Saturday, March 20, 2010
The famous quotation about jury duty: "Would you want to be judged by people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty?"
I was called for jury duty this week. Judge Beathard asked the assembled twenty-four potential jurors if anyone had an emergency which would cause them not to be able to serve. Fulton Terry told the Judge that he had an appoinment in Chillicothe and that he was supposed to meet with the Council. The Judge told him he could stay for the time being. The first twelve prospective jurors were seated and I was juror number six. The Judge explained voir dire and he explained reasons that we could be excused, among which were: if we had religious objections, could not stand in judgment of people, had been convicted of a felony, were related to the defendant, attorneys, witnesses, etc., or if we had served on the grand jury which had brought the indictment. During his presentation the Judge also stated that if any of the questions posed by the Defense, Prosecution or himself made us uncomfortable, then we would go to a back room to discuss it in private.
The Judge then asked if any of the seated twelve had any problem. I raised my hand and stated, "Your Honor, I did not take the oath." He asked, "Were you late?" I said, "No, I was here early; I did not take the oath." He said, "Can you take an affirmation?" I said, "Yes." He said, "The oath that was given states swear and/or affirm." I responded, "I know that; I have no problem swearing or affirming, I just won't take the oath as stated." I then told the Judge that I was uncomfortable, thinking that he would speak to me privately as he had said. He looked at the Prosecutor and asked, "Do you want to excuse for cause?" The Prosecutor nodded and I was gone! There was no "back room" discussion for me!
I believe that it our duty to serve and previously I have served on Municipal, Petit and Grand Juries. In the past I did not have the "courage of my convictions" to refuse to take the oath as stated which I believe violates the separation of church and state.