Poetry Friday – Jury Duty

Today is Poetry Friday, and Linda Baie has the roundup at TeacherDance. We do have choices!

I’ve spent the last two days on jury duty. It was quite the experience. Here are some of my random thoughts about it.


You are invited to participate
in the world’s greatest justice system.
Jurors are the important foundation to ensure
our system works. Thank you for being here.

But I can’t afford to miss that much work.
But I am going on vacation next week.
But I care for my sick husband.
But I don’t want to be here.

OK, hardship cases, you may be excused.
But the fact that you don’t want to be here
is not a legitimate excuse. So take a seat,
please, and thank you for your service.

“Do you believe in the
presumption of innocence
until proven guilty?”
“Will you follow the law
as described by the judge?”

And more and more questions by the judge…
the public defender…the district attorney…

Most of us remain seated in the gallery
waiting for our numbers to be called
after each batch of “We would like to thank and
dismiss Juror #___” are sent home.

Yesterday we started with 108 people. Today,
when the jury and alternatives were finally confirmed,
just 27 of us remained in the gallery unquestioned
and ready to be thanked and dismissed.

What a fascinating process this was.
I believe in the justice system more today
than I did yesterday.

However, I do have something to ponder.
As I heard again and again the question,
“Do you agree with the legal principle that
the defendant is presumed innocent
until proven guilty?” I thought of some
who have been arrested and charged
with crimes recently, and I have celebrated,
not waiting until they are tried and convicted.

Do I really believe in the presumption of innocence?
How would I have answered that question today
if my number would have been called?
How will I answer it next time?

How about you?

Here are some upcoming writing experiences you might be interested in:

Sundial outside of the courthouse

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday – Jury Duty

  1. Denise, I love that you turned your experience with being called for jury duty into a poem! The excuse stanza! Love. And it’s good to really check ourselves for where we stand on such things, to discover where our biases and prejudices have their hold…thank you!

  2. Your poem has taken me back to my jury duty experience, the winnowing of the herd, and my eventual participation in two trials, after being surrounded by excuses. Innocence, innocent until proven guilty, comes up against evidence if we have it in front of us and weigh its veracity. Sometimes innocence is impossible to concede (and I do my best to remain impartial, but…) Irene noted the excuse stanza. That last one is telling. (I also felt heartened after my experience and recommend participation despite its “inconvenience.”)

  3. I’ve been called twice & dismissed as well, but I enjoyed the experience & love that you shared so much and in a poem, Denise! It makes me wonder if you sent it as a letter to your newspaper, would they print it? Thanks also for the extra links! Happy March to you!

  4. What a fascinating and creative way to use your time at jury duty–turning it into poetry. That’s super cool.

  5. I managed to avoid jury duty twice when called during the school year, hoping for a summer vacation call–but I regret it and have not been called since. I think all the time about how we are educating students, trying to keep in mind that THIS is among the most important ways that their schooling should serve them, for being a thoughtful, compassionate and conscientious juror, holding another’s life in their hands. Thanks for your reflections. (PS I went to look at the 2-day CV contest and found there were WAY too many restrictions on how the words might be used. Uh-huh, don’t fence me in! 😆)

  6. Thanks for this contemplative poem. You pose many good questions and had me remembering my experiences being called, then hoping to be excused (which I was). Makes me wonder why.

  7. Love this! Were you allowed to take a notebook in with you? I’ve never been called for jury duty. I’m sure it’s a very interesting process!

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