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“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

My future began today, 30 years ago!  Today is the anniversary of my arrival in the US.  I arrived in NY November 8, 1984 to stay 3 months. 30 years later I am still here and I can’t imagine ever leaving it.

It has been 30 years of amazing experiences.  There have been tough times and fun times.  There has been immense growth, but in some ways I am still the 17 year clueless girl that arrived unsure of what the future would hold.  I had no English, no money, no job and had bills to pay, but I had one powerful ally on my side:  My unshakable belief in God!

I will not go into details about my arrival here and the life I have lived these 30 years on this post.   I plan to write about it in the future when inspiration and time permits.  The point of today’s post is to tell you about the gift that NY State has given me to celebrate my anniversary:  I was chosen as Alternate Juror Number One in a Medical Malpractice case!

I find it poetic to be doing this right at this milestone of 30 years.  I am choosing to see this as an honor and also as my right and duty as an American citizen.  I also get to witness first hand how the American Justice system works.

Well, at first, like everyone else,  I tried to get out of jury duty.  I was not going to lie to get out of it, but I figured that my brutal honesty would perhaps be enough.

In case you have never been called for jury duty let me give you a brief summary of what happened when I showed up in court 2 days ago.  I was instructed to sit in this huge auditorium with another approximately 100 people.  The Commissioner of Jurors addressed us and explained all that was going to happen.  I found her and her assistant extremely helpful and friendly.  Then they dismissed some people such as students that would be missing school, people that had vacation scheduled, people with difficulty in understanding the English language, etc.   From there we were divided in smaller groups.  Each group went into a separate room and got assigned a case.  My group was assigned a Medical Malpractice case.  They then introduced both attorneys, the one for the plaintiff and the one for the defendant.  In this case the plaintiff herself was also present, but not the defendant.  The attorney then explained the case and asked every single one of us questions while looking at questionnaire that we each had completed upon arrival.

The aim of these questions are to make sure that there is nothing in our lives (or in the lives of our loved ones) that may make difficult for us to be partial when deliberating, such as legal issue, medical issues, etc.  For example, a lady was dismissed because her husband was a patient at the clinic where this one doctors works.

They questioned us in groups of 12.  After each group the attorneys go to a separate room and decide on who to pick and who to send home. From the first group of the 12, they chose only 3 people.  We were all shocked that some of the people that we thought would clearly be chosen was not, while some that we thought would never be picked were.  From the second group of 12, my group, 4 people were chosen. From the final 12 people another 2 were chosen.

“Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.” ― George Washington

When it was my turn to be questioned, I answered honestly and provided information such as:

  • I come from a country where people don’t sue people and then I get to the US and everyone here is sue-happy. I don’t really like all this suing business.  To which the attorney asked me if I would be able to see that some suits have merits.  I said: of course.
  • My brother is a nurse and I have heard plenty of horror stories about some doctors’s carelessness.
  • I have had both good and bad experiences with doctors. To which the attorney said if that meant that I would be able to see both sides, the patient and the doctor and form an opinion. I said yes.
  • If chosen I will have to work some evenings and on the weekend to be able to catch up with my work, as I am the only one in my company that does what I do, such a payroll, etc. To that one of the attorneys asked me jokingly if I was trying to play the “Jewish mother guilt card”.
  • One of the attorneys asked if I would be open to the idea that doctors can make a mistake, and if so if I would be able to award monetary damages.  I responded that I would be open to anything, I would have to hear the facts and see the evidence in the case. He liked that answer.
  • I said that they should ask jurors for their astrological signs.  I am serious!  The way the jurors interact with one another is very important.  I don’t think the attorneys took that seriously.
  • I also mentioned, and this may have been my biggest mistake, that it would be my 30th year anniversary of living in the US, and as such I saw this entire “being called for jury process” an honor.

My question and answer part drew laughs and even applause, but still I didn’t expect to be chosen.  I was shocked when they called my name, and yet there was part of me that knew I was going to be called.  It is hard to describe, knowing that something will happen and at the same time being shocked when it does.

I accept it and I will perform it to the best of my abilities.

Here is what I see as the worst part of it all:  I am an alternate juror.  As such I have to sit there and listen to the evidence but when it comes time to deliberate I get send home with the thanks from the court.  In a way it feels like punishment for me, since I always have something to say about everything. We have only heard one day of testimony and I am already in pins and needles with so much to say.

In this case there are 6 jurors and 3 alternates. The order in which you are picked dictates your juror number.  I was the 7th person chosen, that is why I get to be Alternate number one. Being alternate juror number 1 means I am number 1 on the reserve bench.  I only get to play if one of the main players gets injured or some other emergency happens.

“Character is doing what you don’t want to do but know you should do.” ― Joyce Meyer

This whole thing will be an incredible learning experience. Here are some of the benefits I already see about becoming a juror, and this case an alternate juror.

  • New friends.  I have already become fast friends with 3 amazing ladies.  One is a teacher, one is an attorney and one is a very social retiree.  I can see continuing the friendship(s) once this is over. All the other jurors are also friendly.
  • Learning to be quiet and just absorb the information and keep my opinions to myself will be hard, but I am sure it is something that I can learn and use it in my daily life.  Just the other day my co-worker said to me:  Just because I am telling you something it does not mean I want your opinion or advice!  Ouch!  But he was right!
  • Learning to refrain from impulsively researching on Google and looking for information about people/things.  As jurors, we are not allowed to research aspects and the subjects of the case. Do you know how hard it is for me not to Google this doctor and this medical condition? Extremely hard since I am a Googleholic (I guess I just made up a word :-).
  • Learning that I have to have faith and trust in others to make the right decision. I guess I do have a massive ego and I also have very high self esteem. It has crossed my mind that the 6 jurors may not make the right decision without my valuable input.  How egotistical of me! Why do I always think I am either the smartest person in the room or the dumbest?  Why can I think of me as average?
  • Not having the pressure to make a decision.  Well, this one was pointed to me as a benefit but I am not sure.  I don’t see it as pressure in this case but mostly making justice.  Now, if this was criminal court and somebody’s freedom was in my hands I probably would have a different opinion.

At the end of the day I am there to perform my duties of Alternate Juror Number One to the best of my abilities.  I am going to be the juror that I wish would be listening to my case were I a defendant or a plaintiff in a case.  Golden Rule always!

So far we have heard one day of testimony.  I cannot write about the details right now, but at the end I will and I will also let you know if I agree or not with the jurors, not that it matters either way! 😦

 “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Adlai E. Stevenson II

 

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