Things That Were Pretty Awesome About Being A Jury Foreman
@MikeCPuckett's detailed recounting of his day waiting for jury duty recovered an old memory of the time I was a reluctant foreman of a jury, deciding the fate of a guy busted for having drugs and a gun while shoplifting.
- •You get to drive the whiteboardNo one immediately stepped up to be foreperson and we tried debating for a while without a facilitator but the group was totally listless. I finally offered to start keeping track of decision points on the whiteboard, which everyone was excited about, and some lady shouted, "He's smart! You're the foreman now, honey!"
- •The room is full of characters, including youIf you're into observing people as characters, the jury room is like the most interesting zoo in the world. And you can guess exactly what the jury will look like beforehand because they are all put together the same way with the same magic jury recipe - Someone will be sassy, someone will be arrogant, someone will be overly compassionate, someone will be grizzled and punitive, someone will be aloof and then suddenly passionate and on and on.
- •You get to detach from the intensity of the discussionTaking on a facilitation role means you will probably remain the most impartial person in the room, capable of summoning the most empathy, while everyone else digs deeper into their respective positions. This is such a rare experience and I have to say the feeling of being in a group and knowing that you are the only one with a 360 degree understanding is kind of heavy and intoxicating. Is this the purest sensation of leadership?
- •With a little effort, you ultimately get more say in the final verdictIf you have even the most basic facilitation skills, you can gently steer the conversation in the direction that you yourself believe. It's not disingenuous because you should be in the best position to see the full landscape of the decision and the way forward. I learned quickly that that whiteboard was my ally - if I could get people to unanimously agree to any statement written on the whiteboard, it became an untouchable fact that I could lean on when needed
- •You don't actually have to speak the verdictWhich was a huge relief because no one really wants to be remembered by anyone, even a heinous criminal, as being the one who says the word "guilty." We wrote down our decision and a clerk handed it to the judge.
- •Maybe, possibly, if you're lucky, you feel a little better about humanity afterwardsEleven other people with wildly differing backgrounds all looking to do the right thing - Not one person in the room took the responsibility lightly and even though there were moments of intense disagreement, there was also humor, kindness and respect. It was an exhausting whirlwind and I wouldn't trade it for anything.