Minority Opinions

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Jury Duty

with 2 comments

I served on a jury last week.  My name had come up before, but the trial was cancelled, so this was my first time seeing the judicial system in action.  I started out somewhat excited, but discovered that it was more stressful than I had anticipated.  I don’t often hold someone else’s fate in my hand, particularly outside of my immediate family.

In this particular case, we found the defendant not guilty.  The prosecutor claimed to have proven the case, but the evidence consisted entirely of police officers recounting statements made by the family when their house was raided.  Our job was to determine the intent of the defendant, given that the statements (if taken at face value) represented admission of a crime.

However, other actions of the defendant, as testified by the whole family, paint another picture.  It’s likely that another family member was guilty, and the statements in question, one of them having been blurted by said family member as soon as the police barged into the room, were intended to deflect that guilt, without thought for the serious jeopardy that they would place on the defendant.

Is that picture accurate?  It’s hard to say for certain, but it’s a plausible scenario that casts a reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case.  Some details of the testimonies don’t quite fit, and others show that something deeper has been going on, but I personally feel that it’s more likely than that the allegation is true.

Either way, this was a small victory of a poor family over the Man.  I don’t really blame the police for following through on what could sound like an admission of wrongdoing, though I wonder why the prosecution pressed charges on such a weak case.  Was it a ploy to wrangle an admission from someone else?  Were they trying to intimidate someone?  Were they following orders to be as harsh as possible to all possible offenders?

The inner workings of the police and prosecution are opaque to me, but that may be for the best; some of the people they investigate are, after all, innocent.


Written by eswald

3 Dec 2013 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Politics

2 Responses

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  1. If the prosecution didn’t prove the case, you did your duty. It is hard to know to what degree someone else not charged is complicit in a crime. I’ve been on criminal and civil juries. Most of the time once the case seems to be going one way or the other, a plea deal is reached. Only in a minority of cases do you get to complete deliberations.

    Invisible Mikey

    3 Dec 2013 at 9:09 pm

    • That’s interesting. At one point it seemed like the prosecutor was losing faith, but the closing arguments claimed to have proven it, and the defendant was surprised when the verdict was read, so I guess nobody was entirely certain of the outcome. For that matter, the bailiff had us order dinner, though our deliberations were complete before the orders were transcribed.


      3 Dec 2013 at 9:42 pm

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