juryduty

Everyone has a story for how they have gotten out of jury duty. Well, my story is about how I survived it during the beginning of summer after the Fourth of July.

Unless you are not chosen, there is no way to get excluded from grand jury as they need 23 people. They don’t ask whether your uncle Tony was in the police force or if you believe in the death penalty; they simply don’t care. And for those of you who haven’t been fortunate enough to be selected, grand jury in the criminal court is one of the many checks and balances in our justice system that involves listening to a multitude of cases for two solid weeks to determine if there is enough evidence. This means that you can hear between 30 and 50 cases ranging from manslaughter, to assault, to credit card fraud, to rape and child abuse. Since it is not for the faint of heart and knowing I am the type of person that becomes upset at pictures of women beaten up and has nightmares about abused children, I realized on the first day that this “summer vacation” would require a survival strategy.

My first step was acceptance. I can fight it, be angry, annoyed or depressed but since I didn’t want to be heavily fined and/or go to jail, this was where I resigned myself to reside in my 2-week fate. Because being self-employed means I would lose two-weeks of pay, I had to get up at 5:30 am everyday to work on my day job and then going home to the office and working every night and weekends. The more quickly I accepted my fate, the more readily creative options and coping strategies emerged.

Acceptance led to the first brilliant coping strategy: never eat lunch alone. This is an excellent networking opportunity: after all, when do you find yourself in the company of such a diverse group of people ranging from a college student to a Vice Chairman of a major law firm? This plan worked as I initiated the group lunches to be nearby the courts in Chinatown with dim sum and delicious vietnamese food. Every day began with where shall we go to lunch today?, making jury duty not so bad, as I can’t remember the last time I got to eat lunch at some place new everyday, thanks to Yelp and NY magazine.

Then, depression started setting in as we had to repeatedly look at disturbing pictures and explicit videotapes of crimes taking place. In case you have not realized, everyone has a cell phone and video surveillance cameras are everywhere! One day, we had to look at horrific pictures of someone who had been beaten by her boyfriend and a heartbreaking video of a child who had been molested by his aunt’s boyfriend. The video of the young innocent child talking about how an 18 year old man placed his private in his bottom just put me over the edge. I went home and wept. Although I had work that I needed to do that night, I couldn’t.

Luckily for me, I had previously scheduled an acupuncture treatment. I cried some more and my acupuncturist found my energy to be very low. The treatment really energized me and therefore, I scheduled another appointment for after jury duty had concluded. Self-care is critical when you are going through something that is very upsetting. Once I was in a better mood, I realized I still could not go back to work and decided to take myself to the movies. I show up at the theatre where the only movie that was just starting was Minions, a ridiculous hilarious kid’s movie about a group of minions who look like little bananas with glasses and overalls in search of an evil leader to follow. It was the perfect escape that helped lift my spirits allowing me to face another day of jury duty.

In the evenings, I tried to vary my routine. I gave myself one night off from work. I used it to explore new restaurants in the neighborhood. I took myself out to a wine bar and sat outside to watch the sunset, reminding me that life can be beautiful. I reached out to my friends that were in town and also stopped to visit another one after knee surgery; it felt good to reach out to cheer up someone in need. On Mondays, my favorite days in summer, I take an hour long tennis lesson at 6 pm in Central Park. The exercise was refreshing and exhilarating, reminding me that I need to exercise at least twice a week to allow a little space to let go and move on from each day at jury duty. I started a new ritual in which I took a few minutes at the end of each day to ground myself, let go of any negative feelings and welcome in positive thoughts. And, I began each day after that by grounding myself.

sun rising meditationAfter two weeks of jury duty, I’ve come to realize how lucky we are to live in the United States; as imperfect as it is, it is a country in which we have a fair chance. The grand jury only throws out a small percentage of the cases out due to lack of evidence but we need to decriminalize drug use. So much time and money is involved in throwing people in jail who are addicts, when addicts need to be in specialized treatment centers, NOT jails. Also, I realized that the most important strategy for surviving jury duty as a sensitive person is to take good care of yourself in every aspect – physically, emotionally, and socially. I realized that my life would be further enriched if I practiced better self-care throughout the year including more lunches out, a night off every week, regular exercise, meditation, visiting friends, and just well appreciating the little things in life. Now for planning that real summer vacation!

Here is a suggested daily and weekly schedule for surviving two-weeks of grand jury duty.

Weekly recommendations: 

  • go out to lunch everyday
  • work before and after jury duty except for one or maybe two evenings, where you should do something fun instead
  • exercise once or twice a week – more is better
  • spend at least one evening with a friend or significant other
  • be in nature during the weekend
  • schedule at least one self-care appointment – be it acupuncture or massage

Daily schedule:

  • begin each day with a 15 minute meditation and a grounding exercise (for example, I would stand face to face with my husband and he pushes on the front of my shoulders and I him until both of us don’t waver.)
  • do an hour or two of work in the morning before leaving for 10:00 am start
  • upon arrival at jury duty, inquire who wants to go out to lunch and if possible, do some research on locations in advance
  • check emails late morning and mid-afternoon during our breaks
  • allow for 30-minutes to recover at the end of each day (for example, I tended to have a cup of tea and write in my journal or even shed some tears, if it had been a day of emotionally challenging cases.)
  • do some more work for one to two hours and then decompress (for example, I would have dinner with my husband, and watch a fun show on Net-flicks or read my book)
  • try to get to bed by 10:00 pm (though, it is early for me, I felt I needed more sleep than usual due to the sometimes emotionally draining days)

 

 

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