Jury Duty: Civic Responsibility or Moral Obligation?

This all started when I receive a summons for jury duty a few weeks before I am to report. On the back it says to be sure to call after 6:00 on the evening before I am to report just in case they don’t need me. I called right at 6:00 and the message is that all jurors are to report the next day. Well, that could be wrong, so I called again in an hour and got the same message. Of course, I have to try one more time just to be sure. I’m not sure what this says about me. Almost everybody that has been summoned to jury duty assured me that I would probably sit there all day and never get called. That’s okay with me, so I take a book.

Find out what happened on the flip...

When I arrive on Monday morning there are enough potential jurors to fill the jury room and more. They give all of us a questionnaire to fill out and we are told numerous times to fill out both sides. I’m wondering how I can fill it out to make them turn completely against me. Civic duty was not on my mind. They want to know what my three favorite television shows are in order. Keith Olbermann needs to know that being #1 doesn’t make a bit of difference. What is wrong with these people? They also wanted to know if anyone in my family has ever studied law, where and when. Well, you know the answer to that. Has anyone in my family ever been in law enforcement? Does an ex count? I put him down even tho’ it has been 100 years. At least they didn’t ask for names.

Around eleven o’clock they told all of us to put on our juror badges and they escorted us into a court room. Something must be up. Then the judge introduced us to the DA, the detectives, the defense attorneys and the defendant. We are all stunned when the defendant stands up. He was a beautiful man, and we thought he was one of the attorneys. They tell us that it is a first degree murder and felony child abuse case. This is serious s____.

After lunch they start jury selection. The DA asks questions first and then the defense. Then they dismiss the ones they don’t like. Some of the responses… ”I’ll do whatever the Lord tells me”, “I’m just happy to be here and not at work.”, “I can’t wait to hear the testimony to find out why he did it”. Have you ever heard of innocent until…never mind. One of the questions was…If you know someone has agreed to testify against someone else who has the same charges for reduced charges for themselves, would you value their testimony with suspicion? Duh!! Ya mean a plea??

Early Wednesday, I heard my name. They say they call names at random. I have to believe them. The DA asks me right away who in my family studied law at Columbia… “My brother”. Is he a practicing attorney…. “No, he is a recovering attorney”. Did it make him mad? No. He thought it was funny. He asked enough questions that I am sure he figured out who my brother was without asking his name. He asked the ages of my grandchildren and if any were toddlers…22 months, three, three and a half…a few toddlers. That didn’t seem to matter, but it had mattered with other people they questioned. Then the defense started. They asked me about the plea bargain testimony. I said I would be suspect. Sorry, but I think most people would be. Then he asked me if they convinced me they were telling the truth, would I believe them. What kind of question is that? Of course, if they convinced me…. The next thing I know I am selected. I am a miserable person to be around after that happens. [SD testimonial: Trust her on this. She was a grump. ]

Both sides make their opening statements that day and then they let us go home. Keep in mind, I am making big money for doing this…$12 the first day, $20 day 2 – 5, $40 for the remainder. They told us it would take about two weeks. It took over three weeks.

It doesn’t take long to start paying close attention and taking things very seriously. You realize very quickly that someone’s life is in your hands. There was no death penalty or I could have gotten out of jury duty, but life without parole is a life. I couldn’t sleep at night and I couldn’t talk about it to anybody. I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep. I really did start out with the belief that he was innocent until proven guilty. They never proved to me that he was guilty.

The facts in the case did not support a guilty verdict. After all, his wife had pled guilty to breaking the baby’s arm when she was 19 months old. That baby had 44 injuries in different stages of healing – including skull fractures – and 10 broken bones. Some might call her evil, some might call her misunderstood. I’ll let you decide for yourself. The prosecution didn’t convince the jury that the defendant was responsible for the injuries or the child’s death. He had been gone for most of the time during which the injuries occurred. The mother was serving her time, but there wasn’t enough evidence against the defendant to bring him to trial. That is until the mother agreed to plea to felony child abuse which would mean she would have served her time and would be released from jail.

Yes, a Special Forces officer and non-biological father can be innocent. The prosecution really harped on that Special Forces factor. They also tried to paint the defendant as a racist, but when his best friend showed up to testify that argument didn’t hold water. His best friend flew in from Hawaii to testify on the defendant’s behalf. His best friend is African American.

We started deliberating on Friday afternoon three weeks later and the first vote was 10 not guilty and 2 guilty of something but they didn’t know what. They thought maybe it was knowledge and he didn’t do anything about it. They finally told us to come back Monday morning. The weekend was horrible. I knew that if those two didn’t go along with the majority, it was going to be a hung jury. I knew I wasn’t changing. Monday morning finally came and everybody voted NOT GUILTY. You can’t imagine how I felt. I know you don’t know what all the evidence was, but trust me, he was not guilty. There really are some evil mothers in this world and as I said before, I'll let you decide if she's one of them. She was in jail for three years and three months. They let her out when she did her plea bargain. She has already served all the time she would have to serve for felony child abuse. The defendant had gotten out after a few months and had worked every day at Fort Bragg.

The experience took a lot out of me, but at this point, I’m glad I was part of it. I feel like I was a little responsible for an innocent man getting his life back after three and a half years. He has his life back and now he is going to Afghanistan. Welcome back to the real world.

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Comments

Congratulations Love

on your first WoW post. I know this trial took a lot out of you but I'm glad you were there.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I'm glad you are finished.

I'll bet somewhere, somehow, this fella hears about your post and thanks you.

I would.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

I don't think so

I think he has left the country by now. I just hope he has a long and happy life.

Lovex7

Wow WoW

I am so thankful to have the chance to read this story.

So beautifully said.

J

not to be...

...an armchair attorney, but i'm surprised the prosecution would pursue the special forces angle.

as a juror, if i was convinced your defendant's special forces status had been an issue, i might have been more inclined to acquit; assuming the cumulative effects of war related trauma makes proving intent more difficult.

additionally--this is a really nice bit of writing, but might i suggest the two choices in your title are not mutually exclusive.

your comments tell me you faced a civic responsibility as a moral obligation.

so one again, thanks, and very well done.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Love, I'm floored!

I know you tried to protect your brother before, but since he outed you you should have been typing like a mad woman. You are a great writer! Congratulations on your first (of many I hope) post!

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

Momo

It's not that I am trying to protect my brother. It's because I don't want to embarrass my whole family. Remember, I have children and a mother. LOL

Lovex7

Love, STILL don't know why you don't write more

you are a great writer and I know I love reading what you have to say. I'll bet I'm not the only one! Embarrass your family...pfft, they know and love you, don't see how they could be embarrassed by anything you write! They would probably be proud(er) of you!

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

Love....don't tell anyone, but

I've never been called for jury duty (shhhhh) Hubby use to be a police officer and has been called a couple of times, both served as jury captain or general or president...whatever they call it. I have mixed feelings about it. Would love to be a fly on the wall and see the process, but having someone's life in my sweaty little hands....hmmmm

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

One other time

I was only called one other time when I lived in Wake County. It was superior court too. I had two small children and my husband was a US Marshal, so I was able to get out of it. When they finally got me, they got me good.

Lovex7

Thanks Dear

that's encouraging ;P

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

curious

Did the two who voted guilty at first change their minds over the weekend or because of discussions with the other 10? or both?

Great diary.

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

I think maybe it was a little of both.

They both just thought somebody should pay. We talked for a very few minutes on Monday morning and they agreed that they couldn't find him guilty for that reason.

Lovex7

a reasonable response

The safety of kids is supposed to elicit that response in us isnt it?

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

I've never been called either.

Thanks to Lovex7 for her civic duty. I'm also pretty sure I know who your brother is.

You know him

if you are on this website much. Almost everybody knew anyway, but a couple of months ago he outed me.

Lovex7

Great to see a juror's perspective

I know something about the evidence in the case you heard, so I won't say too much here (anonymity and all).

But I always tell jurors that I truly appreciate their service, and that I recognize the mental and emotional toll that such service can take. So thank you so much for your service, and thank you for performing your civic and moral duties admirably under very difficult circumstances.

I think the prosecutor

is a very good man, and I think he was sad about the whole thing.

Lovex7

You are absolutely right

Cal is a very good man. He just ran into a set of facts that made it tough to tell just exactly when the victim's injuries were inflicted -- and, obviously, by whom.

Our Favorite Too

wink, wink

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

Similar experience here

But in Baltimore, and not with a satisfying conclusion. System threw out my lengthy reply, but the gist of it was that I came out with the realization that if *I* were involved in a trial, on either side, I would want someone rational and open-minded (like me) sitting on the jury.

My "other" brother

told me after it was over that if he were on a jury and he voted guilty and the other eleven voted not guilty, he would change his vote. He would think he missed something. BUT if there were eleven guilty votes and he was convinced the defendant was not guilty, he would never change. I like that.

Lovex7

That's how group dynamics work

And why Twelve Angry Men is so powerful - you see how hard it is for Fonda's character to stand up vs. how easy it would be to cave.

In the case I sat for, it seemed clear that the defendant was involved, but there was virtually no evidence. One witness testified, out of a packed nightclub. There was some blood evidence that was destroyed when hurricane Isabel flooded the entire evidence room in the Baltimore PD. Coroner's evidence was conflicting and poorly presented. Murder weapon never recovered.

It was a high-profile case, and I believe that's the only reason it went to court. I feel for the victim's family. I will never forget the admonishment the judge gave the def. nor the expression on the prosecutor's face when she talked to me on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse afterward.

-----
As to the question of Civic Responsibility or Moral Obligation? Well, I'm taking an ethics class right now, and you can make a pretty easy Kantian argument for obligation: we ought not to wiggle out of jury duty when we can impartially serve because it can't be held universally that wiggling out of jury duty is a good thing.

-b

When I first read this

what I liked most was how Love went from "I'm going because I have to" to "I'm glad I was there to help."

Most of us dread the inconvenience of jury duty. I was called and waited the entire day. We would have gone broke finding childcare for our kids if I had been selected, but the judge (and this would have only been a 2-3 day trial) dismissed everyone who was a caregiver of elderly family members, disabled family members or small children. He didn't want anyone there who was stressed about caring for others when their minds needed to be on the trial. I think the next group dismissed were small business owners or sole proprietors. There were plenty of people available for jury selection. I was glad I was dismissed and I hope I don't get called again until Katie is driving. Actually, the girls are old enough I could probably work it out now, but let's not give the powers that be any ideas. :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Employers Pay

There were three of us who were self employed, so we were screwed as far as getting paid. The others were getting paid by their employers. Most of the employers paid them the difference between their regular salaries and what the courts were paying them. You would be in the same category as I was. No money for you.

Lovex7

Well said blawson

but i'm easily persuaded!

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

LTE are Beginning

Two people who have the evidence wrong and the circumstances wrong have written letters to the editor. The worst one is today. Basically, they are criticizing the jury. If the evidence was so overwhelming, why did all 14 of us (alternates too) decide he was not guilty? I can't counter all of them, because I'm sure there will be more. I will just have to wait and let it settle.

Lovex7