• Laura Smith

An Ordinary Juror Part 3/4

I was eager to see if my fellow jurors held the same opinion on innocence or guilt of the defendant and I did, so as soon as we all took our seats in that tiny juror room, I suggested that we all just vote. The question was, should we all go around the table or write it privately on paper? I mentioned a few ideas and we decided on writing "guilty" or "innocent" on paper and then tally the results.



I gathered the slips of paper and had the woman next to me read each slip as I made my tallies. No, I never did learn her name. Learning names was not important to us in this matter.


11 Guilty

1 Innocent

We. Were. So. Close.


"Well does anyone want to come forward and say that they were the one that wrote "innocent?" said the man at the end of the table.


Silence


"Since we clearly have to discuss this, because we all MUST agree, then I suppose someone is going to have to explain their position so we can discuss." I said.


Eventually the woman across from me, the dark skin woman with a slight accent, spoke up. "I did. I just don't think that we have reasonable doubt/ I mean what is reasonable doubt?"


And therein lie the problem. The beginning of dealing with someone that a) had less general knowledge of a trial than the rest of us and b) wasn't willing to change her mind even though she was the ONLY one in the room that didn't agree.


She asked if we could watch the police interrogation again. She just wasn't' sure that he actually admitted to anything, like the rest of us were saying he did. So, in my first attempt to ask an official question, I grabbed the paper form and wrote, "We would like to see the video again". I had to sign the paper and then I went to the door but couldn't' remember the order in which we were supposed to get the note to the judge. i remember something about a knock and flipping a switch but it was all just a little much for me to take in as the instructions were being given. It was flip the switch first, then the bailiff would knock and come to the door and get my paper.

We waited about 5 minutes for our answer. The judge wrote back that we were allowed to see the video, but we had to come out to courtroom to watch it as a group. We had to watch it in its entirety and could not rewind or pause.

So off we went. The courtroom would be ours as everyone was asked to vacate the room for us. The bailiff was the only one allowed to be in there with us. The sound on the video wasn't all that great so those of us in front during the trial went to the back and the ones that couldn't hear as much sat up front.


I had no issues determining what was said the first time, but apparently hearing it again did help some quite a bit for some. When we returned to the jury room our "one" juror said she DID see what we were talking about with regards to his admission. He admitted it and he was not coerced. There were a few other nasty details that I will omit, but it seemed crystal clear to me.


We went around the room again, this time sharing our opinions of guilt or innocence and anything additional we wanted to add. The "one" juror was not completely convinced. She said things like, "Well this is a big deal. We are deciding someone's future." or "What if we are wrong?" or "Is it reasonable doubt?" and "How do we know what those numbers mean. I don't know what 'septillion' means."


To attempt to address her concerns was maddening at times and while I kept my cool, there were a few others that struggled. My goal was to keep the peace as people spoke and make sure everything stayed under control. What bothered me most was that she did not accept that the people on the stand were under oath so she thought it was okay to allow her doubt of their testimony impact her decision. And worse. none of us could see WHY she doubted the testimony of ANY of the witnesses.. Additionally, when she spoke about someone's life being affected, all many of us could think about was yes, that little girl's life is permanently scarred because of this man.


The numbers involved with the DNA evidence....... I don't know the number "septillion" but I can certainly understand the concept that the physical DNA evidence was extremely valid. She was so concerned that these large numbers of validity weren't big enough. So we tried to explain that to her as well.

We were all frustrated and a few people more so that others. I took out the juror instructions and read word for word how we were instructed to make our decision and read the specific charges. She would agree, then disagree for about 15 minutes. She could see our frustration and at one point got a bit emotional. I kept wondering, "what baggage is this woman holding on to....what personal experience has she had that she is so fearful of a guilty verdict and putting this man in prison?

Eventually she yelled, "Well fine. guilty then. If you all think he's guilty then fine."

The problem was that we wondered if the jury would be polled and we wanted everyone to feel comfortable with their decision.


It was about 4:00 pm. She eventually came around and agreed to the guilty verdict and the second she did, I grabbed that piece of paper and wrote in "Guilty" and followed this instructions, letting the bailiff know we had come to a verdict.


We walked in and took our places. I glanced around the room and saw who I assume were the defendant's parents and a few other people including the mom of the victim. I had to wonder how his parents must have felt about this situation. Were they coerced into being in the courtroom to look good? It didn't affect my thinking whatsoever.


The judge addressed me by name and I have to say, I felt a little stage fright. He asked me if we had come to a decision and then he read the verdict out loud. The defense attorney asked to poll the jury and I immediately hoped that our "one juror" would not throw a wrench in things. She didn't . Phew.


I looked at the defendant as the verdict was read. There was no emotion on his face as he looked down at the table.


We were excused for the day knowing very well that the next day would be long and intense as we had to agree on sentencing. As a group of twelve with no experience with the law, I wondered how in the world we would know what to do and where to start. And would we ever all agree?


My walk home was somber. Somehow the excitement I initially felt was turning in to sadness. Sadness for all involved.


To be continued... Part 4 is the conclusion of this series.

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