Jury deliberation on demand
May 7, 2010 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Jury deliberation was utterly exhilarating. Help me find more situations like this.

The trial lasted for eight days, and we started deliberation on day nine. I felt that we jurors were very diverse:

schoolteacher (white woman mid thirties)
school administrator (white-looking hispanic woman mid thirties)
collections call center manager (hispanic man early fifties)
white collar office worker (white male early thirties)
unknown (hispanic man early forties)
phd student (white man late twenties -- me)
audio technician (black man late fifties)
blue collar worker (white man late forties)

We had most of us in one direction, one maybe, and flat out antisocial, belligerent opposition from one more. The case was racially charged and involved a child and a "white" institution. In six hours we were unanimous. Initially stubborn, angry people, people who said they wouldn't budge, clearly felt heard and understood by the end, and everyone was more certain and at ease with the verdict than when we started.

It was incredibly exhilarating and tremendously complicated. I felt like I had to be alert and on my toes and thinking hard the whole time. The whole of the situation was continually shifting and changing in interesting ways. I felt like I had to creatively open up and frame personal experiences, frustrations, and fears in order to create trust and help other people feel comfortable saying what they really thought. There was also the unspoken alliances and teamwork between smart sensitive people to keep the process moving forward and to play good cop/bad cop and to find ways to make other people feel safe. Wow.

So...

I'm not likely to end up on another jury for years or even longer.

How in the world can I have regular experiences like this?
posted by zeek321 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
(I'm in Philadelphia. I would travel to New York once a week or month.)
posted by zeek321 at 5:14 PM on May 7, 2010


I've heard rumors that you can volunteer to do jury duty. Perhaps that'd work for you.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 5:20 PM on May 7, 2010


It sounds like you might enjoy politics, or to be on a board of directors/board of advisors for some kind of institution.
posted by xingcat at 5:21 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


(This has been one of a handful of "peak process experiences" that I've had over the past decade. I would love career suggestions, too.)
posted by zeek321 at 5:23 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds a lot like the skills you felt were useful would be good for a mediator.
posted by mmf at 5:31 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or hell, if you really like persuading people to things your way, politics or law might be worthwhile pursuits.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:33 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Community organizing.
posted by availablelight at 5:33 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think grand juries are composed of volunteers. At least they are in California; I didn't find anything for Philly in a quick search. But even if you sign up you may never get called - I filled out the grand juror volunteer form years ago and I've never been contacted.

But I agree that serving on a jury is a very compelling experience, and I wish people wouldn't bitch and moan and try their damnedest to get out of it. It's live theater without a script, you don't know how the story will end, and you get a hand in writing it.
posted by Quietgal at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't do law. No one ever agrees with you, not even your clients, half the time. I don't have any suggestions for you, except to commend you for your jury service. I just finished up a two day trial and I always wonder what the juror members think (unfortunately, trial court rules prohibit us from contacting jurors and asking them these things.)
posted by Happydaz at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2010


Grad school studio crits have this feel, though obviously not as much riding on the outcome.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:59 PM on May 7, 2010


You can sign up to be a "Mock Juror" - possibly you could contact some larger law firms or law schools in your area. Do a search for "mock jury" or "mock trial" in your local area.

You could also become involved in dispute arbitration. In my field, insurance, many employees are eligible to join arbitration committees, where they hear details of insurance disputes and rule on outcomes - they are binding. You may have something similar in your line of work.

Lastly - consider running for local office, such as a local council, which require the same kind of "alliances", debate, teamwork, and decision-making as do jury trials. Even something like a school or water board might fit your requirements.

Also, consider: does part of your enjoyment come from a feeling of power, the ability to directly impact the lives of others, and holding a person's future in your hands? If so, the field of politics might be what you're looking for.
posted by overthrow at 6:08 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I would say organizing of one sort or another. Community organizing, union organizing, etc.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:28 PM on May 7, 2010


The one time I was called in for jury duty I didn't get picked for a case. But, going by your description of what you enjoyed about it, I wonder if you'd enjoy participating in focus groups. The stakes aren't quite as high as deciding whether or not someone should go to jail, but when I did a focus group last year, I was intrigued by the diversity of the group I was in and the different opinions everyone had on what we were talking about. There were maybe 9 people at the table, all representing different demographics. It was really interesting to me, and I loved being able to talk about my opinions of what was happening also, with people who were actually interested and involved. For example, my focus group was on charities - we were asked our perception of various charities and the marketing practices they use for trying to get people to donate.

Since you live in Philly and close to NYC, you're in a great location to participate in focus groups. The company I registered with is Focus Pointe Global. They don't let you do more than one every few months.
posted by wondermouse at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2010


There are organizations that get hired by law firms to do mock trials. You can get paid $100/day or more to do it. Google "jury consultants" in your area.
posted by mikeand1 at 6:32 PM on May 7, 2010


I wouldn't count on not being called again for years. I'm sure it depends on where you live, but here in Houston, the same people seem to get called on over and over again.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:45 PM on May 7, 2010


You have described everything I like best about the Quaker practice of coming to consensus, or what we more Quakerish-ly call "sense of the meeting," a process of deep listening in the effort to come to a unified decision. Traditionally, Quakers (being religious types) would say they were seeking God's will, but many liberal unprogrammed Friends are not Christians or even theists these days. Sure, you're usually dealing with less heavy, world-changing stuff than a jury might be (should we paint the meetinghouse? can we afford to allocate an extra $700 to the travel fund?), but the process is amazing. Being in Philadelphia, you are smack-dab in the beating heart of North American Quakerism.
posted by not that girl at 6:53 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I currently help run public meetings, typically on a contract basis with either a city or a private developer that needs to encourage a group of citizens to reach a consensus on what may be a contentious topic. (For example, how to redevelop a plot of land; how to plan for future water treatment facilities, etc.) This oftne brings together a wide variety of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and knowledge levels. It often involves environmental/social justice (or injustice).

This sounds like something you might be interested in doing.
posted by samthemander at 7:19 PM on May 7, 2010


Is there an organization in Philly you care about? A theater group? An after-school program? The town parks and recreation board? Many people get involved in something they are passionate about only to lose interest because of all the "politics" involved. But here you are, motivated by listening, encouraging, mediating, and helping a diverse group come to a healthy conclusion. You would be a gift to any organization seeking to enact change either by securing fund-raising, or winning a local vote, or convincing developers, residents, school boards, etc. The immense bonus from all of this exhilarating debate and problem-solving is that you're helping something you really care about -- education, arts, small businesses, the environment, whatever -- to get traction and action in a complicated whirl of delicate political interaction. Win-win!
posted by missmary6 at 9:35 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a data point, I really enjoyed serving on a jury -- I even volunteered to be foreman and loved it -- but I hated working in politics. The jury experience is much different because you have to reach a unanimous verdict, everyone has equal power, no one has any great way to influence each other, there are fewer people involved, and when it comes down to it, people aren't that invested in the outcome and want to go home.

In politics there's less impetus to get along because a majority matters more than consensus, there's nothing keeping you there until you get a result (you can all give up), people don't at all have equal power, people have a myriad of ways to influence each other (especially trading votes on other issues, but in a jury there aren't any other issues), there are TONS of people involved and no great way to have everyone converse at once, and people are heavily invested in the outcome and don't care if they have to argue for their entire life.

So if what you liked about being on a jury is that a diverse group of people got to be heard, and felt better when the conversation ended than when it started, I have to disagree with the suggestion that you'll enjoy politics. At least not on the state or national level; smaller, more focused groups might suit you better.
posted by Nattie at 10:00 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Check out info on Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed-- it's all about creating situations and forums for groups and communities to work through high-tension issues together in a collaborative atmosphere, albeit one where there are no easy answers. Falls under the heading of art, not politics, but it's one thing I've experienced that feels live and challenging in the way I believe you're describing. It's intensely interpersonal, political, and definitely offers more momentum and excitement than sitting on a local zoning council. See if there's anyone doing it near you.
posted by neitheror at 10:24 PM on May 7, 2010


The jury experience is much different because you have to reach a unanimous verdict, everyone has equal power, no one has any great way to influence each other, there are fewer people involved, and when it comes down to it, people aren't that invested in the outcome and want to go home.

This is a really insightful comment. Ultimately, you were dealing with a problem that most of the people around you saw as essentially a toy problem that was standing between them and getting on with their lives. Being a mediator or a politician will not be like this. Before I had this realization, I was thinking - if you have any skills/cred related to computing - working on standards would be really rewarding for you, probably. I was reading something by someone who's working on some standard - I want to say the latest ECMAScript standard - and it seems like it'd be right up your alley except that it can potentially last forever and the other people involved may have negligible social/diplomatic skills.
posted by little light-giver at 11:28 PM on May 7, 2010


It was incredibly exhilarating and tremendously complicated. I felt like I had to be alert and on my toes and thinking hard the whole time. The whole of the situation was continually shifting and changing in interesting ways. I felt like I had to creatively open up and frame personal experiences, frustrations, and fears in order to create trust and help other people feel comfortable saying what they really thought.

Are you up for a career change? If you are willing to give up having an opinion on the outcome, the process you describe is very much like what a therapist does (except for the unspoken alliance part)
posted by metahawk at 12:22 AM on May 8, 2010


Nthing community organizing. I actually think the Amazon search page for those keywords provides an interesting variety of perspectives on the theory and practice of this somewhat controversial tool for empowerment and social change.
posted by Truthiness at 2:50 AM on May 8, 2010


Thanks so much, everyone. I'm going to look into all of this.
posted by zeek321 at 5:50 AM on May 8, 2010


Do you have any technical expertise? Try working on a standards committee.
posted by novalis_dt at 8:26 PM on May 8, 2010


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