Friday, June 18, 2010

No Joy in the Duty of a Juror

As you know I was required to participate in jury duty.  I have had to distance myself from the experience because I quickly learned that jury duty was anything but joyful.  It was just a duty plain and simple and I walked away with nothing more than a heavy heart.

The trial that I was required to sit for was a State vs. John Doe (changed his name for obvious reasons) case.  John was being accused of committing a battery.  The actual trial itself was very dry and long.  There was a lot of hurry up and wait.  The jury was  constantly being whisked to the jury room because the judge and lawyers had to discuss point that the jury could not be privy to.  This part really frustrated me, because I felt that there was a lot of information we weren't getting.

The prosecution took almost a full day to present their case before they rested.  The lead attorney for the prosecutors office looked extremely young and gave the impression that this was just a job.  I wondered if the State Attorney's Office targets new grads because they can pay them a lot less and because they will be so desperate for court room time they will take almost any case.

I say that because I am not sure that I believe that she believed that she should be prosecuting the case, but merely was doing it because it would be a slam dunk.  They had very damaging, compelling video evidence of the alleged battery.

That being said, his defense was, well the only word I can use to describe it is....lacking.  They were trying to use a smoke and mirrors defense strategy to get us to look at everything else but the actual charge John was being tried for.

At the end of the second day when we were sent in for deliberations I found myself starting to feel ill.  Based on the instructions by the judge there was no other way for me to vote except guilty.  These instructions are very clear.  Did I believe all of the testimony by the prosecutors witness?  Absolutely not.  In fact I even think there were statements made that were out right lies, but in the end, once everyone rested it became clear the prosecutor had a solid case if for no more reason than that damaging video evidence.

We deliberated for a couple of hours.  Not because there was dissent among the jurors, but because none of us wanted to be wrong.  We actually looked for a reason, any reason we could, to find him not guilty, if only because the six of us sitting in that jury room knew we were about to change this man's life inexplicably. 

After all of the deliberation and the review of all the evidence my heart ached.  I didn't believe this man was evil.  I didn't believe this man a monster.  I believe he was provoked and his retribution was was carried to far.  Unfortunately we were not able to decide based on pity or anything else except the facts.  And at the end of the day we had to find him guilty.

I knew when I left the courthouse I had done the job I had been tasked with.  But it was with a heavy heart.  Most people look at jury duty as a nuisance and I can certainly understand that.  For me, well I determined that I really don't ever want to hold the fate of someone else in my hands ever again.  For me jury duty was just that...duty.


Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

I think you reveal the key problem with our jury system. Emotion is not meant to play a part, but how can people not have emotions? It sounds like your jury did what was right by the letter of the law, but I think sometimes emotions cause people to make the wrong decisions

I've never been called, but I hope if I am someday I will be able to keep my own emotions out of it. Impossible to say until/unless I face the situation.

Btw, I love your blog design. I almost picked this background myself. ;)

Kelly Breakey said...


Thanks for the comment and the note about my blog design.

I agree about the emotion. How can we truly turn it off. We knew we had made the right decision as per the instructions we were given by the judge, but it is a daunting task knowing that you hold the fate of another in your hands. Plus, there was a lot of information that was with held from us because it had no bearing on the "battery" charge.

Thanks for stopping by.


Patty Blount said...

Wow, Kelly. I wonder if every juror approaches this duty with the same sense of disappointment you expressed. I hope you won't let this fester in your heart. You did what the law instructs you to do, despite Elizabeth's point - it's flawed.

Kelly Breakey said...


You are exactly right, and I know it was good that we approached it the way we did. On the bright side I have an idea for a new story, I need to let it marinate for a while.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love when you guys respond and make me think.

Me (The Crazy Writer Girl) said...

Um... now I feel bad for making fun. As in, really super guilty bad. You are completely right, you were deciding someones future and that is a scary ordeal. I am impressed you were able to look at the situation objectively.

Linda G. said...

You have it exactly right -- it is a duty. And you did yours admirably. Thank you. :)

Kelly Breakey said...

Alison and Linda:

You guys are the best. Your posts totally made me feel better!