Monday, March 19, 2012
GETTING WHAT YOU WISHED—AND THEN WONDERING.
I recently finished my first experience as a juror on a on an armed robbery trial in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. After the trial ended, the judge met us in the juror’s room to thank us, answer any questions we had and to let us know that we were now permitted to talk about the case. During the trial the judge reminded us every morning and afternoon that we could not talk to anyone or research issues about the merits of the case.
My jury duty started 11 days ago, when I was impanelled from a list of over 300 people who had reported for jury duty that morning. I was thrilled to be chosen. I always wanted to part of a jury, since I saw the Henry Fonda movie, Twelve Angry Men. I even remember when a version of the play, “Twelve Angry Women” was featured at the all girls’ summer camp I attended in Fryeburg, Maine. I was intrigued with the process and the ability of one juror, played by Fonda, to convince the 11 other jury members to change their vote from guilty to not guilty. Fonda took a stand to think more expansively on the facts presented to the group. Not to pre-judge the defendant, to keep an open mind, and suspend stereotypes and to provide the same level of fairness to the defendant that they as jurors would want for themselves. This same principle of justice and fairness is replicated in all the education and work experience that social workers are committed to.
The proceedings were tedious. Several times during the days we were in the courtroom listening to counsel for the defendant and counsel for the state question the witnesses, I found myself on the verge of nodding and then I was nudged from the juror sitting next to me. (Embarrassing and frustrating, at the same time.)
While we were deliberating on the last day, I had no idea how I would vote-guilty or not guilty, until we had spent about 6 hours going over all the evidence, listening to each other analyze the video from the surveillance camera that filmed the robbery, commenting on the credibility of the witnesses, and examining the exhibits.
My sleep was often disturbed during this period as I could not dismiss the seriousness of my responsibility. I would awaken thinking of the defendant- his life, being accused, perhaps having committed the crime and the victim- the impact of the crime on his life-now and in the future.
The trial is over and I remain unsettled. I am glad that I was chosen but relieved that the experience is over. I am still feeling the impact of having such influence on the future of one individual’s life. On the other hand I felt a strange and troubling sense of awareness, civic involvement and serious analysis and decision making. I have been sleeping better, however, I still wander about the ultimate outcome. Was it the correct decision? We all felt that we did the best we could based on the facts that were presented to us.
The decision? Not guilty of the crime of armed robbery.
Carol J. Trust