Jack O'Lantern Potential, Watercolor
(Click here to read “Jury Duty Part 1 – Excuses,” or “Jury Duty Part 2 – No Good Excuse” and read on for Jury Duty Part 3 – Reasonable Doubt)
We were sent home for the day at that point with instructions to return on the morrow at 10 a.m. I was thankful to be sent home. Exhaustion had set in and I was wound too tight to absorb any more information.
As I drove toward home through the hills, winding past farms just kissed by autumn, I was hit by the responsibility that comes with jury duty and questions. Would I be that juror we all hear about, the one who hangs the process? Could I stand firm in spite of pressure from the others? Would I remain fair and open to others’ points of view? One thing I knew for sure . . . I would have to live with my decision – guilty or not guilty – and another person’s life would be forever changed beyond a reasonable doubt.
. . . .
As I pulled into the courthouse parking lot the next morning our local country music station was spewing out a song I’d never heard before and as I put my Jeep Liberty into “park,” I listened. . . “Spent half his life in the Montgomery county jail. . .” It never crossed my mind that the defendant had been spending time in jail. I’d assumed bail had been posted, he had been released and we all drove from our respective homes to meet here at the courthouse this Monday morning.
I made my way into the “juror room,” turning in my cell phone to the bailiff posted at the door, without realizing that I was starting down a path that would change me. I mean really change me.
Once all jurors were present and accounted for we filed into the courtroom and took our place in the jury box. The jury box was in the front of the room, to the judge’s left, two rows with the back row slightly elevated facing the defendant. I would take the same seat each day.
After being seated I glanced around the courtroom and quickly at the defendant inadvertently making eye contact. Quickly looking away, I recall thinking, “Oh no, I can’t let my sympathy influence my decision.” I then noticed there was no one sitting in the “viewers” section of the courtroom – no mother, father or friend. Over next couple of days, while the trial was underway, a couple of people would stop in and sit briefly, then leave. Were they here for the defendant, here out of curiosity or here to report a story to the local paper?
The trial commenced with opening statements from the prosecution and then the defense after which the evidence and witnesses were presented. It was a relatively uncomplicated case and when the defendant took the stand in his own defense I was relieved. The evidence and witnesses were quite damning and without the defendant’s own testimony his fate would surely have been sealed.
The charges were serious – nine counts of “criminal possession of a forged instrument” and two counts of “grand larceny” in varying degrees. The punishment, if convicted, could leave this man in prison for years and years. It was time for the defendant to be heard.
(to be continued…)