Friday, November 16, 2012

Jury Duty: Feeling Like A Good American

Yesterday I completed a four month jury duty assignment.  And, up to yesterday, I had never been selected for a jury, but yesterday I was chosen. The charges were assault and battery with a deadly weapon and possession of an illegal knife.

I am not a rah-rah America type of guy, but there are times in which I am proud to be an American, and yesterday was one of those days.  To be sitting in that room with eleven other people, most of whom would never be in the same group together, and discussing the case was a really great experience. The state had to prove the guilt of the accused, the accused did not have to prove his innocence, and knowing that if we decided against the state there was nothing they could do to us or the accused was an important reminder.  I think we forget sometimes that this is not true in many countries in the world (including some we support).

I was a little nervous going into the deliberations because I was not sure that the prosecution had proven their case on the first charge, but there was no way to know how the other jurors were thinking.  In the end, on the account of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, we did not think the prosecutor had proven the case and we found the accused not guilty on that charge.

I do have to say that the police officer who testified certainly did not do the prosecution any favors, as he left us more confused about events.  But conversation amongst the jurors was handled with the serious and  deliberateness that the situation deserved.  We probably spent more time than we needed to in reaching the verdict, but everyone had their say, we asked questions of each other, corrected areas where we heard things differently, and in the end reached a consensus.  And then just to be sure, we went back over each of the charges again for a final vote.  On the issue of possession we found the accused guilty based on the testimony of the officer who said he took the knife from his pocket.

This was the best possible out come for the defendant, as I'm sure the attorney had told him that he was probably going to be found guilty on the possession charge, and if fact the defense attorney never challenged anything about this charge.

I'll be honest and say that I was not looking forward to having jury duty, that I was happy when I had not been selected in the past, and wasn't really thrilled with being chosen yesterday.  But in the end it was something I was very happy to have done.  I completed my civic duty, we decided as a group of peers on charges, and in the end I am very happy with the decision we made and feel it was the right one.

We must remember that we do have obligations to this country, and the only reason it works the way it does, for good and for ill, is because of the effort that we put into keeping it what it is and pushing us towards a "more perfect union."  I for one am glad to have done my part, and today I am glad to be an American.

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