by Dana Ard
From the Editor: Dana Ard is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, and in that role she displays so much of what it means to be a loyal, hard-working Federationist. She takes her responsibilities as an advocate seriously, and when we win a right, she doesn’t try shirking the responsibility that goes along with it. We are blessed by her contributions to the Monitor. Here is her latest offering:
I received my first-ever jury summons letter in mid-February. Since the dates that I was to appear were during convention week, I requested a postponement and was soon notified by mail that my dates of service would be April 5 to 9. I was told that I would have to call in at the end of each weekday to find out when I needed to appear at the Ada County courthouse. I called in on the Saturday night before the Monday which began my time of service. I learned that I would need to appear at the courthouse on April 5 at 12:30. When I arrived, I was checked in through security, and a marshal escorted me to the fourth floor and into the large room where the prospective jurors were to wait. There was an informational video played describing jury service.
An hour after arrival, about thirty-five of the one hundred-plus prospective jurors were given placards with a number on them. We were told to line up in order and move to a room where we would be interviewed. My number was seven. The judge, Michael Reardon, asked questions that focused on our critical thinking and analytical skills as well as rooting out and learning about our biases. Near the end of his questioning, he asked if there was anyone who had never been summoned for jury duty. I raised my placard, because although my husband was called at least five times, I had never been summoned for jury duty. He then asked who was excited to serve on a jury. I raised my placard, and I was invited to speak. I explained that I was honored to be there even if I wasn’t selected. I stated that I wanted to fulfill my civic duty and serve on a jury. After a short recess, we returned to our room for a few more comments from the judge, and then the selection began. Numbers were called: four, six, and then my magic number, seven. I was selected to serve on the jury for the trial!
The defendant in the trial was accused of knowingly possessing, depositing, and attempting to cash a stolen third-party check. I took Braille notes on all of the witness testimony as well as the guidance from the judge on what we had to consider when deciding this case of grand theft. When we began deliberations, I thought the case was a slam-dunk. I believed that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; but, surprisingly, not everyone agreed with me initially. After approximately two hours, we reached consensus that the defendant was indeed guilty as charged. Following our rendering of the verdict in court, we learned that the defendant had two prior charges similar to the one on which we had just convicted him.I am proud to have been able to exercise my civic responsibility as a juror. I am hopeful that my service will demonstrate to judges and attorneys that blind people should not be disqualified from jury service based solely on blindness.