As many of you know, I recently completed a four month stint on a Maricopa County Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is different from a trial jury. Instead of determining guilt or innocence in just one case, we were determining probable cause for many cases and then issuing indictments when we did find probable cause.
Sixteen of us met twice per week for four months. During our term, we heard over 300 cases and issued well over 400 felony indictments. And we heard all kinds of cases from Aggravated Assault to First Degree Murder, from felony DUI’s to very serious abuse and sexual assault cases. Nine of the 16 had to agree that there was (1) probable cause that a crime had been committed, and (2) probable cause to believe that a certain individual committed the crime. It was a very serious responsibility, and I was impressed with the seriousness with which the grand jury to which I had been assigned did its work.
On our last day, we were each given a certificate and a “thank you” from police officers, the judge, and several county attorneys. I’m not usually much on certificates, but I was impressed with this one. It read, in part, “The value of your American citizenship has been verified by the dedicated service that you have rendered to this County and State in the performance of your duties as a Grand Juror which is a rare privilege.” That and a handshake from the judge (not to mention our $12 per day) made me feel like I had done my duty.
What did I learn?
- I was reminded of the wickedness of our society. We were one of 3-5 grand juries meeting on any given day. Each one handled as many cases as we did.
- I was reminded of my own sinfulness. I’m not a felon, but I had to wonder. What would I be like without the advantages I had and if not for the grace of God?
- I was impressed with the quality of our police officers and detectives. Nearly all of them where professional, courteous, and well qualified. I can say the same for the county attorneys we worked with.
- I was reminded of what a horrible plague alcohol and drugs are on America. Most of the cases we we dealt with were related in some way to drugs and alcohol.
- I was reminded of the tremendous amount off work it takes to have a just and free society. Most of us think of jury duty as something to get out of. The truth is that good jurors are needed at all levels. It’s part of being a good citizen.
It was indeed a rare–but taxing–privilege!