The following letter appeared in the January 9th edition of the Rutland Herald and is reprinted here with permission.
Dear Prospective Jurors:
As I reflect on the year just completed, one thing that keeps coming to mind is my experience serving on a jury in the Rutland County Court. I was instructed to appear for the jury draw on May 23. I went with mixed feelings, willing to serve, yet not knowing what the commitment would entail, should I be selected. I suspect everyone showing up that day felt the same.
I am happy to report that the entire experience surprised and impressed me: beginning with our arrival and check-in by the security staff (courteous, thorough, but with a sense of humor in tact), to assembling in the courtroom under the direction of the highly organized and unflappable court staff, to the efficient, even-handed and compassionate selection process conducted by Judge Helen Toor.
At the same time, I was impressed with my fellow citizens in the jury pool. It was clear that serving on one, two or three juries would at the very least be an inconvenience for many working people. For the majority of them, it would create a real hardship at their jobs, extending to those with whom they work who would have to take up the duties of a missing co-worker. There also was no doubt that serving would impose a financial hardship in many cases. But that room full of people –even though breadwinners for their families -- did not question the need to serve.
I ended up serving on only one jury, a civil case which lasted less than three days. When it came time to deliberate, I was in a room with fellow jurors ranging from mid-thirties to mid-seventies, with vastly different backgrounds and life experiences. Astonishingly, most of us came up with the same questions about the case and the same deductions about the merits of the arguments we had heard.
After the trial was over, Judge Toor asked for our reflections and reactions. Our overwhelming response was that it is truly an admirable system, that it had served both sides appropriately, and that we had been honored to have exercised our duties as citizens to provide a fair hearing of the case.
If you are ever called upon to serve on a jury, I urge you not to find a way to disqualify yourself, but indeed to participate in the judicial process that is one of the most valuable parts of our democratic governance. You will be grateful for having been a part of it.
Katherine R. Hall, Chittenden, VT