April 17, 2007 Myspace blog post

Mr. Foreman, Has the jury reached a verdict?

Current mood:good

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I was called to jury duty beginning April 2. Almost immediately I was chosen to sit on a trial…Due to the fact that you are not allowed to discuss the case while it is ongoing, I was not able to say very much here other than the fact that I was on a case.

Thank God said case is now OVER and I can talk about it!!

I have to say, serving on a trial is both one of the most interesting things and one of the most boring things you will ever do. Interesting, because it is facinating to see our justice system at work. We learn about arrest and our right to trial by jury at school. We learn that a defendant is considered Innocent in the eyes of the Law until he/she is PROVEN to be guilty. We see certain aspects of trials and verdicts on the television whenever John/Jane Celebrity are in court. We watch Law and Order, for crying out loud!

But as Juror number 6 put it one day about half way in, “Law and Order this ain’t!”

Being a juror starts when they call your name to step into the jury box during jury selection. If both sides accept you, you are in. You could be asked to step down by either side at any time during selection. So until both the state and defense rests on the jury, you are sitting in the box feeling like you are the cows in a cattle inspection!

Once the jury is chosen and sworn in by the judge, the trial begins. The State attorney stands up and gives opening arguements. Then the defense does the same. Then the first witness is called.

Here is where the boring comes in….Have you ever witnessed an attorney questioning a witness? At first it is interesting because you don’t know anything about the case and your are being given key details. The state asks her questions, and then the defense counters and asks his. Then the state gets a chance to ask some more, then the defense attorney…this goes on until both sides have “No further questions, Your Honor”. Both sides go over and over the same details from the same incidents repeatedly…sometimes trying to clarify, sometimes trying to trip up a witness…but always the same detail! By the time you get to the 8th witness, it gets a bit hard to keep your mind engaged in the process. But to be fair to this “innocent” man sitting there, you must.

They attorneys questions must be very carefully worded so as not to lead the witness to say something, or to get the witness to refer to a third party and possible “here-say” testimony. To get from point A to point B in questioning is sometimes a very long and scenic route….a bit like watching paint dry.

As the days ticked by, a picture began to take shape in our minds as to what happened and how the defendant was involved. The five day trial turned into 6 days…and the only witness the defense called after the state rested was the defendant himself! After his testimony, both sides offered their closing arguements to the case…and the state got the chance to refute the arguements of the defense attorney. Finally, the judge gave intstructions to the jury. On day seven, we would finally be able to deliberate.

Our defendant was charged with 5 different counts that we had to talk about. One thing we all agreed on…He did it. The problem was, in order to convict on a charge you had to be sure he did it beyond a reasonable doubt based on the state’s evidence. On three of the charges, we felt that the state dropped the ball…we even knew what we would have needed to see to say “Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” but the state’s attorney did not adress these things. So we had to aquit of these charges. The other two counts were Guilty, and we were in solid agreement on that. One was a felony and one a misdemeanor charge. We deliberated for 4 1/2 hours.

We were called in to the court room to have the verdict read, and we were all polled as per the defense request as to whether we were in agreement on the verdict.

Boy was it nice to leave the court that day!!!

Overall, it was a good experience…during times when we sat in the jury room for a “short” break (anywhere from the 5 minutes promised to 2 hours later!) we were able to talk and get to know each other a bit. We discussed politics, religion, parenting, race, civil rights…a whole lot of topics that normally would be “hot” topics. We had a spread of older and younger, business people and laborers, moms, dads, singles, marrieds, grandparents, republicans and democrats….we had different races on this jury. It was a very diverse group of people.

We didn’t agree on everything…but we did have some very interesting dialog regarding the issues. Everyone respected everyone else, and we were able to hear other opinions and discuss them in an informed and respectful way. I have never had interaction like this to this degree…I often talk to friends like this. You know, just a few of us. I also have been in one on one discussions with folks who don’t agree with me…some were civil and respectful, and some folks respond only with closed-mindedness and hate when you try to disagree.

This was a group of 15 strangers, brought together for another purpose all together, and we were able to come together on our own and connect. No, we didn’t all agree on everything. But we listened and really heard the viewpoint expressed. It was a very interesting learning experience for all of us…we all agreed on that!

I would definately choose to do this again…if it weren’t for the impact on my personal life. I have kids…I babysit kids. Easter fell in the weekend right in the middle of jury duty…and then the kids were off school for a week. I was not excused for whatever reason, even though I asked to be. So I had to serve. And I had to work out babysitting. My husband stayed home one day with them, but he ran into trouble at work over that. After all, it was a big week with several important clients and he needed to be there. And he wasn’t sitting on a jury, I was… For whatever reason I was having a lot of trouble working out arrangements, so long story short I had to drive the kids up into PA on Wednesday evening after I got home from court to my mom, who took off two sick days from her job in order to have my kids. Didn’t get in until 11:30 that night and had to be in court the next morning. When the kids are older, I can see this being something do-able. But I hope I am not called again any time soon! The legistics are just too messy! lol

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