I served on my first jury. Well, technically it was my second one. But I don’t think my 5th grade class convicting Goldie Locks really counts. (She was totally guilty of breaking and entering) Jury duty has been something I have attempted (quite successfully) to get out of. Although truth be told, each time the summons arrived it coincided with things like first day of school, first day of new job, or being out of town. Regardless, this was my first jury service.
It was horrible. The endless waiting was fine. I actually enjoyed that part. I brought some snacks, a book, iPod, etc. I chatted with other potential jurors and basically the waiting is like being in an airport. You can get all frustrated and antsy but its best just to sit down and relax. Answering the questions from the two attorneys (to determine whether you were a suitable juror) was nerve wracking. I started sweating and my heart started racing. I don’t know why but heard from other jurors that they had the same reaction.
The case in front of the 6 jurors who were chosen was a DUII case. The defendant was present during the jury selection. I tried not to make eye contact with him. He looked like such a nice person so out of place in the creaky chair that had no doubt held people that deserved to be there much more than he did. One part of me felt sympathy for him but the other part that was channeling Abe Lincoln recognized that I would have to make an effort to look at the case with no bias or sympathy.
The opening statements, testimony from the arresting police officer, and closing statements flew by. Before I knew it, the judge (who was one of the nicest people ever!) was reading the jury instructions. Going into the jury deliberation room, I felt the weight of upholding the Constitution and the sheer responsibility of the situation on my shoulders.
Me and my fellow five jurors took almost two hours to carefully go over all the evidence that had been presented. We read the jury instructions no less than 30 times to ensure that we were following everything to the letter. We all agreed that the defendant had done something incredibly irresponsible and now we were faced with deciding this mans fate. Being a juror wasn’t like its portrayed on TV. We didn’t go back into the little room and shout “Guilty!” Instead we argued, discussed, and explained the time away trying to make sense of everything that had been said. In the end, we all came to the same decision. Before filling out the required paper, we all sat for a minute in silence contemplating our decision. But in the end, guilty was our decision.
The defendant looked at our group nervously as we filed out of the little room and into our uncomfortable seats. His wife (who I believe was in the early stages of pregnancy) sat behind him motionless. I tried not to look at him as the verdict was read but I snuck a peek. He let out a little gasp when the judge said guilty but his attorney didn’t look surprised. His wife started wringing her hands a bit. Thankfully we were excused very quickly and were shuffled out of the courtroom quickly. I will never forget his eyes. The type of eyes that said “Man, I really, really messed up.” They were soulful dark eyes that looked incredibly kind. I recognize that our collective decision had a huge impact on his life. In the end, it was the defendant’s personal decisions that led six people to decide his fate inside of small courtroom.