An Open Mind

1. A mind willing to consider new ideas. (source)

Tuesday I had the bounty of serving on a trial jury. Perhaps even more so for being chosen to be the foreperson.

Many people gave me advice for how to get out of serving on the jury. None of it I memorized because I was kind of excited about serving on one. Television and movies distort the reality, so getting to see how they really work was something I wanted to experience.

A coworker decided as a well educated, state employee, minority race, with no criminal record, there was no way I would not be picked. He did not warn me as the sole male on the jury foreperson was a given.

One of the items in the charge by the judge given to us jurors was to keep an open mind. The importance of this is that we as a jury have to have a unanimous decision. A single member in disagreement invalidates it. This is what makes it hard. In our civil trial case, two members went strongly one way and another two members went strongly in an opposite way. Hearing the first two’s arguments the latter two shifted some but not all the way. Nor were the first two going go budge. So at an impasse, I realized it was not going to go anywhere, so I asked a bit about having an open mind to change the frame of the discussion. Then I took some votes on the items I thought we were all in agreement to show that of the four points we already agreed 100% on three. It was only the last point that was in contention. So when I asked about splitting the difference being reasonable, everyone agreed it was.

I think playing the “open mind” card helped. I asked one person about how she knew her position. She knew from the beginning certain things. So everything one lawyer said confirmed everything she thought. The opposing lawyer’s statements were all wrong. I responded that stance was the antithesis of having an open mind. I started to use an example with her as the victim, but the conversation shifted before she could respond. When it came back around to the possibility of splitting the difference, her response was that it was reasonable couched in trying to have an open mind. Everyone shifted their positions to meet in the middle.

In the end, the process hurts. There is no reasonable way for everyone to be completely happy. In any direction we as a jury chose, someone is hurt by our decision. This, I think, is the key insight we as citizens ought to learn and keep in mind for when we vote on representatives. We are picking people who have to make tough decisions about how to represent us and sometimes chose to vote for things we dislike. Though to represent us, sometimes that means having an open mind to speak for the people. All too often elected politicians claim a mandate to vote their will over the peoples’.

from Rants, Raves, and Rhetoric v4

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