Friday, June 17, 2005

Jury Duty 1: The responsibility of Jurors

I did jury duty last summer. For the first four days, I watched as the prosecution detailed its case against the defendant (it was a case of theft of a lot of money and some automobiles). The case was being built carefully, although delayed by other cases (some plea bargains and other paperwork from another judge).

At the end of day four, I was walking towards my car when the seriousness of what I was doing hit me.

Sure, I was judging whether the defendant, a fifty year old woman, was guilty of stealing money and cars. But I was also judging the people the prosecution were representing -- a car dealership, and especially its owner.

Think of it this way: Obviously if the defendant was guilty, the company had spotted the problem and gotten it out. However, if the defendant was judged "not guilty," than there was a major stain still on the car company. While I'm sure they would still think they got rid of the thief, there was still the possibility that the thief was in their company. And also: was their system so sloppy that they couldn't catch the thief stealing their money?

As an example: look at the Michael Jackson trial. MJ was judged "Not Guilty," despite some of the jurors believing he was a pedophile and a creep, because they judged the defendant's mother worse. Indeed, had the prosecution ignored the mother and instead focused on the child accuser himself, maybe MJ would have been declared "Guilty."

Of course, I went through the next six days, outlasting one Juror (everyone else thought she was sick. I remembered she said she was once bulemic and figured she successfully used a bulemic's trick to escape.). When the time came for the judgement, we judged the defendant guilty of stealing large amounts of money, and some of the cars she actually took. Reasonable doubt prevented guilty verdicts on some of the cars and kept the cash theft charge from being a bigger class felony than it was.

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