Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My week as juror #10

I've spent the last week as a juror in an armed robbery trial. (I know, this all sounds very hard core.) We heard all of the testimony last week and started deliberations yesterday. All weekend I was thinking about how difficult of a decision this was going to be and how I hoped I wasn't the only one who felt the way I did about the defendant's guilt or innocence.

We weren't able to come to a decision yesterday, and were ordered back at 10 am this morning. Over the past week many jurors were having trouble showing up on time and today was no exception. 11 am rolled around and we were still missing one juror and an alternate (yesterday juror #3 was a no show so we needed to use another alternate to fill his spot). At around 11:15 the judge came to our room, first to thank us for being good citizens and not punking out with lame excuses as to why we couldn't do our civic duty, and then to inform us that we were officially being discharged and were free to go.

Woo hoo!

As we were exiting the court all of us assumed that the two missing jurors were the reason we weren't going to continue. (Thank you #1 and Alternate #2) We were wrong. Both sets of lawyers asked to speak to us. The defense attorney explained to us that the case was thrown out because it was discovered that juror #1 was friends with the defendant. Hello! The prosecuting attorneys asked us what our decision was leaning towards (not guilty) and what they could have done better. They also filled in something that had been missing during the trial: that the defendant had been arrested for shooting someone five days after the robbery.

I am so glad not to have been called during the school year. I really would not like to miss a full week of work. I am also glad that this ended up being a mistrial as we weren't given enough information to convict, and he would have been released. I would have felt bad saying guilty or not guilty. While I'm glad I got to experience a trial and being on a jury (ugh, I am always looking for a teachable moment, even at the expense of a week of summer vay-kay), I'm glad I didn't have to make a decision. I hope to never be selected again. There seems to me to be a lot of room for error in our system, and I'm sure that the guilty going free happens on a regular basis. While I believe this way is better than the submerging of suspects in water, I think it's far from perfect.