So, jury duty.
I have never had it before, never even been asked. But Nathan had to show up for it once and after two days of waiting, got to go back to work.
This jury summons has been the source of much anxiety in the past few days. I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen, or not knowing what to expect. Besides the fact that we have a busy two weeks coming up, I didn’t know what it was going to be like and that, alone, caused me to be anxious.
(I did talk with a friend last night, who had it a few weeks ago and she talked me through the day and what to expect. That was a huge help! She also watched our kids for us, also a huge help!).
I got there a few minutes late this morning and for all I know, the case could have been announced then. So until we made it into the courtroom, I didn’t know what we could potentially be doing.
I filled out my questionaire and tried my hardest to make it sound like I didn’t want to be there, because I didn’t. The only organization affiliation I put down was to Redeemer Presbyterian Church. I also made sure to note that my husband worked at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and made sure to mention that I had witnessed petty theft last week, of my neighbor’s bike being stolen. And for the last question, “Is there anything else we should know about you?” I put down that I would rather be at home, caring for my family than be a juror. All of that, I hoped, would get me dismissed.
So after a whole lot of waiting, the baliff finally came in and said, “Sorry about the wait, we haven’t forgotten about you. We were trying to see if he would accept a plea, but he won’t. He wants a trial. So we’re gonna give him a trial.” Argh! I know that everyone there let out a big sigh of disappointment and soon, we were on our way to the court room.
When we finally made it in, the judge talked for a really long time about being a juror, how it was our civic duty, how lots of people have died for our freedom and how the least we could do was to fulfill our civic duty. And then he started asking questions like “Do any of you have a problem with the fact that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty?” “Huh, that’s interesting,” I thought. “Do any of you have a problem with the fifth amendment, stating that they have the right to decline to testify against themselves?” “Hmmm, if they do the crime, they should have to talk about it, right?” I thought. “Do any of you have a problem with the sixth amendment that states that everyone has the right to a fair trial with a jury?” “Wow, commit a crime and get a fair trial…interesting,” I thought.
Needless to say, all of these questions stirred up thoughts that I had never had a reason to think.
And it was either then, or earlier that the judge read the case which was 5 felony charges: attempted murder, bank robbery, resisting arrest, holding someone hostage and unlawful possession of a gun. He mentioned that there were 5 or 6 bankers that were on the scene and that would be called as witnesses, plus the guy that he tried to kill.
My immediate reaction was, “Whoa, he’s totally guilty of those charges. Why wouldn’t he be.” There seemed to be so many witnesses and things that reasonably could have happened that when the judge reminded us of “innocent until proven guilty” I had to think again. I started to wonder if I could give this guy a fair chance and while the lawyers were making sure that everyone knew what reasonable doubt was and if they could put other experiences aside to be fair jurors.
It finally came time for me to be in the jurors’ box and while I thought about pleading my case to be dismissed, because my life was busy and I missed my kids, a lady in front of me asked to be dismissed because she had a big job interview the next day and then had to take her boards on Thursday. I would have probably gotten the big “wah wahhhhhh!”
The prosecution attorney started to question everyone, asking if people needed 100% proof or just proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which apparently isn’t 100%. And, the law holds them just to reasonable doubt. A metaphor was brought up, where say we told our child not to drive our car, but one morning we found that our keys had been moved, the car seat and radio station were different and there was a McDonald’s receipt in the car. Would we know, could we know, past reasonable doubt, that our child had driven our car?
Surprisingly, many of the people up there with me were hesitant to answer yes and were giving this child the benefit of the doubt. And as they were giving their responses, I was realizing that I did, in fact, have a problem with the fifth and sixth amendments and that I did have a problem with “innocent until proven guilty,” and that I just might not be the right juror for that case.
So with 30 seconds of questioning time left, she finally came to me and asked if I would be able to be an impartial juror, and I answered truthfully: “You know, I haven’t thought much about someone being innocent until being proved guilty until now and honestly, I think the guy is probably guilty. There were so many witnessess there, so there must have been a good reason for him to be arrested. And yes, if my car were different, I would totally think my child was guilty until they had a chance to prove their innocence.”
BAM!! As I was finishing my last statement, I saw the other prosecuting attorney’s face fall, realizing that they had lost a potential juror and I was hoping, that in fact, that IS what had just happened.
But the defense still got to question us, so they started with me.
“Ms Partain, isn’t it possible that the state could have the wrong man? Hasn’t that happened before? And you do know that not all of the 21 witnesses aren’t eye witnesses, just a few of them.” “Yes, I know that the wrong person is sometimes tried, because humans aren’t perfect. But, we’ll have to see what everyone says.”
Nathan thinks that at that point, the defense was starting to defend their client because I had started down that path , and while that wasn’t my intention, I was glad that I got to express my thoughts, honestly.
After the defense had thoroughly questioned everyone, we waited another 10 minutes for each side to talk about us and then finally were told who would be dismissed and who would get to stay and be a joror. Thankfully, my name was called to be dismissed. And as I got up to leave, I thanked the Lord!
The more I’ve thought about it today, the more I am so glad that I didn’t have to spend three days in that court room to hear them defend this guy and try to convince me of his innocence. I honestly don’t care. I am glad that my time wasn’t wasted and that I didn’t have to sit through the long hours. I was willing to, though, as I was asking God if I had something to offer and if this was what was meant by praying for our government and giving to Caesar what is due. I wanted to be open to all of it, but in the end, was so so thankful that I didn’t have to do any of it.
I think I’m glad that we have the system that we do, although, I don’t have anything to compare it to, and, don’t plan on commiting any crimes anytime soon!