This past week, I've had the pleasure of serving jury duty. I know that many people receive their Summons for Jury Duty and bemoan the inconvenience. They whine about how it interferes with this or that, and wonder what tricks they can use to get out of it.
I'm not those people.
I'm among those who am grateful that in this country, we have jury duty. Without jury duty, we would lose that wonderful protection that we have from a government that can willy nilly decide that someone they don't like should pay someone they do like in a civil case, or that someone they don't like should go to jail. We also lose that part of our freedom that requires the government -- the STATE ... the MAN to prove to a group of citizens that any accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before they incarcerate him. I consider it not merely a duty, but an honor to be able to serve on a jury.
I got my summons and said Oh Goody! I then scurried to the calendar to make sure that the date wouldn't find me smack in the middle of the last weeks of class. As much as I've wanted (for years) to be here...
(random pic from the net)
I didn't want to do it at the cost of being here:
Luckily, there was no conflict.
So, Monday, I betook myself to the court house, armed with some knitting (the Lionesse Cuff, about which you'll hear more soon), my physiology textbook (to review for the upcoming NCTMBE), a baggie of nuts, and a novel to occupy my wait times, and my summons. When I arrived, they tore the top corner off my Summons, and turned it into my Juror Badge. I became Juror Number XXX, and went to wait for what ever happened next.
Next, was the arrival of one of my former classmates from massage class. Tee hee.
Then we all watched a video of a judge and a sheriff giving their orientation presentations. Then we hung around for a bit until the Jury Coordinator read about 30 numbers randomly selected from the 150 or so of us who were gathered. The other folks, including my classmate got to leave. I was one of the 30, so I had to report back after lunch to be empaneled for a criminal trial.
I was pretty sure that I'd be culled from the panel. After all, I was, until fairly recently, a practicing lawyer; I'm married to a lawyer; my lawyer husband used to work at the State's Attorney's Office as a prosecutor. Oh, and I still know a bunch of lawyers, including a current Assistant State's Attorney.
Much to my surprise, I was NOT culled from the panel. I was, instead, among the first four jurors selected. They select juries in three sets of four (plus two more for alternates). So once my set was confirmed, we were sent home, with instructions to come to a particular door the next morning.
On Tuesday (yesterday), I arrived, again armed with knitting and a novel and some study materials, and joined my fellow jurors. They were all rather amazed that I had managed to get knitting into the building. The security personnel at the entrance to the building never questioned the circs in my bag ... so I keep bringing them.
Over the course of the day we heard testimony, took breaks (during which I knit), heard more testimony, and eventually, were tucked into the Jury Room to deliberate the question of whether the State had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Defendant had committed the crime with which he was charged.
I was troubled about a few things that we'd heard testimony on. Most notaby the "Show Up" in which the victim had identified her assailant. Unlike the "line up" we hear about, or the photo array we hear about, in a show up, a suspect is located soon after the crime has been committed, and the police either bring the suspect back to the scene of the crime, or transport the victim to the place they've found the suspect (or take them both to the station), and then give the victim a chance to see the fellow to identify whether "he's the guy". In this case, the defendant was presented for his by standing him, flanked by police officers, in the middle of the street in front of the squad car carrying the victim, with a spotlight on him. They then asked the victim, who was sitting in the back seat of the car, "Is that the guy?" I'm struggling to imagine a more suggestive presentation or a more tainted identification.
A (very) little research reveals that while the courts agree that this is suggestive, and consistently say that as a rule, it's a bad idea, they also seem to provide exceptions for every case. Clearly, our judge thought it was okay (or at least didn't think it was violating anyone's rights), because the prosecution was allowed to present that testimony. We have no way of knowing whether or not the defense counsel objected before trial, and thus we have no way of knowing whether the judge ruled on the question, or failed to raise the question or what. I'm not entirely sure that I won't research this further. But for now, the rule of THIS case is that a Show Up identification (also called a Field Identification) is okay.
Anyway. We discussed that issue, and other questions, and all the stuff that made it look like they had the right guy, and all the stuff that made you think, and got side tracked and brought back on track, and reminded ourselves that even though people's actions may not seem reasonable to us in hind sight, they might have seemed completely reasonable to them at the time, and reminded ourselves a few times that the question was not whether we thought the guy was guilty, but whether the state had proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt....... and reviewed the facts again, and ultimately reached a verdict.
It was interesting to see how well that group of twelve people, all but two of whom were strangers to each other that morning, got along, worked well together, respected each others' concerns while still standing firm in their own positions. I like these people. (I'm actually kind of sad that I'm unlikely to see any of them again after this week is over). I'm pretty sure that none of us felt like we were yielding just because the rest of the folks had reached the other decision. In the end, I think we got it right.
I'm not sure I'm allowed to say more than that yet, so I won't. In fact, I may have overstepped a little by writing what I have written -- but I figure that since I've not identified the defendant, or the judge, or the lawyers or the vicitim or the town in which I live, or even the specific crime, I'm likely vague enough here to avoid violating my oath to avoid discussing the case until it's over (especially since the only thing remaining is the sentencing, and I've got nothing to do with that).
During all of this, whenever we were in the jury room, I was knitting.
Today, I got to the court house bright an early, and was not in the group empanelled for the first trial of the day. So, while the second group waited... I knit. Again we discussed my miraculous ability to get needles into the court house. (and here, I'd like to point out that recently, there was an article in our local paper warning that the courthouse was about to get so strict about what you could bring in that they would not only be banning cell phones, but would ban anything with an on/off switch. In that article, they suggested that we bring our knitting....). Anyway, I was in the group that would have been empaneled for the second trial set to start today, but that one settled between the time they warned us that the Court Officer would be down to fetch us and the time that officer got to us. Thus, I was free by lunch!
One day of trial plus an hour or so of waiting to see if I'd be empaneled again allowed me to finish a sleeve! I think I'll cast on for the other sleeve this evening, so I will be ready for the tomorrow's events. In about two hours, I'll be able to find out whether or not I need to report for duty in the morning. In the mean time, I'm assuming that I will be.