The thing is –she’s guilty.
But I get it, I really do.
The jury foreman said that the State didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Juror number two further insisted that even though she and her fellow jurors didn’t put much credence in the defense counterarguments, the ultimate verdict wasn’t at all about the defense. It was about a lack of prosecutorial evidence.
And so they had no choice but to acquit.
A few years ago, I was on a jury.
Before you offer your condolences or tips on how to evade service next time, I should be upfront: when I was tapped, I actually wanted to serve.
Save your groans –my opinion has changed.
However, back then I bought into the notion of jury duty as civic obligation. In that pre-jury service world I inhabited, it was a chance for me to be a real participant in the legal system, to see its inner workings, to contribute, hands-on.
But jury duty jaded me –big time.
First, our guy was guilty. Absolutely, no doubt in my mind -he not only raped her, but was damned sure he’d get away with it. He and his victim were in the country illegally and he probably figured she’d be too fearful of deportation to point a finger. He figured wrong. She pointed. He ran -out of country.
Eleven years later, as a legal U.S. resident, she spotted her attacker back on a city street and yelled rape –again. This time, he couldn’t run. She demanded justice.
Instead, she got us.
I wish she hadn’t.
At one point or another during deliberations, six or seven of us voted to convict.
And then we deadlocked.
The judge urged us to try again to render a verdict.
In her entreaty to us, what struck a particular chord with me was the notion that if we were unable to do our job, somebody else would have to do it. Another set of twelve would go through what we were going through. Witnesses would be recalled, the defendant would likely be held while he awaited a new trial. And the victim would relive her ordeal yet again. None of that was okay.
The underlying point that kept surfacing throughout our deliberations was that the State hadn’t fully proven its case.
I didn’t care.
We garnered quite a bit of backstory during our week of jury service and all that stuff we were supposed to ignore –I couldn’t. He did it and I didn’t care that the State hadn’t done its job well.
I’ve always believed in the overall integrity of our judicial system. And in the principle that it’s better to let a guilty defendant go free than to imprison an innocent one.
But then I was confronted with the reality of a young girl, new to the country, scared and alone. And all the black and white tenets of our legal system muddled to gray and seemed just an impediment to the truth. I wanted justice for this girl, punishment for her attacker.
Our foreman kept reminding us that a not guilty verdict shouldn’t be construed as a finding of innocence.
I’m sure that would have been of little solace to the victim.
I wasn’t in the room during the Casey Anthony trial, but I can relate to the frustration the jurors must have felt. Still, I look to the sweet picture of a little girl and want justice for her –and punishment. I don’t blame the jury and I could never align myself with the nuts now threatening their lives. They had a job to do and I am certain they took seriously their obligations. But I, for one, would have quickly forgiven them had they ignored the letter-of-the-law and chosen, with that angel’s face in mind, to follow their hearts instead of their heads.