A month ago I received an envelope in the mail from my good friends at the County of San Diego. Apparently I was one of San Diego’s lucky residents selected for the distinct honor of being a potential juror at San Diego Municipal Court. Not exactly winning the lottery, but life could be worse I guess.
I paid the $20 to park downtown and headed to report at the courthouse along with 300 other potential jurors. After heading through security, I took my seat in the waiting room and began to scan the room for a familiar face. Sitting next to me was this guy who must have interpreted “business casual dress recommended” as wearing the business casual attire he normally wears as the not-so-important drug deals he participates in. In front of me was a guy that took up two chairs and most definitely made the subway next door a little nervous of running out of food come lunch time. Of course I think the wife-beater tank top on the guy three rows in front of me took the cake for the most interpretive definition of ‘business casual’ attire. I wonder if he brought in a Budweiser in his bag for break?
So as my mind wandered I began to think about these people in a group of 12 jurors deciding my fate in the realm of the public justice system. Lord, help us all.
So the day progressed, and I did in fact find a friend of mine amongst the strangers in the room. Believe me, it really helped to kill the next 6 hours as we talked about everything from triathlon to hockey. While we ate lunch, we talked about the people in the room, and their ‘qualifications’ or ‘lack-of’ to be on a jury. “What about the guy that walked by who smelled like a ganja farm?” She said. We both laughed. Might as well have a beer while we are at lunch I guess.
Heading back to the waiting room to sit some more- the afternoon was upon us. Every so often they would come across the loud speaker and call off a list of names in random order. I half expected to hear someone yell “Bingo!” and then came the name “Timothy Barr”. Crap. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I am just now getting called…..
Saying goodbye to my friend, I headed upstairs to practice my skills at passing judgment. Sitting in juror chair number one, the judge read the charges. “This defendant is charged with driving while impaired. He tested positive for drink driving with a blood alcohol content of .15. The ticket was given at 11:15 in the morning on November”.. something or other. “He is SO guilty” I thought as I looked at the Hispanic man in his forties avoid eye contact with anyone in the room. He couldn’t understand English as he had an interpreter translate for him. “How does this guy even get a driver’s license?” I ask myself. “Can he read a street sign?” “Sir….Mr. Barr…” oops…drifting off in thought. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and I am half asleep. “Yes your honor?” I say. “Do you have any personal bias in this case that would prevent you from being able to decide this case?” “No sir”..I say. “Guilty” I think.
Choosing the final jury was a fascinating process. Potential jurors trying to make excuses not to serve, attorneys questioning jurors to get certain jurors thrown out. This went on for an hour. “She is going home for sure” I thought after the lady answered a question with a little too much intensity. Sure enough…see you later sister. “I’m still here as one of the chosen few.” I was so fascinated with the selection as they eliminated all the right people. “Juror #1, you are dismissed” the defense attorney said. “Huh?” Looking at the #1 sign behind my seat I was shocked. How could this guy judge me as not being good enough for this case? I’m the token white yuppie from Point Loma. I would have been the best juror!
I have to say that walking out of the courtroom was bittersweet for me. Sweet because I didn’t really have the time to serve anyway. Bitter because after investing 9 hours of my day, it would have been cool to see the case through to the end.
Driving home, I really thought about the day. A day of judgment. Jurors judging jurors, attorneys judging jurors, judges judging defendants, people judging people.
I’ll say it again—people judging people.
Perhaps the irony in it all is that not one of us is worthy to judge. As I sat there and passed judgment on those around me, people were passing judgment upon me as well. It is a vicious cycle.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant in the Book of John:
“And early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them.”
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?”
“This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him.”
“But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”
“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”
“When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?”
“She said, No man, Lord.”
“And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:2-11 KJV)
I think I have a lot to learn from Christ’s teaching here. We are called to love. We are called to examine our own hearts, and be the example. I am convicted, just like the Pharisees in this passage. I need to love more freely. I think this is what Christ is showing each of us through life’s little lessons. Lets make sure we are doing what we need to in order to be at peace come our own judgment day.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done whether it be good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10)
I want the verdict to come back “not-guilty” How about you?