Monday, December 6

Why We Have and Need jurys

I just recieved notice that I have been chosen to come down to the county court house and sit around for an entire day, and maybe, just maybe I could be picked to serve on a jury.

Now most people will do just about anything to avoid serving on a jury, I however take a different view on this. I didn't always feel this way, but an experience over 20 years ago changed me forever.

The trial I served on involved an armed robbery of a large store two days before Christmas. A securty guard had been shot, and suffered minor wounds, and 5 men had been charged.

The scumbags that committed this robbery had managed to get away, at least for a short period of time, but were caught 45 minutes later when they were pulled over for running a stop sign.

The occupants of this car where put on trial.

During the trial three of the five men were shown on security video committing the robbery, with one of the remaining two identified as the driver and picked out of a line-up by a number of witnesses.

The fifth man however was never positively identified as having been in the car during the robbery, in fact the witnesses that had id'ed the driver all said that he was alone in the car while the robbery was taking place and that only three men had gotten into the car as they ran from the crime scene.

In four days of testimony, the fifth man was never placed at the scene of the crime, not once. However, during the closing statements the DA repeatedly lumped all five together.

The judge gave us his instruction, and the jury retired to begin deliberations. Within the first hour it was clear to me that myself and one other juror were in for a long haul.

We were the only two that had issues with convicting the fifth man, who no evidence had been given against, with the remaining jurors being of the "Well he was with them when they were pulled over, so he must have been involved" mentality.

Well to make a long story shorter, we fought for 3 1/2 days until the judge declared us a hung jury in regards to the charges against this one man. In one hour we had convicted four and then fought for 20+ hours on one defendant.

The justice system was not going to protect the fifth man, the DA wanted him in jail, and his court appointed defense attorney was just about useless when it came to protecting his client.

I found out later that the DA never brought him to trial again, because he knew he could never get a conviction with him as a lone defendant.

This fifth man is the reason I gladly serve when called.

I serve because I wouldn't want to be in the postion of that fifth man or someone charged with a non-crime crime. The jury is there not just to judge the defendant, but even more importantly to judge the law.

This also brings me to Curt Chancler and Jeanne Wollman wrote a good piece on Jury Rights and Jury Nulification that I came across earlier this morning.


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