July 12, 2006

Reasonable Doubt

I had jury duty last Friday.

I ended up on a case...a nasty one, too. (Although there were 100 called, only 26 showed up. Even those were good odds, had they gone in numerical jury number order. But noooooo, they just randomly assigned us based on how quickly we turned in our questionnaires. Guess who finished first? That's right, and my special reward was to be the first person called up to a hot seat.)

Although, I'm glad to do my civic duty. Unlike some others who needed more thought before they realized their important role in government. ;-)

Basically, it was a 25 year old and a 14 year old in a he-said, she-said situation. I was alone among the six jurors in thinking that he (the defendant) was probably guilty, going into deliberations (they didn't know that when they elected me their leader....). The rest of them asked me if I was sure "beyond a reasonable doubt," and I had to admit I was not. He certainly *could* have done it (no real alibi emerged). He *probably* did it (so think I). But I wasn't *sure* he did it. So, he was Not Guilty.

I know I'd rather "let ten guilty go free than hang one innocent," but it wasn't very comfortable all the same. I especially felt bad that I couldn't at least let the accuser know that I thought she might be telling the truth; as it is, I fear we gave her a collective slap upside the head (though there was testimony regarding her veracity, or lack thereof, she reminded me of a lot of my former students. Maybe I'm just a soft touch...)

Adding to the irony was the fact that the Assistant D.A. did, really, an awesome job (her witnesses were just crappy), while the other attorney was absolutely execrable. The judge asked us if we wanted to hang around and chat after the verdict (when everybody else had left the courtroom), and she was so bad that we, the jury, had to know if that attorney was a Public Defender. We were all relieved? to learn that at least the defendant wasn't paying her. Though that doesn't say much for the indigent in our society's chance at actual justice.... The judge was nice and pointed out that she hadn't had much experience yet. (and the judge WAS nice, although we also saw him in "SCARY" mode when he was laying down the law a few times on witnesses, attorneys, and spectators. I was glad to be on the jury instead at those points!)

1 comment:

Tami said...

Wow, that is really something. I'd love to stay for jury duty. I've been called a few times, but they always dismiss me when they find out I have a BIL who's a Salem cop. *sigh*