What’s It Like Being on the Peterson Jury?

Some see jury duty as a chore. Others embrace their civic duties. Whether you want to be there or not, we’re of the mindset that it’s better to accentuate the (admittedly few) positives of jury service, rather than dwell on the negatives.

Jurors get paid. Granted, the pay is barely enough for a combo meal at a fast food joint, but at least there is some compensation. Jurors in Cook County are paid $17.20 per day. That means for a three week trial, they make $258. Under a recently passed law, they can also refuse to be paid, just in case they feel that it is improper to accept compensation for such a noble duty.

The Richard Daley Center doesn’t pay for parking, so jurors should find a free lot or take public transportation. And though jurors do miss work, if you are blessed with jury duty, check with your employer. Many of them will pay while you are serving, including the University of Illinois.

There’s another benefit that is often overlooked: free food. According to the Sun-Times, the jurors get to choose anything they want from downtown restaurants … as long as it can be prepped on short notice (the jurors only get a one hour lunch break). There’s free soda, water, and apparently awful coffee. The Peterson jurors had to get special permission to bring in their own drip coffee maker and Starbucks coffee beans.

Lest we forget, there’s also the camaraderie that comes from being jammed in a small room with a dozen other people. As the old military saying goes, “Welcome to the suck.” A group that faces adversity together tends to bond. The Peterson jurors have brought in paperbacks, board games, and puzzles. The dirty dozen have even taken to dressing in matching colors in a show of solidarity. On Wednesday, the uniform color was red. On Thursday, it was blue. They are either incredibly bored or they are bonding.

We can’t ignore the grim realities of the situation however. Jurors are stuck in a small room, paid below-minimum wage, and have to hear testimony about some of the most despicable acts imaginable. There are grisly photos, autopsy reports, and traumatized family members. On top of that, jurors have to listen attentively to lawyers babbling for hours or even weeks. If they are really unlucky, they’ll have to witness lawyers’ incompetency and then be told to disregard random pieces of information.

But hey, there is free food.

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What’s It Like Being on the Peterson Jury?