A trial by a jury of one’s peers is one of the most fundamental rights that exist in the United States of America. An independent judiciary, a system where “we the people” get to apply the laws of the state or the country, is not unique to this country, but it is a system that does allow us as citizens to take part in our government and is truly where we see the government and the constitution that our forefathers put together in action.
In spite of this, jury duty is one of those items that you hear and see unending complaints about. I understand that. I understand that the seats can be uncomfortable, the hours can seem long, and it certainly can be inconvenient, but without citizens attending to serve, our system of justice falls flat on its face. We have had difficulty in having jurors come in for their duty. In having as much, we have had trials delayed, and certainly inconvenienced those that have appeared.
In Fayette County, we do our best to be good stewards of the time that you provide to us. We try to keep cases moving, and we try to avoid delays during the trial process. We try to be as prepared as one can be for a trial, and to make your service as comfortable as possible. Many of our cases complete themselves in one day, while some go to a second day. In my eight years of serving this community as Prosecuting Attorney, there have only been two occasions where the jury has been here more than two days. On each of those occasions, the jury went home on day three. We understand your time is valuable, but without you appearing when called, we lose a little bit of one of the greatest freedoms and rights that we have.
When you serve, not only are you exercising the right to serve, you also get to see and hear your local government employees at work and in action. You see the judge and his staff at work, our office prosecuting the case, the Sheriff’s office providing security, and the office of the clerk in and out of the courtroom. Many times we wonder what our elected officials actually “do”, and I must say that as you go up levels in government, I have wondered that myself. Fortunately, in Fayette County, that is not a problem if one opens their eyes.
Without a jury trial system, we are the old Soviet Union, or we are North Korea. I am eternally grateful for the jury system here in this county, but the system does not work without you, the jurors. Thus, the next time you get that summons in the mail, or perhaps it is the first time, be thankful that you live in a country where the accused are provided the right to a trial by jury, and be prepared to come and see the judicial branch of your government in action.
Jess Weade is the Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney.