Contend Earnestly: True Life: I Was On a Jury

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

True Life: I Was On a Jury

I thought I would put some of my thoughts in this post on my time spent at jury duty. This isn't going to be some hyper spiritual post on comparing the court of Kent with the court of God...just simply some of my thoughts on what went on and give people a place to ask questions about the case or experience.

When I was first called to jury duty, I figured it would be a quick process and that I would be in and out in a couple of days. Wow, was I wrong. For the first two days, I never saw the court, but just sat in this room for around 6 hours, including an hour and a half lunch and a couple of 15 minute breaks in between. We were allowed to have computers, books, etc. to use while in the room, so that was good.

After filling out a one page questionnaire asking about whether me, my family or friends have ever been involved with sexual misconduct, we were finally called to the court room to start the choosing of the jury. They used a process called, "Voir Dire", which means "speaking truth." They basically ask questions, you hold up your juror number if you agree, and then they ask you to explain your answer. Some of the questions were, "Can you be fair and impartial in a case involving rape of a child?" "Does anyone believe that the defendant is guilty because he is sitting in the court room and was arrested?" "How can you tell if a child is lying?" etc. etc. This took a couple of days, but only actually involved a total of about 3 hours inside the court room. Again...much of jury duty involves waiting on the court, so you have to be very patient.

When it was time to actually choose a jury, each side got to dismiss 8 jurors for whatever reason they deemed, didn't have to be reasonable, could be because they thought your hair cut was whack. It was pretty obvious why some were excused, some were a little puzzling, but whatever. After hearing that both sides agreed to the jury, and I was juror number 11 out of 14, I believe a word that would make moralists very angry escaped my mouth (don't worry, I didn't lose my salvation, I said it very quietly). What they decided to do in this case was to have 14 jurors, where two would be alternates. Here is what sucks. No one knows the alternates until the very end of the trial. At that time, they choose two jurors out of this old school box and they go home. Brutal. Glad I didn't get chosen to be an alternate, I might have thrown a fit.

After being chosen, we were finally given what the charges were. There were 8 counts. 5 counts of a father raping his daughter, one count of tampering and 2 counts of contacting the alleged victim after being given a no contact order. Being it was a criminal case, we had to come to a unanimous decision on a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Other parts, that you might know or not know is that the burden of proof is completely on the prosecution to show that beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. What we also found out is that we aren't saying he is "innocent" if found not guilty, but just that we weren't given enough evidence to show he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This was very difficult. What I found is that I had to be completely logical and take out emotion or my conscience from this experience. We were asked, "Whether you agree with the law or not, can you listen to the court's instruction on making a judgment?" I said yes to this, meaning, whether I liked it or not, my decision was going to be based on evidence, not on my ability to read people or deduct my thoughts on probabilities.

We were given testimony and evidence for a span of about a week and a half. We were allowed to take notes, but no transcript or reports would be allowed in the deliberation room. Throughout the trial, I knew that the defendant had been raping his daughter since she was 10 years old. This was obvious in my mind. She was now 15 and her testimony, along with her two sisters, made this clear. But, our instructions weren't, "Do you think she did it?" The instructions were very specific on each count, based on evidence and the prosecution's job in delivering his case against the defendant.

After everything was said and done, we went to deliberate. I was the youngest at the age of 32, and there was another woman who was a little older than me, but the rest were all over the age of 40, with one lady over the age of 60. There were 5 women and 7 men. After reading the instructions and seeing the counts, I clearly made my mind up pretty quickly on my thoughts on each. I could only prove that he raped his child twice and he admitted to calling his daughter on Christmas, so that was a given. Even though I wasn't the presiding juror, I was able to walk through each count and argue my points. This took two and half days and we finally came up with the verdicts for each. We found him guilty of raping a child in the third degree (I found it odd that the degree of rape had only to do with age) twice and guilty for contacting the defendant on Christmas. It sucked, because most of us knew he did, not only every count he was charged, but even more than that, but we had to stick to the instructions and the evidence given. There was just a lack. So, most of us had to vote against our consciences, which we all were pretty pissed off about.

We delivered our verdict and then had a chance to talk to the attorneys afterwards. Someone finally asked the question that was on all our minds: how long will he probably go to jail for? The reason is that we were not allowed to know the punishment for each crime because they didn't want that affecting our decision. My thought was that a dad raping his child would end up being a charge of at least 10 years in prison, or around there. What we heard at this point, made me almost throw up (this isn't an overstatement). The prosecution said, "The maximum is between 24 and 36 months, and with time served and good behavior, he'll probably serve around 20 months." My jaw dropped and I told the defense..."If I knew that beforehand, I would have put him away for every count."

Amazing that a dad can rape his child and be put away for less time than a drug dealer. Not only that, but if the mom decides later to accept this man back into the house (which actually is a high probability), he'll be allowed to be with his children again.

Overall, this was an interesting experience. It was much like what you see on TV, not much difference. Now, my job is to pray for this family and for this man. I pray that God would do some amazing work in their lives and that this young woman would be able to see what a true Father looks like in God, and that her father, was a very bad example of what a real dad looks like.


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