OGDEN -- Last week, instead of keeping the public informed by writing stories or designing pages, I spent my time performing a different community service. I served on a jury for the Second District Judicial Court.
No, it was not a murder or anything of that nature, to answer the first question everyone asks. The case involved a woman that sued her insurance company to cover her medical bills.
As a reporter for the newspaper of record in the Top of Utah, I never thought I would get past filling out the questionnaire that arrived in the mail. My boss said I was the first journalist he knew selected to serve on a jury.
Needless to say, I had to report for my civic duty like everyone else. The court drew my name from driver's license and voter registration lists.
Judicial Case Manager Diane Wood said that everyone must report for jury duty, if they believe they can serve or not. Even judges and law enforcement officials are not immune.
When I arrived at the courthouse Monday morning, I had the distinction of being prospective juror No. 1. I wanted to come dressed in my Ninja Turtle costume while claiming to be the Ninth Earl of Cheswick, but the dress code said business casual.
After a series of questions to see if I knew anyone in the courtroom or had a problem that related to the case, the attorneys deliberated and grabbed the first nine people sitting in the front row.
Since it was a civil trial, we were eight jurors and an alternate. The alternate had to sit through the case until the jury deliberated.
My fellow jurors and I were as diverse as the characters from a Disney Channel show, coming from all areas of Weber County.
Our numbers included a university professor, a hospital maintenance employee, a cosmetologist, a fitness instructor, a registered nurse, a retired nurse, a retired mailman and a local business owner.
From Monday through Friday, with a break on Wednesday, we listened to witness and expert testimony, trying hard to absorb all of the information and stay awake. I shared the trick I learned covering government meetings, where I jab a pen into my thigh to keep from falling asleep.
Yet after hours of testimony, we could not discuss the case with anyone until after it was over.
That was fine when it came to my friends and family, but imagine being with a room full of strangers and the one shared experience that binds you all together is the one thing you can't talk about.
Others had different problems.
For cosmetologist Kristin Bentley, from Roy, the difficult aspect of serving in jury duty was the impact to her business. She had to reschedule her clients for the following week.
Registered Nurse Sheri Cosby, from Huntsville, had difficulty with the legal process. She did not like seeing the attorneys continually question the credibility of the witnesses.
Yet we all took away positives as well.
Retired nurse Phyllis Hundertmark liked the respect showed to us. Since we were deciding the case, everyone in the courtroom stood every time we entered.
Hospital maintenance worker Rene Guzman echoed the sentiments of my fellow jurors, that it was a new experience and he enjoyed seeing a different side of the legal system.
For me, the best part about serving in jury duty, other than serving my community, is that I am off the hook from jury duty for the next two years.
Jesus Lopez Jr. is business editor for the Standard-Examiner. You can reach him at email@example.com.