Jury duty is like math class, and not in the fun, sexy way

Jury duty is like math class, and not in the fun, sexy way
"The Jury" by John Morgan, painted in 1861, and now in the Bucks County Museum in England. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Here in the United States, people have the opportunity to be judged by their peers rather than by some supervisory body such as Congress, which – given its record for coming to consensus – would result in a hung jury in perpetuity. This sounds kind of cool until you get stabbed by a corporation run amuck because there no longer would be any punishment for any crime. (Corporations now are people and thus are capable of carrying knives and stabbing people with them. Little known fact. Thanks, Supreme Court!)

I think we can see why juries are important as they are the only things keeping all of us from being stabbed by corporations willy nilly. And as part of a jury, one must be fair, open-minded and willing to suspend any thoughts of guilt until the case is over and deliberations begin. It is an honor to be a part of this integral cog of democracy and should be treated as such. To serve on a jury is a privilege and duty of U.S. citizenship.

And boring.

So very, very boring.

For the past few weeks, I've been an alternate juror on a federal case. By TV executive standards, the case I was listening to for more than a month would make a decent CSI episode. Intrigue, gunfire, missteps, and plentiful objections.

But a court trial has a unique way of making the seemingly interesting quite mundane. The best metaphor I've come up with so far is that being on a jury is like watching a geometric proof unfold slowly. And – for the record – I've not yet met a geometric proof I've liked. (I'm holding out hope. Maybe one day I'll meet the Zooey Deschanels of geometric proof. Wait. Actually, I take that wish back. That would be terribly frightening. Geometric proofs and quirkiness on that level quite possibly could end the world.)

Geometric proofs are the most boring part of the math world, which – in a land of integers and long division – is saying something. They consist of solving geometry problems by a ridiculous step-by-step method when – as any student knows – it's much quicker just to throw in random numbers until one of them works. Geometric proofs are – by far – the slowest way of solving a geometry problem. And a geometry problem is like a trip to the dentist. You don't want the experience prolonged.

A court trial is much the same way. To prove a fact or to have evidence admitted, a prosecutor has to outline EVERY SINGLE STEP that was taken to gather the evidence and prove it was linked to the person on trial. This is a good thing, of course, but also extremely tedious to watch and listen to. Do I really need to know how Professor Such-And-Such, PhD, learned to tie his shoes so that he was able to walk to class during college so that he could get his degree in Chimpanzee Behavior in order to infer that Rolo the Dancing Ape did not intend to throw the banana at that princess? (This was not my case, by the way. I'm not that lucky)

You then apply this logic to every potential fact in the case. And the defense attorney then gets to question every part of the geometric proof. The more potential facts in the case, the longer this continues.

As a good juror, though, boring as they might be, I listened to every single one of these potential facts and the corresponding geometric proofs and tried my best to commit them to memory. I took my responsibility seriously, even though it turned out I was an alternate juror the entire time and ultimately had nothing to do with the case, which means I essentially spent more than a month watching a ridiculously long episode of CSI: Geometric Proof for no reason.

Well, that's not true. There was a reason. I was doing my civic duty. And as such, it was a privilege. A boring, boring privilege that very well might be the only thing keeping you from being stabbed by a corporation. You're welcome.

• Going for Gusto is a blog by Joe Grace that looks for the awesome in life. Please support Going for Gusto by liking the Facebook page at Facebook.com/GoingForGusto.

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