Dear Friends,

 

I have started my service as a grand juror in the county court of common pleas, so I thought I would give you an update.

For starters, I need to clarify what I am doing. Grand jury is not like a regular jury. A total of 325 people were called to serve over a 3-month perios, and all of us were called in to court back in January. Those who were unable to serve at all were dismissed, and the rest of us were later phoned and given a two-week time period to serve. I started serving on the jury on Monday, along with 11 other jurors--9 regular jurors and 3 alternates.

Our charge is to hear evidence to determine whether an arrested person should be indicted for a felony crime. We hear many cases every day. Some of these cases can be presented in a mere 5 minutes. We move fast. Our standard is to determine whether a case meets the standards of "probable cause." Then the person who is being charged is indicted and sent to the court of common pleas to stand trial in front of a regular jury. It is that jury that must decide the case beyond a "reasonable doubt."

OK, I'm going back now to the January meeting of all the jurors, since it was at this meeting that I knew I would have to face being sworn in. There were a couple of presenters who explained everything about our service to us, and allowed us to ask as many questions as we liked. So I asked: Are we going to be sworn in? The answer was yes. And I then said: "I have a problem with that." I explained why.

The person fielding my question said I was welcome to bring it up with the person swearing us in. But I didn't get a chance. Here's what happened. We were suddenly asked to stand and raise our right hand to be sworn in. Uh-oh. So I rose, but believing I would not be swearing anything, I did not raise my hand. I just stood, planning to state my objection afterwards. The oath was read in its entirety, and it was a long one. It did not say anything about swearing... until the last line! And at that point, the oath was read as, "to this do you solemnly swear or affirm."

 

Problem solved! I affirmed. And I did not raise my hand. My Quaker standards on the testimony against taking oaths are intact.

 

The story might have ended there, but on Monday, as we began our service, the foreperson was handed the oath to read to all witnesses. And at this point I objected. I said that we jurors were given the opportunity to affirm, and I firmly believed that the witnesses should be given the same right. The jury manager said she had never heard of such a thing, and felt that the oath should be read as stated. We went round and round a couple of times, gently but firmly, as I explained the double standard implied by swearing to tell the truth. But at this moment, the foreperson read through the entire oath on her own, including the asterisk next to the word "swear"*

The asterisk read:

*"If the witness does not want to swear, you may substitute the word 'affirm.' "

The foreperson noted my distress, and agreed to include "affirm" each time she swore in a witness. She has followed this practice faithfully. I have thanked her.

I have been told by a fellow juror that I have a strong sense of justice.

And, here's a good laugh: I was unilaterally appointed "clerk." :D   (That means I take notes and assist the foreperson.)

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Well done Paula - thanks for sharing this with us.

So, it sounds like not only were you faithful to God's witness, but left the door open for others. All that thought and angst come to fruition.  Excellent.

Yes. Thank thee for thy Friendly guidance, Carl. <3

Carl D. Williams said:

So, it sounds like not only were you faithful to God's witness, but left the door open for others. All that thought and angst come to fruition.  Excellent.

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