Juror 36, you are are released from service to the court of the State of Oregon! Sweeter words could not have been said to me today! Finished - task completed - mission accomplished - free now to go back to real life.
I didn't feel the impact of those words until I walked out of the courtroom and removed my juror button that has been part of my wardrobe accessories for the past four days. Somehow I felt lighter without this round, pink button on my shoulder. I answered the call when summoned, I listened attentively as attorneys and witnesses tried to convince me of the truths they wanted me to believe, I responded when appropriate and I was free to walk away today and resume life as it was before Tuesday morning. But can I really ever resume life as it was before this week? I doubt it. I will carry away the lessons I've learned and the experience I've gained and I will view life from a different perspective than before.
What did we feel we learned? Get EVERYTHING in writing - and take pictures of EVERYTHING you do! Don't assume anything. Talk to the people involved before you act. Try to work things out before they get out of hand and you meet in court. Ours was a civil case - a dispute between two wealthy men who had, at one time owned neighboring properties. The dispute centered on the right one man believed the law gave him to remove a big, old Douglas fir tree that blocked his view of the river below and of Mount Hood in the distance from his neighbor's undeveloped property. The man whose tree was cut believed the law didn't give his neighbor that right. In the end it was 12 people in a small room today who decided that the law was indeed broken and damages were due the other man. Agreeing on the amount of damages owed was a challenge - the parameters were wide and opinions varied greatly. In the end we came to a place of consent.
Immediately following the trial the judge met us in the jury room to express his thanks, answer our questions and discuss anything we would like to know. Our first question: Do you feel we were right? Were we fair? His answer: Yes, you were right - you were very fair. We have been invited to come back any time to sit in chambers with the judge and talk to him. He wants to learn from us and he values us as citizens who were willing to give of our lives to make this system work. When he asked what he could do to make things better for members of the jury, we answered - almost in unison - "get new chairs!" Which, by the way, are on order. He is a very laid back, fair judge and we appreciate the way he looked out for us and the care his staff showed us.
As I look back on this week I realize that the best part of it all was the people - people who were doing their jobs to pull it all together and make the due process of the law go smoothly and eleven people who shared a week of their lives with me. We shared some incredibly funny stories as we waited together and we have come to know a little bit of each other's worlds and perspectives. We seemed to have a sense of sadness as we told each other goodbye and drove away. What a nice thing to hear - "I'm very glad I got to meet you!"