatever needs to happen, needs to happen.
Once we were taken into the courtroom, the interviews were to begin. But, first - we were given an oath. Already, my red flag went up. We were told we had to take this oath and swear not to be biased in our opinions, because of personal experiences. How can I swear to that when I have no clue what the charges are?
Then, we heard the details of the case. I knew this was not good. The case involved charges that I was once a victim of in the 1980's (over 30 years ago). Of all cases, I had to sit in a case that was deeply connected to my past.
The person I was at that time is not who I am today. I can share the experiences of that horrific time of my life without breaking down and crying or having an anxiety attack. That is no longer me, nor can I relate to the person I was back in the 1980's.
However, to have to divulge the details of the period of time in my life and what happened to me was tough, and in front of a room of perfect strangers (70 of us, to be exact). Being pushed by the Judge and DA's office to remind me that I took an oath to be unbiased, almost sent me over the edge. How can I swear to be unbiased in a case and not know the case? More importantly, how can I not be unbiased? My blood was boiling on a few occasions and honestly, I felt like I was the criminal, not the potential juror. I had to justify by beliefs and opinions because of my past and what was inflicted on me over 30 years ago. Why was I forced to take an oath and then reminded I had to be unbiased on a domestic violence case, when I was not told the case before the oath? Something seems very wrong with this process. If I had heard what the case was before hand, I would of spoke up and told them why I cannot be unbiased in this case. Period.
The accuser might be innocent or he might of been guilty. For me, it didn't matter. I should not of had to of been subjected to this line of questioning and to have to potentially feel I would be forced to sit on a case that emotionally would of been too much for me.
The next time I am called (which I am sure they will next year) I will tell the US Marshall that I refuse to take the oath until I hear the charges and then I can honestly say I will be unbiased. The defendant has the right to have an unbiased jury, and I cannot promise that if I am too closely connected to the nature of the case. I do not feel I should have to be told I have a civic duty to be unbiased, that is not human.
While many will feel the jury experience is educational or enlightening, I found this particular incident horrific, I cried all the way home. I couldn't sleep last night and now I have a horrible headache. I felt I was thrust back into time. I felt like the 20 year old girl who was trying to find help and no one would help me. I never, ever want to feel that way again. Ever.
I was not the only one who felt this way. There were 2 other jurors who broke down and cried during this questioning. It was clear they were suffering an anxiety attack and the questions kept coming. After we were dismissed from the case, a fellow jurors came up to me and said, "you don't look like a victim of a crime!" or "I am surprised you LET someone victimize you!"
I would hope that the judicial system would be more perceptive and when a person says they cannot be unbiased. Administering an oath before we hear of the case is just backwards. There are plenty of cases I would of been willing to serve, but this one - was not a match.
The judicial system failed me in the 1980's and once again, they failed me. I refuse to live my life as a victim. That girl in her 20's is no longer a part of my life and I will not be coddled or even felt sorry for. However, I will not sit back and ask to justify my beliefs, because of that experience. My emotions are mine. My beliefs are mine. It is not up to anyone (legal or not) to justify how I feel or view that situation. You weren't there.
I had hoped the jury selection process would of been more positive. It was enlightening, but certainly not a positive one for me. My retired cop, Father was right. The judicial system and the process is backwards & broken. Yesterday, gives me another reason to be biased and un-trusting of the administration of the Rights we hold so dear. You allow the defendants to know our names and hear where we work and go to school. Has one ever thought of, IF this person is convicted and when he gets out of jail/prison he MIGHT seek out the jurors who put him behind bars? It has happened.
Where were my rights as a juror? I was told over and over what *I* had a right to do, but what is the court doing to protect my rights as a citizen? Very sad, but it's how I feel and I cannot be unbiased and make no apologies for it.
I might of been called to fulfill my civic duty, but I felt my rights as a citizen of this county and country were violated. Our privacy was violated, our lives were put on display for a room full of people to examine and judge. There is something morally flawed with this picture. That's just my opinion, based on my own experiences.
(c) C. Ragsdale 2010-14
Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
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