Recently I’ve had several friends complain about the inconvenience of serving on jury duty. I actually think jury duty is a fundamental responsibility for every citizen.
The history of the jury system is both noble and infamous (and well documented in “We the Jury” by Jeffrey Abramson). Jurors in Athens sentenced Socrates to death. In England, jurors chose to go to jail rather than convict William Penn. Juries helped burn women at the stake in Salem, Massachusetts but resisted witch hunts during the dark days of the McCarthy era.
The Magna Carta provided for jury trials back in 1215. The sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees criminal defendant’s the right to a jury trial. It is widely accepted that a jury provides citizens with the opportunity to bring their values into judicial proceedings. Citizens are on the front lines of justice and criminal law.
Alexis de Tocqueville claimed that jury trials educate citizens about self-government. In this era of cynicism, I believe many of our fellow citizens could use a little education. By participating in this occasionally inconvenient but crucial civil duty, you perform a sacred act. You shape our very society.