Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jury Duty.

This week I had jury duty for the first time in my life. I expected it to be a lot worse than it actually was; all my relatives recounted waiting for eight hours while the judge deliberated over traffic tickets gone wrong and the like. In truth I waited about two hours to be called (aka: curled up in a corner of the waiting room and read a book) and spent the rest of the day being questioned for a rape case. Yep, that's right. My first jury duty could have been anything but it turned out to be rape. Two counts of forcible rape AND burglary. And I was selected for the jury.
It's an odd thing to sit in front of the accused and know that it is your job to judge them, that your vote will decide the path of their life from this courtroom forward. The defense was nineteen years old; a child. His mother was in the back row as we filed in but they did not look at each other. He vacillated between looking at each of our faces and hanging his head in his hands. Interrogation was done group style, questions were posed to the whole group and those who had an affirmative answer stood up and announced it. Eventually it came to the "have you or anyone close to you ever been a victim of violent crime?" question and literally every other woman stood up. " I was raped, 15 years ago" "My sister was raped" "My daughter was raped" "My mother was a victim of domestic abuse and she was raped".

I am cynical enough to recognize the possibility that some of these women were telling a terrible lie to get out of judging this kid. Some of them weren't. Some of them stood up and their hands shook. Their faces told the story for them. Even from across a crowded courtroom there were shadows on them. Some of them would not look at him because he had added another to their ranks. He, on the other hand, looked at each one. He looked devastated. I would like to think he was devastated because he had become the object of each of these women's nightmares but I suspect otherwise. He was nineteen, and most likely he was devastated because he was facing two life sentences.

I have my own experiences with questionable sexual activities that could have gotten me out of jury duty, but they don't haunt me like what these women went through. I could look at the accused and feel an appropriate mix of pity and objectivity.

On the second day after spending hours with our eyes on him he plead guilty rather than endure another day of listening to us recount our grievances.


mermeg said...


This has nothing to do with your jury duty but i had to tell you something.

We got the Christmas card and Christmas letter. I just wanted to let you know that the card is beautiful! You did an awesome job. I'm proud of you. You should be proud of yourself too.

Oh, the letter is good too!

Love you, Meg