I was called into jury duty on Tuesday.We rendered our verdict today at five o'clock.
It wasn't a lot of fun, but it was certainly educational.
Now that the case is over, I can actually talk about it...
Basically, it was a rape case. And basically, we found the guy not guilty. None of this was easy. Unfortunately, the alleged victim either could not or would not remember anything about the alleged assault, and since the defense was consent (That is: "Yes we had sex, but it wasn't rape." This makes forensic evidence pretty useless, really.), it boiled down to he said / she said and that really wasn't enough for us to believe beyond the fabled "reasonable doubt" that the defendant was guilty.
When we went into deliberate, the first thing I asked was "Is anyone dying to be foreperson?" which got answered with "You go ahead." Ack! OK... That's me then: Foreman of the Jury.
Then we went around the table to state our feelings: One said guilty, three were undecided, and eight (including myself) felt not guilty was the right verdict. As we talked it over, it became apparent that we all felt something uncool happened. However most of us weren't so sure about it based on the evidence that we were willing to say a man was guilty of a serious crime. We all felt badly for the woman, but when close to ninety per cent of her testimony consisted of the phrase "Honestly, I don't remember at this time." we couldn't send a guy down the river. Something seemed to be going on with her. The District Attorney even asked her at one point "Are you trying to remember?" It was as if she had given up the fight. Whether that was because she just wanted it over with and behind her, as she stated, or if it was because she had lied about the whole thing, as the defense contended, we just didn't know. That's the very definition of reasonable doubt, I think.
Just before five the one juror who had been strongly in favor of a guilty verdict was just starting to realize that he, too, had a doubt in his mind, the bailiff / court secretary / ??? came in and said the judge was going to call recess for the day. Of course, we replied with a hearty "No! Wait! Just a couple more minutes!" I checked again with the juror who was changing his mind to be sure he wasn't feeling coerced in any way and that he would be able to sleep at night with this decision. He said simply that he did indeed have a reasonable doubt and that it would be worse to convict an innocent man than to send someone who, to our knowledge, might be a one-time offender free.
So we re-polled, and I got everyone to agree that we were unanimous, and I signed my name under the NOT GUILTY verdict.
This was all very difficult and distressing.
Luckily I hung out in the parking lot (telling my boss that I'd actually be back to work tomorrow) long enough that I saw the judge come out. I went over to him and thanked him for the experience, etc. Then I made a comment about how tough an ordeal it was and he described the whole situation in a single word: Pathetic. It really was. Pathetic and sad for everyone involved. Then I mentioned how there was no way we could have come back with any other verdict and he agreed totally. He said that if it had been a trial before the court (without a jury) he would have had to determine a not guilty verdict as well. This is why I say it was lucky I ran into him. That validation really helped.
I wish I could share that with the other jurors.
So, there you go.
Cool parts and observations:
- Cops (at least patrol officers, and in particular the 2-years-in-the-service pup who testified) seem to hate defense attorneys. I think they feel like they are trying to make them look like idiots.
- Contrary to what is depicted on TV (be it Vegas, Miami, or NY), CSIs wear uniforms. They look a lot like SWAT fatigues.
- If you are an alternate juror, you won't know until the moment they send the jury in to deliberations. What a tease!
- The forensic scientist from the CBI was really cool and very educational. She was also the only witness who brought anything (other than an oxygen tank) with her to the stand (her files, that is â€“ no fun slides or anything like that).
Jury duty can be a hassle. It can drain you emotionally, like this did for all of us, I think. But it's certainly worth doing. I'm glad to have done it.
Besides, it could have been worse.