- Politics and Social Issues
My Civics Activities
We all have a responsibility and a duty to serve. Our government requires a knowledgeable public and a honest media to protect and preserve and defend the Constitutiuon. This can take on many forms including to serve on juries when called and to defend our country in times of war and to vote.
Jury Duty Westchester County NY
In the 1990's, I was chosen to be a juror on a criminal case. This was a high profile local murder case involving a local young kid. The case lasted 4 weeks of testimony and a full week of deliberation. It was one of the most emotional experience in my life and for all the jurors. The case was a baseball bat murder of one kid by another after an altercation at a night club. There was no question of who committed the act. The case came down to the motive and any extenuating circumstances. The charge was 2nd degree murder and we the jurors ended up convicting him of man slaughter.
This was my first experience ever in a criminal court room and it was no way similar to the TV shows such as "Ironside." The case demonstrated to me the vast power of the judge in how he can control the direction of the case. It also shows me the importance of having a good defense attorney. In our court system, the process is geared towards having everything done properly by the prosecution and any mistakes or problems will help the defense. A good defense attorney only need to plant a sliver of doubt in any juror's mind and the case is swayed in his favor.
We the jurors struggled with the facts presented and in the end ruled for the lower charge of manslaughter. This would reduced the sentence of the defendant. We were comfortable with that decision since we did not want to ruin a young person of 22 his whole life due to a very bad and tragic mistake.
Grand Jury in NYC
In 2006, I was summoned to participate in a Grand Jury in NYC Federal Court. As a result of the month long activity, I wrote a letter to the court and some of our elected officials highlighting the problem with illegal immigration. As you can see from their responses, nothing was done.
Trump State Park
I wrote a hub this topic Trump State Park. Since this happened right in my home town of Yorktown Heights, NY, I felt I had to get involved.
Yorktown Landmark Preservation Commission
I have always been supportive of preserving our heritage and history. I had some spare time and decided to volunteer and serve on our local Town's Landmark Preservation Commission. It was a three year appointment and there were a monthly meeting of the board to work on various issues. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the whole board, consisting of three members had resigned in protest just prior to my appointment. My task became trying to convince others to join the board. It was very difficult and that's when I realized that very few people put their money where there mouth is. In the three years of my tenure, very little got accomplished. Needless to say, I was disappointed in the lack of progress.
Westchester County Archives
Since 2003, I started volunteering at the Westchester County Archives in Elmsford, NY. It was a two hours per week commitment and it has continued to this day. I enjoy the people there and the work of digitizing many of the historical photographs in their collection. They have a crew of 30 or so volunteers doing various tasks.Once a year, they throw a great luncheon for all the volunteers and the County Executive shows up to congratulate everyone.
One of the major civic duty of each citizen is the responsibility to vote. I have voted in every Presidential election since 1972. I've also voted in most local elections during the same period. I always try to understand the issues and read up on the candidates before voting. I have voted for both parties and have considered myself to be an independent thinker. I have a conservative political philosophy but have voted for many moderates. My thinking regarding voting is the following. If you don't vote, you have no right to complaint about your government.
This hub described some of my experiences in the civic arena. I hope more people will volunteer their time and energy to help improve our local government. It is also our duty as citizens to voice any problems or concerns. That's the way anything positive will come about. Thanks for reading.
Some Related Information
- Common Sense: Letter to Secretary Chertoff - post service on Grand Jury
My blog on my grand jury experience.
- Digital Collections
The Westchester County Archives, Elmsford, NY