Last week was a first for me: Jury Duty. Like most of you, I’d previously managed to weasel out of it with one excuse or another, but this year I decided, “why not?” and so I went. But who in a million years would have thought I’d get selected for an actual trial? And a rape trial at that? I know, right? I was shocked. But I have to say it was an incredible, horrific, eye opening experience.
Surprisingly (or not) half the women were excused during the voir dire because they had been through personal experiences that they felt would hinder their ability to be fair. So by the time the jury selection was complete there were only 2 women on the jury and aside from the other woman (who was Asian), we were all white, and all middle class. I don’t know if that means anything, but I doubt any of us could truthfully relate to either the victim or the defendant who were both 40-something black crack heads.
The biggest disappointment by far was the incompetence of the law. Some of the cops were polished testifiers (one of the DNA cops even wore a double helix tie) but that’s neither here nor there when they clearly couldn’t be bothered to follow up on obvious leads concerning the case and LOST evidence! Hard to know if rape claims are accurate when the rape kit is missing! And the lawyers… ugh. One juror wondered if the defense attorney was a Colombo type, but in the end we decided no, she probably was that bad.
Sorry, I know all I’m doing is dogging everyone, but honestly, because there was not enough evidence we had to pronounce a very shady character NOT guilty, when personally, I think he was.
It was a scary experience. So many times I’ve said “It’s not my problem/not my place to judge”–only this time it was. Sitting in that jury room, discussing every testimony and every shred of evidence, I was shaking like a leaf. How could I tell this woman that she wasn’t going to have any justice? Equally, how could I convict this man of a crime I’m not sure he committed? I couldn’t. None of us could. And we were torn. We deliberated for 3 hours even though we were basically decided after 20 minutes. I was one of the few who took longer to convince. I knew there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, but it took me (all of us, really) a while to be okay with that decision. I’d want the same courtesy. So would you. I mean, god forbid I’m ever on trial, but if I were, I’d want a jury like mine. They were good people – we even went out for drinks afterwards.
As hard as it was, it was an incredible experience. The case was interesting, the judge was awesome, and I know a lot more about our justice system than I used to.
But overall, I think I’ll stick to Law & Order reruns, watched safely from the comfort of my own living room.