In the United States, a person is presumed innocent, until the State can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the person, charged with a crime, is guilty. I got to see the wheels of justice turn, first-hand, during the last week in April, while serving on jury duty. A husband/father was accused of assaulting his wife and daughter; hence two counts of assault.
The trial was fascinating, especially the jury selection part of the trial. I thought, for sure, I would be dismissed for two reasons:
- I have many years of training, as an auditor, where my job was to ascertain whether someone was telling the truth. Whichever side was planning to present sketchy information, I would surely figure it out.
- I have a Masters in Theology, and I teach morality. If I’ve learned anything over the past six years of study, it is that you do not draw a black or white, yes or no conclusion of a moral act, without considering intent and circumstances.
For these reasons, I felt certain that either the Prosecution or the Defense would dismiss me. But no, I became Juror #9.
The trial took less than a full day to present. The Jury was released to deliberate at about 4 p.m. that afternoon. We discussed the case for an hour and took some votes. We were not unanimous. So, the Judge sent us home for the evening. That was a good decision. It gave each of us the opportunity to mentally sift through the presentation of the facts, and sift out the emotion of the case.
We resumed deliberations in the morning, needing only an additional hour to arrive at a unanimous decision on both counts. Remember those two reasons why I mentioned that I should be dismissed from the Jury? Well, those two reasons became important elements in arriving at a unanimous decision.
The Jury Seeks Justice
As we resumed deliberation in the morning, I spoke to the facts of the discrepancies of the testimonies given by the mother and daughter. That’s where my training as an auditor helped us all. Their stories did not jive, and being that they were both prosecution witnesses, they should be telling a consistent story. Their accounts contradicted each other at critical points. This swayed some of the Jurors to a vote of “Not Guilty.” Yet, there were still some hold-outs. The discussion continued.
Then we discussed intent. Again, I went to the facts, and asked the other Jurors if they had heard any testimony as to who took the first aggressive stance. This was an important question, as it gets to the definition of assault as specified by the court. Was it the husband or the wife? No one could answer that question. In the end, what the case came down to was a he said, she said situation. We had insufficient evidence to convict the husband/father of assault; thereby acquitting him on both counts.
A Juror’s Lessons Learned
What did I learn from this experience? I learned that the very reasons for why I thought I should not be on a jury, were the very reasons why God placed me on this jury. He worked through me, using the gifts He gave me, to set things right. I am at peace with the decision that we made as a jury. Together, we applied prudence and discernment in seeking justice. We ascertained the truth to the best of our abilities. And, I for one, can say that I sought the Holy Spirit’s Counsel throughout the entire process.
Now that all is said and done, I can say that I found serving on a jury trial to be a good experience. The judicial process, within the United States, is not perfect, but it does its best to seek justice, even if justice means “Not Guilty.”