The first thing you do after being installed on a grand jury in Dallas County is to raise your right hand and swear to keep your team’s deliberations secret. I served three days a week on a 3-month panel, and I can’t talk about our cases or defendants or discussions, but I can share a few takeaways.
First, the pandemic created serious delays for Dallas’ judicial system, and accused persons sit in jail cells today who need to have their cases adjudicated. If you are summoned to serve on a grand jury or petit jury, please answer the call. Whether the arrested party deserves to go to jail or be set free, justice delayed is justice denied. Your service is critical to our democracy.
Second, Dallas has a drug problem – young and old, rich and poor, north and south. You’ve heard about the crisis of exotic, chalk-colored fentanyl, but classics like meth, cocaine and heroin are keeping police busy on the streets of Dallas and surrounding bergs in Dallas County.
Third, never discount the power of calling police to report your observations, suspicions or even hunches as a neighborhood resident. Plenty of drug busts, theft rings, domestic assaults and other serious cases begin with Gladys Kravitz sharing what she saw up the street.
Fourth, follow the law. If you’re like me, you drive a little too fast, slip through an occasional yellow light and cut corners you know good-and-dang-well you shouldn’t. Stop it. Today. If we want law-abiding neighbors, we need to be law-abiding citizens. Besides, many cases brought for DWI, drugs, illegal guns, evading arrest or other serious crimes begin with a traffic stop for something minor.
Finally, serving on a grand jury or petit jury is fascinating and even fun. It’s amazing how twelve individuals from different parts of town with different backgrounds and experiences can come together to find a solution. Our group has a reunion dinner planned next month with tacos and margaritas. We’ve handled cases involving thousands of people during their most difficult days, and that’s nothing to celebrate, but we’ve strengthened our faith in America’s sense of justice and fair play. We’ve overcome serious disagreements and reached consensus without once attacking each other personally. Don’t miss your chance when your name comes up on the wheel.