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Candidates ought to sit in jurors’ seats

A bicycle is crumpled Chicago street after it was hit by car 2008.  |  Sun-Times Medifile

A bicycle is crumpled on a Chicago street after it was hit by a car in 2008. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:32AM



This was a crazy week.

Right after Monday’s final presidential debate, somewhere between Ann Coulter’s despicable description of the president as “a retard” and Barack Obama’s sophomoric reference to Mitt Romney as a “bull - - - - - - -,” I left the campaign trail.

Reason? Jury duty.

“They’ll never take you!” a Cook County Sheriff’s deputy, working security Tuesday morning at the Daley Center, said with a laugh.

Well, they did.

My fellow jurors and I were all in the same bind. We had places we were supposed to be. Jobs, kids, commitments. In my case, there was a congressional debate to moderate and a column to write.

In our group were three teachers worried about leaving their students in a lurch. Two more ­— a corporate lawyer and real estate broker — had appointments to keep with clients who were expecting them to show up. Two were cosmetologists; another managed a retail store, yet another was a federal supervisor. Add a letter carrier, an employee of a manufacturing company and yours truly.

We were a rainbow jury. Black, white and Hispanic. Eight women. Four men.

All rise.

Court is in session.

The plaintiff was a slender 21-year-old white woman with an almost shy demeanor. The defendant was a 75-year-old African-American man with a quiet reserve.

The case was a personal injury lawsuit. She was riding her bike one dark, winter night in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. He was driving his car.

Something happened.

He claimed she fell off of her bike and landed in front of his car. She claimed he struck her. Her face hit the pavement resulting in severe swelling, bruises and a small scar.

There were no eyewitnesses.

Her word against his.

Each seemed like a decent person.

Each appeared to genuinely believe their own version of events.

Her lawyer asked for $49,000 in medical bills, pain and suffering. His lawyer said we should give her nothing.

By Wednesday afternoon, we 12 walked into the jury room with very different — and in some cases, firmly held — views of the case.

Some of us sided with the driver, citing no evidence to the contrary, no dented fender.

Some sided with the bike rider. She choked up on the witness stand, clearly shaken by the accident and her injuries.

And some in our group were on the fence, arguing the two of them shared responsibility because she had no light on her bike but he, in all probability, bumped her off it.

Our debate was, at times, pretty vigorous. But it was also civil, respectful and thoughtful.

Ultimately, we voted for a settlement of $5,588, the exact amount of the young woman’s medical bills and nothing more.

It was not a perfect outcome for us as jurors. And not for the plaintiff or the defendant.

It was a compromise.

Something rarely seen in Springfield, in Congress or in the venomous campaigns of this 2012 election season.

There are mandatory requirements for candidates running for public office.

Personally, I’d add jury duty to the list.



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