I have a somewhat twisted mind. I will admit it. This doesn’t mean I am going to be the next Ted Bundy though… I just enjoy Law and Order (SVU), hearing about crimes and murder on the news, and last but not least unsolved mysteries… I don’t know what it is about them, but I am attracted to it. I want to solve them and be involved in the “drama” that television has portrayed. About a month and half a go I got a life changing letter in the mail. My Jury Summons. I ripped open the letter to see I would be “on call” for the week of April 14, 2014. It was my first jury summons and I was elated. I did what most people do, I studied up. I watched Runaway Jury, Legally Blonde, and read through some of my old debate notes. I wanted to be ready just in case the lawyer needed me to step in and help (that didn’t happen unfortunately). My reporting number was 391. I called in religiously to see when they needed me. It was on Thursday morning that I called in and was picked. Thrilled to be part of something new, I left work and entered the Idaho, Ada County, Court House. I went through security, and felt like I was getting on a plane… Instead I entered the elevator and headed up the fourth floor. I found the jury assembly hall, entered and received instruction. We sat and watched a movie about how grateful the government and people of Idaho were that we were fulfilling our civic duty. As I looked around you could see many were not too excited about being there. The video finished and they started to call out names and assign us a number. I was lucky 13. We formed a line straighter than the ones in elementary school and filed down to the court room. That sat on the hard “church like” benches and began to tell us what the case was about. It was a criminal case (SCORE). The offense was a misdemeanor injury to child. Now, this was a sad subject and it was very apparent on the jurors faces. As we sat there waiting to be asked questions, I looked at the defendant (the guy who MIGHT have committed the crime) and began to judge him. I realized how prone we are to deciding who someone is or what they have done before hearing them out. At that point I pushed all of that aside, and gave him a blank slate in my mind. The lawyers started to ask questions, they included things like this:
Have you ever been spanked?
Do you think it is okay if you use more than spanking?
Do you hate policeman, the court system, or the government?
Who does not want to be here today?
Those were a few of the questions the lawyers asked. The one person who was excused immediately was a young woman who was due on Friday and was having contractions, her excuse was worthy the judge said. After some deliberation, the jury was selected. I was now number 4. I had made it onto the jury, and I was excited to cross this off of my bucket list. With that I got to keep my “juror” badge, that I was extremely proud of, and the trial began. What people don’t tell you about jury duty is that there is A LOT of down time. Luckily I had brought my iPad and I could still get some work done. You would go into court for about an hour and then you would have a “recess” very similar to elementary school once again. There were witnesses that would come to the stand, be sworn in and then give their testimonies. The testimonies that were the most depressing and hardest to listen to were of the two kids. One was 11 and one was 7. The father had admitted to hitting the son across the face, he kept using the word “pop” which was defined as a slap. The father continued to say that the hit was justified and beneficial to his son because of how he was behaving (which is in accordance with the law). A doctor came and testified that there was a bruise on the child’s head but could not be identified as abuse. The bruise was not in the area that the child, defendant, and mother had testified him being hit. The State (who took him to court) did not do enough research. It was a horribly thought out case with too many holes. The defendant wasn’t much better either…
The Trial went into 2 days. We were to hear from 6 more witnesses that day. After making it through two the defendant’s lawyer said he rested his case. We were shocked that he had skipped his witnesses. They said we would break for about 15 minutes and then come back for closing arguments… TWO hours later and a delicious Good Wood BBQ lunch (super normal p.s.) we were called back in. After the closing arguments we started deliberation. The Marshal takes all electronics and lock them up and you are locked into a tiny room with the other jurors. At this point no one can leave until you have made a decision. It took about an hour, and grudgingly we found him not guilty. There was not enough information to prove the burden of proof, or that he was truly guilty. It was a lost case. After we handed in the verdict, we were enlightened on the behind the scenes. The defendant was arrested the night before for intimidating a witness and was held on bond for $150,000. He had tampered with the two children’s testimonies. This had slipped up when they were giving their testimonies.
When it was all said and done it was painful to say goodbye to the other jurors. In those short two days we had become friends. We had been locked in a room together for long hours. We made a decision together that would alter the course of people’s lives. I don’t know why people don’t want jury duty… I hope everyone gets the chance to sit on a jury. I learned more about the court system, I became more grateful for the life I have, and met people I had nothing in common with but left as friends. That was my jury duty. In case you were wondering, you can not become a career juror… I already asked…. There is always Federal Court though 🙂