What I learned from serving on a Grand Jury.

Prof C Explains
2 min readSep 29, 2020
Pandemic or not, the jury is an integral part of our legal system and the administration of justice.

For the last three months, I served on a grand jury for the local Circuit Court. All the cases involved crimes in my community (Boone County). The jury probably heard 140 cases, everything from murder to crimes against children. Some were very hard to hear, and two of them are hard to forget.

The grand jury members are sworn to secrecy about the cases and persons who came before us (including the witnesses-often law enforcement officers); I can tell you a few things I learned:

  • We have an excellent system of justice in the US. No system is perfect, but the US system works towards delivering justice. One of the most critical ingredients is the jurors. I now can see more clearly how biased jurors could lead to some bad outcomes.
  • We should all be very grateful for all we have. I know that a lot of us are struggling, but there is always someone else who is worst off and there are some very young children who are set up for failure by circumstances outside of their control. We should all be glad that we are not waking up in a storage locker every morning….
  • There are people in my community who make their living stealing drugs and money from drug dealers. They are not regular dealers (they don’t tap into a distribution network), but sell what they steal. I was stunned to find this out, but it makes sense: a drug dealer is not about to head to the police to complain that his drugs are gone. And a drug dealer who has been identified as a good target is called a “stain.”
  • Inhabitable is the same as habitable (like flammable and inflammable). If you could not live in a structure, a lawyer would say it was “uninhabitable.”
  • Nothing good happens after 1 AM. Being out and about in the wee hours of the day seems to dramatically increase the chance that something bad will happen to you.
  • Related: Testosterone and Alcohol are deadly combinations.
  • The most hopeful thing I learned was that we Americans are reasonable folks when we stop watching the TV and start talking to each other. The twelve people on the jury had a wide range of experience and political leanings, yet we all listened to each other’s concerns and questions. It was obvious that everyone in the room was taking to heart the seriousness of their duties, and we all respected each other for it. I just wish that we could have more opportunities to come together as one community to solve our time’s great problems.
Prof C Explains

J Scott Christianson: UM Teaching Prof, Technologist & Entrepreneur. Connect with me here: https://www.christiansonjs.com/