Not all heroes wear capes. Some dress comfortably, but not too casually, avoiding halter or tank tops, cut-off jeans, and offensive t-shirts. I am, of course, referring to jurors.
Jury duty. Your “invitation” — more often than not — is a nasty, threatening letter. As soon as someone mandates you do something, you are primed to say no. But heroes say yes — even when they don’t want to — when it’s the right thing to do.
Instead of thinking of it as a civic duty, what if it is really our civic opportunity?
Our opportunity to ensure that victims get justice and the community is restored to balance.
Our opportunity to ensure a fair hearing for everyone before their freedom is taken, their relationships broken, and their life destroyed or even ended.
Our opportunity to judge the law, how it is applied, and the consequences for violating it.
Our opportunity to send a message to government by saying “Not guilty” to unjust laws and malicious prosecutions, even if the law has technically been broken.
Serving on a jury is inconvenient and involves sacrifice, of course. But I don’t see Wonder Woman whining about it every time she has to save the day. Even when Wolverine is cranky about having to fight for justice, he gets the job done.
You’ll have the chance to test your superpowers in this worthy endeavor. Mimicry, to blend in so you are not deselected from the jury for seeming too independent-minded. Mental strength, to insist on proof beyond reasonable doubt as a requirement for conviction and to resist judges’ instructions wrongly implying you are required to convict if the law has been broken. Endurance, to maintain your conscientious vote, even if others want you to change it so they can go home.
The day you are called for jury service may not be the day you need a superhero. Rather, it may be the day you are called on to be the hero someone else needs. As they say, always be yourself, unless you can be Wonder Woman. Then be Wonder Woman in the jury box.
Kirsten Tynan is executive director of the Fully Informed Jury Association.