Jury Duty-Three Things I learned from Being part of a Jury

Many of us will be called for jury duty in our lives, but I suspect that most of you will never serve on a jury.  I was called last fall and chose the last week in February and first week in March of 2020 as my time to serve.  When I called the first week I learned that there would be no cases that week, so that pushed things back to the second week where I showed up with about 80 other individuals on Monday morning.  Names were called and the 15th name called was mine.  As the attorneys asked questions of each of us they continued to excuse other jurors and I ended up being seated on the jury of 13.  We learned that the entire group of 13 would sit through the entire trial, a two-day criminal case and then one would be excused at the end when we would begin deliberating the verdicts.

The trial was well run and my compliments go out to the judge, attorney and officials who conducted the entire process.  You will notice I am choosing to not give any specific names or specifics of the charges because they are not that important when I get to the three key issues I will discuss.  When we finished testimony and final arguments just after lunch on the 2nd day, the jury was sent to deliberate and one was excused.  That left twelve of us and I was chosen as the foreperson of the jury.

Here are the key learnings from this unique two day experience:

  1. Tuckman is alive in well when it comes to team performance-For those of you who have had a basic management course you will remember the Tuckman Model; Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.  I can point to specifics during our two day process where we went through each of these and the greatest growth took place on the second day, especially when the deliberation began.  There was great cooperation among the people who served on this journey and we did well in establishing norms that we would use to make decisions.  We had four counts to consider and each of the counts had multiple options, so the permutations we had to consider were numerous.
  2. Never make assumptions until you see someone in a real life experience-Our panel of jurors was overwhelmingly female.  While I have worked with strong men and women throughout my life and try to never assume that male or female is more direct in their approach, I was struck by how strong the opinions were for the women in our jury in comparison to the men.  I will not get into specifics, but will comment that the opinions of some of our jurors were strong and the amount of flexing they exhibited was limited, but appropriate as we reached unanimous verdicts on each of our counts.  As the foreperson I felt the stress and also the reward of feeling like everyone got their chance to participate while I was also able to manage some of those who would have participated more at the expense of those who were quieter.
  3. It is hard to separate my personal feelings from the decisions made by the group-I am writing this post several days after the trial concluded, but I can admit that I am still emotional about the entire process we were exposed to.  While I am confident that our verdict was the correct choice, I also feel a sense of responsibility for the person whose life will be affected by this trial.  As jurors in a criminal trial, we have exercised our right as a jury to restrict the freedom of this individual due to the guilty verdicts we handed down.  We were not involved in the sentencing, but I know this will have more than a short-term impact on this person’s life.  While I have empathy, there is limited sympathy because we did what we were charge to do to uphold the law.

Serving on a jury is not something to be taken lightly.  I had always wanted this experience and I know I will feel the impact for years to come.

Working with a group to achieve a shared outcome takes time, effort and it has an emotional impact.

What teams have you been a part of that had impacts on your life?  Let me hear more from you about those experiences.