In my 25 years as a registered voter, this is only the second time I have been notified for jury duty. The first time I was summoned, I was leaving for my honeymoon that very day. But this time, I was free to serve.
According to an April 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of U.S. adults said serving on a jury “is part of what it means to be a good citizen.” On the flip side, 31 percent said jury duty service “does not have much to do with being a good citizen.”
Another study by the National Center for State Courts say only 15 percent of Americans will receive a jury summons each year, with only five percent actually serving on the jury.
Sadly, it seems the odds are against me actually being picked to serve on a jury, and believe me when I say, I would absolutely love to serve. Monday, I didn’t get picked, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I believe I would be a very efficient juror. I’m sure I would pay careful attention to all the evidence and testimony that is presented, and take detailed notes to refer back to later. Well, come to think of it, I would do the exact same thing I do now as a member of the media, however, I do not have the responsibility of handing down a verdict.
When I arrived at the Carroll County Courthouse in Carrollton a few minutes after 8 a.m. Monday, I was far from the first one to arrive for our 8:30 a.m. roll call. In fact, nearly every pew was full of potential jurors. I took my seat on the front row (I was just so excited to have jury duty), and waited for instructions.
I also made friends with those sitting around me, and we laughed and chatted until Chancery Clerk Sugar Mullins entered the courtroom. After a few minutes, Mullins addressed the pool of potential jurors.
“I would like to clear something up,” Mullins announced. “For those of you who read the Clarion Ledger, I’d like to show you something about this rope.”
He was pointing to a rope hanging from a small hole in the ceiling of the courtroom. The rope dangled over the third pew in the gallery of the court. Reaching up, he pulled, and the courthouse bell chimed. The pool of prospective jurors laughed.
For those of you unfamiliar with the recent story in the Clarion Ledger, a recent visitor to the historic courthouse questioned if the rope hanging in the courtroom was a hangman’s noose and stated that it hung over the defendant’s table in the courtroom.
As long as I have been covering news at the courthouse in Carrollton, nearly 13 yeras now, that rope has hung straight with a knot on the end. I have never seen it fashioned into a noose.
It also is far from the defense table in the courtroom, but I digress from my story.
I have covered court news from my very first week as a reporter with my hometown newspaper in Southaven. It is one of my favorite beats to cover. I have covered municipal court, justice court, circuit court, large murder trials, annexation trials, and so on. I have seen many a jury picked in my 20-plus year career in journalism, and I have heard every excuse in the book as to why someone should be excused from serving on a jury.
That was not the case in Carroll County. With the exception of two gentlemen who postponed their service for work conflicts and another let go for health reasons, those in the jury pool were ready to do their civic duty. Several people even raised their hand when their name was omitted from the roll to have their names added.
After no more than an hour, 24 people were selected for service in the grand jury, and the rest were released. All except one potential juror who wasn’t selected to serve but volunteered to babysit the child accompanying his parent to court. The parent had been selected for jury service.
For me, the entire experience was surreal. I was pleasantly surprised by the potential jurors’ willingness to serve, and I was surprised by how comfortable Judge George Mitchell and Mullins made the potential jurors feel with many wading into unfamiliar waters. Well, my familiarity with both men as kind and jovial fellows, I wasn’t that surprised.
I would like to give a proud kudos to all those potential jurors who filled the Carroll County courtroom Monday morning. You have rekindled my optimism in America’s commitment to duty and service. My once Pollyanna-view of life has been jaded over the years, but some of that shine returned thanks to a jury summons.