I had the dubious privilege of serving jury duty last week. As much as we always want to get out of it (it's a long way to drive, I'm going to fall behind at the day job, I'm going to fall behind with my writing, etc. etc. etc.), it is one of the things in this country that is still good. A jury of your peers sits in judgment on whether or not what you did was wrong.
As someone who ALWAYS struggles with writing the bad guy stuff, the bad people in the world who do bad things to people, this was a first-hand glimpse into the life of a criminal for me. Did I want to serve on a jury? Not particularly, but I also didn't try to get out of it. And they decided I was competent to serve. Keeping an open mind, it was interesting to watch the evidence against the accused, and his response. Of the four charges that were brought, there was little question about one of them. The other three (which were variations on the same charge) had me a little less convinced, but this is where it is helpful to have other people to "deliberate" with. I tend to look for the best in people most of the time. Such was the case and I did defend the defendant, even though he probably didn't deserve it. I did not kow-tow to the decision, I merely took off my naive, pollyanna, rose-colored glasses for a first-hand look at a real-life bad guy. Funny thing, he looks just like any other guy.
When the trial was over, the judge came in to the jury room to thank all of us and share some interesting information. He also said we were "free to write a book about our experience." Little did he know that at least one of us in that jury room was an author! (I suspect there may have been a second, based on the copious amount of notes one of my fellow jurors took). Will this criminal show up in one of my books? Most likely. In fact, there's a criminal in Cinda's story, although not random (like the man my fellow jurors and I convicted). Understanding some of the mentality that goes into these types of crimes gives me some insight. Life experience, they call it. I learned a few things about burglars, thieves and assailants, things I never had reason to know before.
Jury duty. It was a learning experience. I wouldn't choose to serve on a regular basis (although sometimes if feels like I'm called all too regularly), but as an observer of human behavior, it was an interesting experience that--in spite of driving 30 miles in eight inches of snow--I was glad to be a part of. From the lawyers exercising their best acting skills for the jury, to the "evidence technicians" (CSI!) to the members of law enforcement, I have recorded lots of information for future reference. And we put a criminal behind bars.