By: Tanya Ward Goodman
I spent all day being a juror. My last jury duty was ten years ago, just weeks before my wedding. As I made the trek downtown to the court building, I thought about the young woman I was and the middle-aged woman I have become. Ten years ago, just before I was to zip myself into a white satin gown, I heard the story of a man and the woman he’d killed and buried in the floor of his apartment. I spent several weeks hearing the gruesome facts of the case and a long week of discussion with fellow jurors. Along the way, those fellow jurors became friends who, when the trial ended, wished me well in my new married life.
My new married life is now ten years old. I walked the halls of the courthouse today and thought for the first time in years about the people I served with on that long trial. They seemed like grown-ups to me then. They had houses and families and divorces. I felt young and fresh and I think they gravitated to me because being near the idea of white satin, fresh flowers, and iced cake made them feel like anything was possible. Even the judge referred to me as “the bride”.
Today, I was no longer a bride, but a wife with a family of my own. I have a house and worries about public school and thoughts of the long summer ahead and I shared those things with my fellow jurors. Despite the difference in neighborhood or ethnic background or income level, we now share life in a way that I didn’t quite during my first tour of the courthouse. Where I originally felt accepted because of the group delight in my being a bride, today I felt part of the group because now, we share the same concerns, the same questions, the same responsibilities. I am one of the grown-ups.
Somewhere around sixty people started this morning as complete strangers. By the end of the day, jokes were shared, confidences exchanged. I find it wonderfully heartening to see how quickly we all reach out to each other no matter our differences.
I learned enough about these people to know that the defendants in this particular case (whether or not I make the final jury cut) will get a fair trial. Their case will be considered by careful, thoughtful people – because, truthfully, that’s what we all are, when given half a chance.