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I remember when I was young, and my parents would get their jury summons in the mail. “Oh man, this is the last thing I need,” Mom would say. Dad got out of it, being an ex-cop. Growing up, I realized most people avoided their civic responsibility. Wasn’t this illegal? It sounded like fun to me, sitting in the court room with all that excitement, seeing all the evidence, aiding in the decision of the defendant’s verdict.
I got summoned for jury duty in Ventura County when I was 18. I was excited. I was serving my country, or at least my county. Dad told me to bring a book, “you’ll be doing a lot of sitting around.” I sat on a cold wooden pew, gazing out the window, reading my book. At 4pm, a woman came out, “Thank you for your participation, you are now released.” Wow, just like that.
I escaped jury duty for another 14 years, until I got another summons in September 2000 – a murder trial in Marin County. The defendant was right there at the table, 5 feet away from me. He didn’t look like the murdering type, yet I looked at him as if he was already guilty.
I filled out a jury questionnaire form. The trial was set to begin on October 11th. Phew, I had travel plans to New York City then. They excused me.
A month later, my father was arrested for the murder of his strip club business partner. The tables had turned. My mom, sister and I sat through the jury selection for his trial. These strangers were going to hear intimate details about my family and decide the fate of my father’s life. His current sentence was the death penalty. Dad’s million dollar attorneys hired a jury specialist. “Believe us, it’s money well spent, she has a great track record,” they assured us.