Friday, December 12, 2008

Guilty

I spent the last week serving on a jury at the Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California.

It was the luck of the draw, mostly - I was called early in the day and apparently I'm an ideal juror...

All in all it was a very positive experience. I found the process itself interesting and I wised up enough after the first day to bring my own lunch. The judge told us from the onset that the trial would last three days and he was 100% correct.

I took copious notes. Seriously, I had an effing transcript by the end of the trial. I felt like I was back in school.

The case was presented to us fairly efficiently and without too much drama. It was almost a disappointment - we kept joking amongst ourselves that it wasn't at all like Law & Order.

Overall, I was actually almost enjoying the experience. Almost.

Until the very end.

The attorneys presented their closing arguments and we were lead back into the jury room after the two Deputy Sheriff's were sworn to not allow us to leave or have any contact with the outside world.

We selected our foreman. It wasn't me - I had decided that I'd step up if no one else volunteered and one guy jumped forward immediately. We should have thought that out more (the guy was nice enough but there's a reason Programmers don't lead people...) In the end, another juror and I had to step up several times to keep us organized and on track (INTJ reigns supreme...)

We agreed to most of the charges fairly quickly - finding the defendant Guilty of two counts of Armed Robbery and one count of Aggravated Battery with a firearm. But it was the charge of Attempted First Degree Murder that we had more trouble with.

Honestly, I could have gone either way on that charge at the beginning of our deliberations. I was on the fence and I said so. Several others were as well.

I was supremely impressed with my other jurors. Everyone - absolutely EVERYONE - took their duties with utmost seriousness and we all treated one another and our various opinions with complete respect. I am very proud of each and every one of us.

In the end, we agreed to a Guilty verdict on all counts.

I had no problem signing any of the verdict forms and when we re-entered the courtroom, I held myself upright. But when the court secretary read the verdicts aloud, my stomach began to twist. I felt I owed it to the defendant to face him.

I did not expect it to be as difficult as it was. I do not regret my decision at all. But here it is, two weeks before Christmas and we tendered a verdict that can only send a young man (he is 20 yo) to prison for the rest of his life. It is not a happy job.

So yes, we found the defendant Guilty.

But I feel guilty as well. Not shame - I would do nothing differently if asked again - and I am proud to have been a part of Justice and I am 100% positive that the defendant (and his victims) received justice. But I'm not dancing in my PJs today.

I am sad. This whole situation was utterly heartbreaking and a waste of several human lives. I can take no joy in it.

2 comments:

garth said...

Take solace in the fact that you probably prevented another person(s) from becoming a victim to a future crime. Buck up juror number five.

Angela said...

This was a great read. I used to be in the jury consulting biz, and while we did lots of jury research, everything was so... DATA oriented. (And we didn't do criminal law, which is going to be fraught with more drama, I suspect.)

This was great insight. I'm so glad to hear what you said about the jurors and how you all treated one another. Kind of gives one hope, doesn't it?

Re: not like Law & Order: 99% of trials are boring as shit. Even trials with dramatic charges, such as murder, are usually boring as shit. So you got the real deal. ;)

And to echo Garth, YOU didn't send him to prison for the rest of his life. HE took that chance when he did what he did. I'm not thrilled with the U.S. justice system or the incarceration rates, but you did what you had to do.

You have such a great attitude about things. You seem very grounded.

Don't worry, EEE. If we can put a man on the moon, we can put a man on YOU! ;)

(I'm working on myself as well, and it's slow-goin'.)