Editor’s note: This week, a jury in a downtown Pittsburgh courtroom began hearing testimony in the trial of the man charged in the 2018 killing of 11 congregants of the Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha, Dor Hadash and New Light congregations.

Artist Andrea Shockling was in the jury pool, and for two months had to weigh how service could affect her life, whether she could be impartial in the case — and conversely how valuable it would be to have diversity on a jury in a case of such importance. (The jury includes no Black, Hispanic or Jewish jurors, but does include one Asian member.)

As the trial got underway, she took her experience, and her concerns with the jury selection process, to the drawing table.

I was alerted by texts to the shooting at the Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Life congregations.
Years later, I received notice that I was called to jury duty at the U.S. Courthouse in Pittsburgh.
I reported and waited ... and waited ... with other panelists.
I soon learned that I was on the panel from which jurors would be selected for the trial of the man charged in the Tree of Life shooting.
I had to fill out a 26-page questionnaire aimed at ferreting out bias.
One question: Would I need accommodations? Yes, transcription, note-taking, focus breaks ...
And without my phone, how do I even answer some of these questions?
Jurors won't be able to talk about the case or ask questions - and will make a life-or-death decision.
I waited, called in at the appointed time, called again, and again ...
On one hand, I didn't want to face jury duty. On the other hand, I might be perfectly suited for such a weighty task.
When so ordered, I reported back to the courthouse.
But I was dismissed. Sent home. Done.
That saved me the stress of a lengthy and momentous trial — and saved the court the trouble of accommodating my diversity.
It also left me pondering: Just how ableist, classist and, by virtue of that, racist is the jury selection system?
To what extent do we sacrifice the ideal of justice for the sake of convenience and cost? This won't be the trial at which those questions will be answered — at least for me.

Andrea Shockling is a Pittsburgh comics artist and storyteller. You can follow more of her work at andreashockling.com.

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