I had jury duty this past week. It was an experience to say the least.
I had to call Monday night to see if my number was called. It was. My second call was to the principal I had an interview with, to reschedule. This was not off to a good start.
The jury pool started with about 70 of us. People were excused for various reasons ranging from they were leaving town the next day, to doctors appointments, to having personal experience with the subject of the case. Soon, they had whittled it down to 14 of us. (Twelve jurors and two alternates.) The fact that my husband was an attorney caused the prosecutor pause, until they found out what type of law he did.
On our jury there were a variety of ages, backgrounds, races and professions. Three of us were teachers.
The trial started and we heard opening arguments from both sides. And then the witnesses were called. The witnesses were nervous, and obviously did not want to be there. (The accused was being charged with a violent crime and had a criminal past.) The man on trial was even on the stand. It was extremely uncomfortable to watch because he was belligerent with both the prosecutor and his own attorney.
He was being charged on 3 counts: 1) tampering with a witness, 2) aggravated assault, and 3) assault with a a deadly weapon.
The deliberations were surreal. We all had our own opinions about the case and what happened. The law was written in a very specific way, and we had to base our decisions on that. For two of the counts I thought the deliberations were going to end in fisticuffs. This was because although the general opinion was leaning towards one way, the law was written in such a way, that there was really no option on how to find him.
We went back into the courtroom to read the verdict. We had found him guilty on two of the charges and not guilty on one. We were grateful to be done. It was an exhausting process. However, the judge had one more surprise for us. There was one more charge that needed to be deliberated on. The judge said that he had not been allowed to tell us of the fourth charge, until we had come to the verdict on the other three. We sat that there in shock, as we were told we now had to go back in the jury room and deliberate one more charge.
Once again, emotions ran high. Once again, we were forced to come to a certain decision because of the specific way the law was written. We were angry because we thought that it was an unfair, verdict that was again based on a technicality. In fact, we were so upset that the judge came into the jury room after the trial was officially over and talked to us about the verdict. He assured us that we were fair, and had followed the law. We appreciated him reassuring us, because some of the jurors had been losing sleep over it.
I am glad my jury duty is over. It was interesting to be part of the process and it is an experience I will not soon forget. More importantly, it gave me new appreciation for verdicts that we, as the public, think are unfair.