Saturday, February 16, 2008

Doing My Civic Duty

Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from
getting into situations where you need it. ~Doug Larson

A few weeks ago, I was empanelled as a member of the Federal Grand Jury.

Now, this distinction came to me: I did not seek it. I was summoned, just as many of us are summoned to be jurors in our local courts. The difference is that my commitment is for six months, and rather than being one of twelve jurors who decide guilt or innocence, I am one of sixteen people who decide to indict or not to indict.

Yesterday was my first official day, and it was a fascinating experience! We heard six cases, presented by six different attorneys for the United States. We heard witnesses from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and a couple of special agents from the State Department. I would tell you the details of what went on, but then I'd have to kill you.

Just teasing, of course. They would kill me, instead.

We are bound to secrecy in all of this, which is difficult for someone like me who loves to share every detail of her life. But I respect the reasons why we can't talk about what we do. Suffice to say that it's an eye-opening experience for this law-abiding citizen (does an occasional speeding ticket count?) As corny as it may sound, I feel honored to be part of the justice system at this high level.

So once a week for the next six months, I will be driving into Los Angeles to wear the hat of a Federal Grand Juror. This will be good for me because I get really nervous driving alone around such a big city. Correction: a HUGE city with some of the worst rush-hour traffic in the country.

I took a wrong turn at the bottom of my exit yesterday and ended up in LA's Chinatown district. But I was very proud of myself: I kept my head and remained calm, weaving my way back to where I needed to be, with time to spare. Next week will be easier, now that I've done it once.

So that's where you'll find me every Friday for the next couple of months: listening to the crazy ways we humans can break our laws, and deciding if that person should stand trial. Until yesterday, I had never actually seen an FBI agent in the flesh.

Funny: they look just like the rest of us.

Until next time...


Hanlie said...

That is fascinating, Pattie! I bet you are going to hear so many interesting things...

You sound like me 8 years ago. I postponed starting divorce proceedings for almost a year after I left my first husband, because I didn't have the courage to drive into the city! The day that my divorce was final, I went for a job interview in the city and afterwards made the trip every day for four years, until I moved to the city! We are so much braver than we give ourselves credit for!

anonymouse said...

Oh, my! I don't like driving. When my daughter was a baby, the health clinic gave me very early appointments for vaccinations so that I could avoid traffic. And when our little town got our first traffic light at the former 4-way stop, that really shook me up. LOL!

Good for you for doing your civic duty... and keeping quiet about it.

Scale Junkie said...

Do you have a GPS for your car? That can take a lot of the intimidation out of driving in a busy place because you have someone in the car with you saying, exit right, turn left.

I think you are a great person to be on a federal grand jury, you seem open minded and fair.

I laughed out loud at your FBI agent comment, you are too cute!!

Megan said...

And I got lost trying to FIND China town. :) I'm glad it was an interesting experience! (The court thing.. not China Town!)

Nicole said...

That sounds really cool! Thank you for doing us this service. We appreciate your diligence! :o)