Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jury Duty; or Real Life Sucks Sometimes

I've been off a few days because I was called up for jury duty Monday morning, and was actually seated on a criminal trial that day. I really don't want to write much about the trial -- it wasn't easy to sit through. It was criminal sexual assault by a homosexual man against two college kids. I say "kids" even though one of them was a 27-year-old Ph.D. candidate in philosophy; the other was a 19-year-old frat boy. The jury convicted the defendant on both counts, one as fourth degree (no penetration) and one as third degree (penetration -- oral-penile) criminal sexual conduct.

I felt like I was going to throw up most of Tuesday during the deliberations. There were so many holes in the testimony, and so many unreliable witnesses, that I was positive that I couldn't convict this man. It's amazing how easy it is to change your mind during deliberations. Yes, he's guilty of third degree; no, it can only be fourth degree; no, we can't convict him at all based on this evidence. Yikes. You always tell yourself that you will act in a certain way when confronted with challenges in life. "Oh, I could never be swayed and convict a man if I thought there was the slightest chance he was innocent." Yeah, right.

We had a good group of jurors, including two younger college students, one of whom I would categorize as a frat/party boy type. I don't think it was easy for any of us in that room to reach that verdict.

What helped the most was that the judge came in and talked with us after the verdict was read. He was able to tell us some things we weren't permitted to know during the trial, primarily that this defendant had two more counts of criminal sexual conduct pending against him that would be going to trial in March. He had similar charges against him dismissed in a bench trial in 2005. The reason the prosecutor was combining this trial with the two victims was to help him "establish a pattern of behavior" that he could demonstrate in the March trials.

I'm glad I was able to be a juror. I learned a great deal.

I never want to sit on another jury for a criminal case for the rest of my life.