It is a tough, inconvenient, time-consuming job. But somebody really has to do it.
Federal jury duty.
I watched recently as a jury was selected for a federal murder trial in Minneapolis, as people from across southern Minnesota appeared at the federal courthouse to meet their obligations as members of a free society.
For a while, I was struck by how many people seemed to want out of jury duty. Illnesses were cited. Job, school or home conflicts mentioned. A few people even pointed out that they are hard-of-hearing.
People who are over 70 or have served on a jury in the past two years can be excused. So can those who actively care for children under 10 whose health or safety would be jeopardized, or a person who is essential to the care of aged or sick.
Also, people who serve as volunteer firefighters or members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew for a federal, state or local government agency can be excused.
But I found myself even more impressed by the dozens of people who stepped forward to serve. Some would have to miss work. Some would have to skip travel. All would have to keep what was happening in the courtroom each day during the trial to themselves -- a difficult thing in this age of instant social media.
Time and again, however, jurors sat in their seats and answered questions from the judge. Had they heard about the case? Did they know any of the attorneys or defendants? Did they have biases? Could they be fair and impartial?
Some admitted they couldn't be fair. They were thanked for their honesty and excused. Others acknowledged past incidents as victims -- or perpetrators -- of crime. They, too, were thanked for their honesty. Some were excused, some were asked to stay.
Maybe it wasn't a Frank Capra moment. But watching these men and women, some older, some younger, willingly walk into that courtroom left me impressed -- and proud -- of those who stepped up.
James Walsh • 612-673-7428