Jury Duty: Putting Your Humanity on Hold

Gavel

Very few people look forward to jury duty. I was not one of those few. I was not looking forward to getting up early or the the amount of waiting I heard was forthcoming. I also had this fear about the kind of case I was going to get. Most people say they’d want to get put on a murder case or something “interesting,” but that’s because they’ve probably watched way too many Law & Order marathons.

I was put on a criminal case, but luckily it wasn’t a murder because you quickly find out what they mean by telling you to come up with a verdict based on what the evidence tells you. Deciding solely on the evidence presented during the trial isn’t the easiest. It requires you to take certain parts of who you are as a person, the parts that make us human, and put them on ice for the duration of the trial. In a sense, you may look like a human inside and out, but you have to think like a robot.

The trial we were hearing was a DWI, and it was the defendant’s second offense. The original juror panel was a group of 16 of us that was whittled down to seven after an hours-long questioning process called Voir Dire. Essentially, the judge and attorneys from both sides ask the jurors questions to decide if they’re right for the case.

Trial_by_Jury_

During the trial, I could see the difference in the two attorneys. The prosecutor, who was representing the state of Minnesota, was confident like he knew he had a solid case against the defendant, which he did. The defense attorney was less charismatic — while he attempted to use the evidence to help his argument, he also laid down other arguments that forced me to fight the sympathetic part of myself away.

When it came to deliberation, it didn’t take long for us to reach a verdict. The evidence we were given, which was video of the state trooper’s interaction with the defendant and a report showing that her BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) was .16, led us to conclude that she was guilty.

This case was one of those instances where we merely went down over each charge like a checklist and decided whether or not she was guilty of breaking the law. While it worked in this situation, I have feeling it’s not always that easy.

From this experience, I’m convinced I got it easy in terms of jury duty. I’m not saying a DWI isn’t serious, but I could’ve gotten something much worse. I could’ve gotten a murder case — knowing I’d have to make a decision purely based on evidence is scary.

Golden Lady Justice, Bruges, Belgium

What I realized is that in the court of law, morals have to be checked at the door. It doesn’t matter how morally right you think the accused might have been in carrying out their actions. If they broke the law, and the evidence can prove it, they’re going to be punished.

The same is also true if the evidence can’t prove someone’s guilt. Just ask the jurors who acquitted Casey Anthony. Even though a heavy majority of the country believed without a doubt that she was guilty, the jury had to make a decision of her guilt based on the evidence and not what they wanted to happen.

The judicial system isn’t Hollywood. Not every case has a happy ending. Sometimes the guilty are set free and the innocent are put behind bars with worse fates awaiting them. The authorities won’t drop a convict off at a middle-of-nowhere motel and tell them to get lost because they know said person is innocent. It doesn’t work like that.

In the end, it’s your duty as a juror to look at what the evidence proves, or what it doesn’t prove. Then like a robot, you go down the checklist of charges. Guilty? Or, not guilty? That is the question.

This is real life. And if you ever struggle to realize what that means as a juror, just think about this: If the Casey Anthony trial was just the plot of a movie, then she’d either be behind bars or six feet under.

 

Images via: Wikipedia

 

  The personal views expressed in this post are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minnesota Connected or its sponsors. 



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