Today is my first day to serve as a Travis County grand juror. I received the summons about a month ago but knew that I probably wouldn't be chosen. On Monday, I went to the courthouse and found out that I was juror number 13, pretty much guaranteeing my selection. I am now grand juror number nine. Orientation was yesterday and today we begin hearing cases for the first time. It's a pretty fascinating process. I could have gotten out of it, I think, but didn't for several reasons. For one thing, I figure that this is the only time in the near future that I will be able to do something like this and for another, I figure it's part of being an American.
But there's more to it, for me at least. For years now, I've been learning and teaching about cityreaching--which includes the idea that God's people have an obligation to work for the good of the place in which they live, even in exile, as we see in Jeremiah 29. I tend to live a pretty insular life and I'm hoping that seeing the city through the somewhat wider lens of the criminal justice system will be helpful.
Yesterday, we had an orientation with the ADA who did a great job of helping everyone understand that just because something is a sin doesn't mean it is a crime and even encouraged the grand jury to "no bill" in any situation where evidence is insufficient. That surprised me--I assumed that the bias would be the other way.
I also enjoyed noticing that the grand jury I'm serving on is the most diverse group of people that I've been with in years. I made a crack last night that they are diverse in every way except age (I'm the youngest person in the room) but then I realized that if I am 43, there is probably a 45 year age range in the room, so I guess that's its own kind of diversity. : )
The ADA told us yesterday that the one thing she could promise us was that we would never be able to watch "Law and Order" the same way again.