DEAR ABBY: My purpose in writing to you is to ask for your assistance in recognizing all the citizens across our country who take time away from their work and, in some instances, their families, to serve as jurors. They may serve in criminal cases ranging from misdemeanors to death penalty trials, and in civil trials from dog-bite cases to complex business litigation. It's an often difficult and sometimes thankless task, but we in the courts want people who serve as jurors to know how much their participation means to the judges, attorneys and parties in these trials, and how vital each individual juror is to the success of the whole system.
We believe a sense of humor is always helpful in surviving one's "tour of duty." With that in mind, I'd like to dedicate this poem by one of our court's staff to all jurors -- past, present and future:
A JUROR'S PRAYER
I sat around for half a day before they called my name,
And now I'm in the jury box and wondering why I came.
It's 2:00 p.m., I ate too much, and now I'm on the nod,
Oh please, just help me stay awake 'til 5:00 o'clock, dear God.
Thanks, Abby, for helping us spread the word. -- ALAN SLATER, JURY COMMISSIONER, SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF ORANGE
DEAR ALAN: I'm pleased to publicize your message. I'm certain that anyone who has ever sat on a jury will identify with your "Juror's Prayer." Kudos to those who perform their civic duty despite the disruption in their daily lives. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have never written to you before. Yesterday, I completed jury duty, having served six days. I had the honor to serve on the jury of a murder trial. On a positive note, my fellow jurors and I were treated very well. Every effort was made to keep us comfortable. The judge was fair and impartial. The experience was interesting and educational, and I was proud to be part of the American judicial system.
On the negative side, I was extremely disappointed and quite disgusted with the attitudes of virtually everyone outside the court. The first day, about 200 potential jurors showed up. I overheard numerous conversations of people scheming to get dismissed. Once the jury was selected, most people asked why I didn't try to get out of it. My boss (I work full time) was upset and worried that things wouldn't get done. My co-workers were upset they would have to fill in while I was out. All but a few members of my family seemed annoyed and worried about how my jury duty would inconvenience my spouse and my children. All this when the defendant's future was at stake.
I didn't mind the inconvenience because I truly believe it is my duty and honor to serve when called to do so.
It troubles me that so many "average" people try to get out of serving jury duty. I was made to feel almost ashamed that I WANTED to serve. If I don't do it, who is left to serve? Being called to jury duty is an honor and privilege. More Americans should respond to it as such, and show respect to those who serve. -- FRUSTRATED JUROR, UPSTATE N.Y.
DEAR FRUSTRATED: I hope that at least one person who reads your letter (and preferably 12) decides not to shrink his or her responsibility when the summons arrives. In this country, we're supposed to be tried by a jury of our peers -- and the only way to guarantee that is for all of us to shoulder our fair share of the responsibility when called upon.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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