Many people probably learn about jury service by watching the classic 1957 American courtroom drama 12 Angry Men, which tells the story of 12 men as they deliberate the conviction or acquittal of an 18-year-old defendant accused of murder based on reasonable doubt.
Today, juries are much more diverse and inclusive, but “the ancient mode of trial by jury” remains “one of the best securities of the rights of the people,” to quote the North Carolina Constitution. Chief Justice Paul Newby proclaimed July as Juror Appreciation Month in the North Carolina Judicial Branch “to recognize the importance of jury service to the community.”
The Administrative Office of the Courts recently received a letter from an actual “Juror Number Two” who, like Juror Number Two from 12 Angry Men, served on a trial. The words “jury service” can have negative connotations due to myths that have perpetuated over time. However, this letter highlights the positive aspects about the experience and the benefits of serving.
Following is the letter from Juror Number Two:
This was the first jury summons I had received in my 56 years of existence. I was fortunate that I didn't have any hardships that would prevent me from serving. I'm a firm believer in the civic duty we citizens have in our judicial system. I hope that's not rare, but I frequently hear talk about people coming up with all kinds of excuses not to serve.
I was truly impressed beyond belief at the overall experience, and the manner and care your court staff took to make sure we were cared for was stunning. I felt as well informed as I would expect, in a legal situation, of what to expect from the time I walked into the courthouse that first day, through the selection process, the trial and afterwards. Sure, I had questions and curiosities, but I totally understand why the jury doesn't have purview of certain details.
The care you, your staff and the attorneys on both sides took to make sure we had the opportunity to express any concerns we had related to COVID-19 or anything else in the process was very impressive. The hospitality of the bailiffs and that they cared enough to learn our names after one day, was better than most 5-star hospitality venues. That really helped the overall experience to know we were that important and special to the process that we were treated so well all the way around. And you taking the time to send a personal letter of thanks and asking for feedback was a surprise. Thank You.
I also must commend my fellow jurors. I came into the process expecting horrific clashes during deliberations, but the respect and seriousness with which each juror conducted themselves was night and day different from what I expected. That's not to say we always agreed, and we didn't ruffle each other during the deliberations, but the respect the collective group was able to maintain is a far cry from how we see Americans treating each other on the news these days. It brought comfort to know we can be civil while not always seeing eye to eye. There is hope.
Juror Appreciation Month is an opportunity to educate the public and to help raise awareness of the importance of jury service, while extending a small token of thanks to the many citizens who devote their time to our system of justice. We celebrate and applaud jurors like Juror Number 2, not only during Juror Appreciation Month but every day, for their civic-mindedness and the crucial role they play to ensure justice is administered without favor, denial, or delay.
I was truly impressed beyond belief at the overall experience