Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dare to Stand Alone

A month ago, I reported for jury duty at The Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. The judge came down to the prospective juror room and shared the projected length of the trial. I opened up my planner to check my availability- (Because- you know what an exciting life I lead- hashtag: I wish!) and of course my calendar was...blank. Yep, blank. I immediately knew I was going to be selected. And I was.

During my four week brush with justice in action, I knew I would want to write a bit about my experience- but where to start? Then this morning, I realized Father's day was tomorrow and I had done NOTHING for my father, my step-father and even the father of our children. So my mind started making connections. Now, stay with me-- I'll connect the dots of jury duty and my dad in the end. Promise.

During the deliberation process of the case in which I served, I was often in the minority. At times, I was the sole juror that voted a certain way. I knew that might happen. And in the end, one of my fellow jurors- now, friend- asked me something to the affect: "Are you disappointed because the case didn't turn out the way you felt it should?" My answer: "As long as my voice was heard, I could accept the outcome."

Earlier this week, I mentioned to my dad I was serving on a jury. He was proud to announce he had served on a jury three times. Twice, he was selected to be the jury foreman. One of his cases, had been a criminal case. This particular case involved a suspected drug dealer- the prosecution, versus the local police department- the defendant, the charge- assault. Yes, you read that right. The drug dealer was accusing the police department of assault. In a criminal case, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt. The guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The verdict must be unanimous. My dad was convinced the police had assaulted the "bad guy". He was alone in his conviction. Eventually, my dad acquiesced and submitted a unified vote for the verdict.

In a civil trial, as in my case, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff by a preponderance of the evidence-- meaning the evidence is more likely true than not. In our civil case, a vote of nine out of twelve was needed to submit a verdict. ( BTW- I love using that word: preponderance! It sounds so smart, right?! Just don't ask me to pronounce preponderance or any other word beyond three syllables!)

Jury duty ended late Thursday afternoon. Just in time to make it to my fourth child's eighth grade promotion. I talked to my dad the next day and admitted my vote was often contrary to the majority of the jury. And in the end, the court polled the jurors to confirm which way we had voted. We were asked, "did the verdict reflect your vote?" Eleven jurors answered: "yes". I answered, "no".  With empathy in his voice, my dad pointed out he had been in a similar situation. In that moment, I had an epiphany. My courage to stand alone was not mine alone...Thanks, dad.

Happy Father's day.


  1. I am so glad you were part of our Jury. I wanted to hug you for your strength in standing strong during the poling. This is a lovely story. I hope we meet again as was proposed. Rannah

  2. Oh Rannah! Thank you so much for your kind and sincere words. It was an honor to serve with YOU and the rest of the jury--such beautiful people. I was so impressed with the jury's respect for ALL opinions voiced. I will always be grateful for my involvement with you, the other jury members and department 23. lovelovelove, Susan