For the past couple of days I got to serve in jury duty in the United States. You receive a letter in the mail from the county court, you respond, they may or may not respond back, if they do, you are to show up and be part of a group where they will choose a jury from.
I was so excited to serve in the jury duty, I had never done it before. Curious by nature, this was a great opportunity to learn/see how the justice system works. I got picked to be a juror. Almost everyone was disappointed they were picked because of the time consumption and to have to be there instead of wherever they usually are. I was thrilled to be there, to have a bird’s eye view of the whole process.
It is slow, opening statements, evidence, people’s versions of what happened and closing statements. Did you know that the prosecutor gets 2 closing statements in a criminal case? And they have the burden of proving the defendant is guilty? The defendant doesn’t have to testify, they can choose to.
We were given instructions at the beginning and at the end by the judge. Through the trial, the other jurors and I went around the same circle several times. The more evidence and testimonies, the more our views got changed. However, at the end, when the judge instructed us and gave us the laws which we should abide by and the definitions of self-defense (it is a list of definitions, it makes it clear when someone is acting in self-defense and when they are not); we got to go over all the evidence, talk and share notes we took during the trial. We all had different notes, meaning, different parts that jumped out at us. It was interesting, as we sat there, exchanging understanding, laws and facts, we went from one side of the spectrum to the other and back.
However, when all the facts, laws, evidence and testimonies were put together, we all came to the same conclusion. As people, we didn’t want to get to that conclusion. As jurors we had no other choice. It was the result of a series of bad choices, and there was a big consequence for them.
As we sat and talked, we all felt bad, the verdict of guilty was going to change this young man’s life, however, the choices he made that night months ago, brought the consequence of a trial, a verdict and a sentence. Each of us as individuals of the jury didn’t want to give that verdict, yet, the law was clear; therefore we did. It was amazing to me. Putting law, evidence and testimony together, a group of 8 people that never met before, from different backgrounds, put our heads together and went through all the possibilities, all the facts we knew and arrived at a verdict.
The justice system makes it possible for people to have a fair trial and for their choices to bring on the consequences. I was amazed at how things worked. Grateful for the experience, I walked away knowing that the law is there for all, they are there to protect and to punish, by our actions we decide in what end of the spectrum we find ourselves.
Very powerful experience.