Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Rush to Judgment

I couldn’t make a racist statement to get out of jury duty. It’s just not me. And my letter failed–the one explaining that I might not be an ideal candidate, given my psychiatric history in the last year.

So there I was listening to the case, hoping that I would recognize the judge, the defense lawyer, the state attorney, or the defendant (like from the waiting room of my psychiatrist).

My case involved a motorcycle accident, in which the passenger died. The prosecutor argued that the driver was drunk while operating his Harley Davidson, which skidded off an off-ramp. (The passenger died instantly after hitting a guardrail.)

“Since this accident involves alcohol,” the judge addressed the jury pool, “would anyone have any reason that would keep them from impartial judgment.”


I stood up and made my way to the judge, two lawyers, and defendant.

“Sir,” I said, “as a recovering alcoholic, I tend to be very judgmental towards drunks who do stupid things.”

“I see,” he said. “But do you think you could put that behind you and try to judge this case fairly?”

“I will certainly try. But, sir, it’s kind of like being an ex-smoker…in a bar.”

The defense lawyer glared at the judge with eyes that said, “Don’t even think about putting this chick on the jury.”

I walked back to my seat with a smile because I knew I had just scored. But I was slightly embarrassed by what I had just said, and how it came out so naturally.


Growing up in an alcoholic family and enduring nineteen years of drunken holidays and dinners where I was the only sober one had left me with a few bruises. Almost all my compassion was used up in this area.

But maybe I shouldn’t have been so matter-of-fact.

A few days later, I read the details of the case in the paper, and I wanted so badly to take back my calloused and disparaging words.

The passenger who died wasn’t some fellow drunk picked up at a bar, like I thought. It was his wife. And the defendant said the only drink he had that day was one to toast his wife’s birthday.

“How many times do you have to learn this lesson?” I asked myself. “You can’t rush to judgment until you have all the details. And even then, it’s always best to err on the side of compassion.” My friend and mentor Mike taught me that.

  • http://HASH(0xd167f18) dee

    So Blue, what was the verdict of the case? Sounds like someone wanted to throw their weight around, charging him with a crime.

  • http://HASH(0xd168a68) GRAce

    Don’t be to hard on yourself. Almost every person picked for jury duty don’t want to be there and fabricate a story. But the lawyers and judge should have asked you for proof. As I have found out from being on a jury seledtion, in Georgia, you must prove that you can not be on the jury.

  • http://HASH(0xd168d8c) Carol

    So, what was the verdict. The man was probably already in alot of pain. I am bi-polar too, but I err the opposite way on the side of compassion. Sometimes that can get you in trouble too.

  • http://HASH(0xd169e14) Dallas

    May God have mercy on your & his & his wifes souls.

  • http://HASH(0xd16a5b4) Robb.Robb

    I’ve always wondered why people in their quick to listen with the intent to reply, spars so quickly, do to past bad doings on other peoples children? Like I’ve always heard my only best freind say in many of life’s worst situations too and, also while he was listening to this person problem’s or shall I say coincidence? He’d simply mention don’t cast your pearls before the swine. unquote. And now both him and I get the big picture. Thank All that is great in the eye of the beholder, and the Creator. Dawaii

  • http://HASH(0xd16b744) Robb.Robb

    I will and all ready done, said a prayer in memory and passing under the grace of pressure, and ask God to take them into his loving brace of solitude. Amen Thank You Jesus and those that he know’s.

  • http://HASH(0xd16c79c) Patti

    I try hard not to judge because when I do, It seems like I end up doing something guite like what I judged someone else for. I thank GOD for that. It helps me to see we are all human and we all do things we should not. I am less likely to judge anyone now, The Lord will show you much if you pay a little attition, I’m still learning, and I dsire to know the Lord better and pray for all.As I need your prayers too. Isn’t it wonderful when the Lord tells you,” It’s all about Love” so when people are mean to you , you have to and want to love them and pray for them so maybe their heart will soften, TRUST IN THE LORD, Patti

  • http://HASH(0xd16cac0) Terri

    The ease in which you made your reply really was not a fabrication. You had valid reasons for not wanting to sit on a jury to hear a case about alcohol. You may not have wanted to go on jury duty originally, but after hearing the charges there was no doubt that you could not be fair and impartial. You did the right thing by backing out. Now, knowing that the case may have been a sad mistake on your first impression…could you really say that you would not be impartial knowing that alcohol could have been a factor? Let’s say for the sake of argument that this man was not a heavy drinker. Alcohol affects non-drinkers higher than heavy drinkers..i.e, they get tipsy faster. Could you still be impartial or would you reason that the man driving used poor judgement and should be charged with vehicular homicide as his wife suffered the consequences of his actions? You have to also think about whether or not the act of driving a motorcycle (a hazardous, risky business) was a factor in the accident.

  • http://HASH(0xd16d7f0) cristina

    well i dont think you made the right choice because i as a daughter and sister and brother ,girlfreind would never make excuse’es for drunks or alcoholics he made his choice of getting on the motorcycle like you made it bye not judge’ing him just because you yourself is one to or did notcare i have my self never made excuse for my family and my boyfriend if i had to yes i would judge them or make them pay for their mistakes or they will keep going makeing more mistakes as they say .

  • http://HASH(0xd16eab0) Patrick

    I can hear and understand the pain you describe as a result of this situation. I can also hear myself asking the same question you did at the end of your column…”How many times do you [I] have to learn this lesson?” What I have learned is that, in both cases, whenever I sense such disturnbances in me, whether or not there is anything the other party did or didn’t do to me that helped generate the disturbance, that there is something I need to review about myself. In a way, its like me asking myself, “Who am I really angry/sad/afraid of/at here in this situation? I have learned that this form of introspection helps me learn valuable life lessons in nearly all circumstances. Thanks for your honesty and open frankness in what you shared with all of us.

  • http://HASH(0xd16f8f8) misty jones

    i love this blog!! it is certainly true. i understand where u are coming from because i am married to an alcoholic and i have a low tolerance for drunks doing stupid stuff too!! especially my husband

  • http://HASH(0xd170890) Jenn

    That was a fabulous article, teaching us just what you wanted us to learn. I will definatly not pass judgement so quickly from now on. Thank you.

  • Agatha

    I absolutely think we should not judge. My prayers to Britney and her journey on this plane, I think everyone that cares about her story should do so only to wish her recovery of herself and her kids. No one should judge. Take a look at yourself, what shadows follow you?

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