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Judge Or Be Judged

I recently served as a grand juror. I wanted to share my experience. Before I elaborate, let me just say, it was awesome!

When I received the summons in the mail, my first thought was, dread. I was beginning to think of anything and everything I could do to get out of it. As it stated on the summons, you could do a one-time postponement, so I did. My husband and I had already paid for a trip to Mexico with some friends. They let you put a later date on the summons and fax back. I chose September 9th. Why? Have no idea.

Hoping and praying that they would forget, I curiously awaited another summons in August. Sure enough, it was delivered. I was to report to the Hamilton County Courthouse at 08:30 on September 9th.

Again, dread, anger, fear and hesitation set in. I despise driving in downtown Cincinnati. I knew I couldn’t get out of it again. I had to do what I had to do. I showed up on Monday, as ordered. I befriended a woman as I was standing in line waiting to be checked in. We started a conversation and I started thinking, maybe this won’t be so bad. As we compared summons, we noticed that hers said petit jury and mine said grand jury. The line split in to two directions, petit going one way and grand going the other. I thought to myself, oh boy, what am I in for now? Reluctantly I went right and into the office with one gentleman sitting behind the desk. He asked me to fill out a piece of paper and bring it back. I did so and waited in a room where there seemed to be at least one hundred people. There were not enough chairs for everyone to sit. After what seemed like forever, a man came on a television-like screen and proceeded to give an orientation of sorts. About ten minutes in, he dismissed the grand jurors. We were told to go out in the hallway which suited me fine. Couldn’t wait to get out of there!

There was 44 of us and they said they only needed 22. Yay, I thought to myself, here’s my chance. Unfortunately, they said the only excuses were health, financial or childcare. I couldn’t honestly claim any of those. I was stuck.

After several people were dismissed, 22 of us where escorted into a courtroom and were sworn in by a judge. Afterwards, we were taken across the street to a different building entirely and separated into 2 groups. Grand Jury 1 and Grand Jury 2. It was explained what our duties were. Cases were presented to us and we decided which ones would go to trial and which ones would not. This is when things got interesting!

I began to think as I heard case after case, who are we to judge? Granted, the ones that were considered open and shut cases because of the evidence were easy. It was the ones in the gray area that were difficult.  It is my opinion that only God can judge, however our judicial system leaves it up to society. I am in no position to judge another human being. My past is certainly a little cloudy. I have made mistakes and delivered poor judgement. The difference is, my poor judgement only affected me!

I learned from my mistakes; some people never do. I was able to possibly help an individual learn from their mistakes. It was quite fulfilling! Without prejudice I was able to hear the evidence and decide with my peers if this individual should be tried in a court of law.  Talk about power!

I did not let this go to my head. I was very humbled to be a part of this. It made me realize that we all may be judged by other citizens of our community and hence, we should live our lives as such. Some people don’t realize that actions have consequences and they may be criticized and/or judged by regular people that get summons to be jurors.

This experience was very good, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Elisa Bella is a columnist who lives in Ohio.