artist • observer • instructor
a right brained thinker shares her observations and insights through teaching, learning and making.
I just finished my first ever service on a jury. It was a civil case involving an injury with possible damages. It lasted one week at The Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago. From the beginning the experience offered me insight.
The juror is already complete.
The first thing I noticed was something the judge spoke to us about immediately after we were selected. He read us our admonishments, which included the instruction not to speak to anyone about the case, and he explained why… To speak to others about the case, when they had not seen or heard all the evidence, could cause us to change our opinions to be no longer based on the evidence. He even emphasized this by saying they picked twelve of us, not twenty-four or forty-eight… He said we should rely on ourselves and the evidence.
I found this so interesting and I realized that being a juror relies on one being completely oneself, in fact the whole system is based on this expectation. The jury is made up of citizens, which are varied in every way imaginable. This variety is exactly what should be in the jury box. In what other task are we not only told to completely rely on our own judgement, but are prohibited from anything else? How liberating and empowering!
In God We Trust
As I was pondering this notion I was struck by this paradox, across the room from the jury box is this sign. Hehe. If it is God that we trust in these legal matters, then the God principle in the courtroom is pure chaos. To invite in twelve random people and ask them to consider a disagreement is like throwing a dart at a map, going to a home near the dart, knocking on the door and saying, “I have a disagreement with someone, could you please spend a week with us and sort it out for us?” and then doing that eleven more times. Its CRAZY!
So the court places law over this chaos like a stencil, and some of its implied order is elegant. The jurors are at the center of everything that happens so they are honored by everyone in the courtroom by having to rise formally when we enter and leave. We have our own room connected to the courtroom and it has its own bathrooms. The room is very small and bauhaus-basic like the rest of the building, but it feels like a sanctuary of candid unguarded commentary for all of us.
Deliberation and Doubt
Our case used a type of legal decision tree and our decisions had to be unanimous. There were many considerations that lead into additional considerations and we had to govern ourselves in creating censuses for each of these issues. Is voting appropriate? Is voicing and arguing concerns the way to go? Can we really take the average of a numerical response and make it our answer? Yes, yes, yes. We decide, based on the evidence, but, I have to say, there is still tons of grey area all around the evidence…. After two hours of all-of-the-above techniques plus some, we answered all the questions, calculated and assessed the related damages and upon entering the courtroom and seeing the two parties I had doubt. What we decided will be what happens to these people. This wasn’t a case where anyone wins and although I knew that early on, my stomach sank when we entered the courtroom for the last time. After the verdict and monies were read aloud and we verbally verified our consensus I felt better and even though neither party really won, the mood after was celebratory for everyone. The plaintiff and defendant seemed pleased. Mostly I think everyone was relieved it was over.
And finally, a shot of my bike. I rode to jury duty every day. I really miss bike commuting!
Making art so far has not helped me and has not helped others. These two things, quite frankly, in this order is the basis for everything that everyone does. So why on earth have I spent close to half my life’s resources of time and money on something that so far serves neither?
Lately I am asking: