So, here’s how it went. I arrived at the Courthouse at 7:45am and sat around until about 8:45am when they had all 50 potential jurors in attendance. They made us watch a 12 minute movie, fill out some questionairre provided by the legal counsel, and then they took us upstairs. There were two trial juries needed yesterday, so they split us up into two groups.
My group was led into the courtroom around 9:30am. We walked in and saw the judge, clerk, bailiff, prosecutor, three witnesses, two defense attorneys, and the defendant himself. They were all there for the jury selection. The judge asked the entire jury a bunch of questions that were intended to expose our biases, history, etc. This was done in a group setting, so we had to admit to these things in front of everyone.
Then they shuffled us out into an adjacent empty courtroom. The attorneys deliberated about who they wanted, and they finally called us back in. They read off 6 names from the potential list of 24 and lo and behold, I made that list. The 18 people not selected left and there we were. Almost immediately, we heard the opening statements from both prosecutor and defense. It was rather odd having the attorneys look right at us and say, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury” and then realize it was us they were talking to.
The jist of the case was this: A wife woke up and asked her husband for her pain meds. She was suspected of abusing the meds so he denied her access. A struggle ensued that ended when he shoved her back and she fell. She was 7 months pregnant at the time. She sustained no bodily injury, but he was scared enough that he took off. The cops arrived, he returned, and when they went to arrest him, he resisted until they threatened to taze the dude.
The official charges:
- Domestic violence to a pregnant woman
- Domestic violence in the presence of a child (they had a 1-year old child in the room)
- Inteferring with someone’s desire to use a communication device (he took the home phone when he left)
- Resisting arrest
After the lawyers made their cases and gave their closing arguments, we were sent away to deliberate at 5:30pm. I kept on thinking about the movie “Twelve Angry Men.” Luckily, we weren’t considering murder here. This was intended to be a one-day case, so we were just going to stay until we were done. We ended up deliberating for nearly three hours. During the middle of the deliberating, the bailiff came in and asked if we wanted to order dinner, which we did (Litza Pizza).
When we started deliberating, we were split 3 and 3 in terms of guilty-not guilty for the first charge of domestic violence. I thought he was guilty based on how the law was written. None of us thought the dude’s intention was to hurt his wife, nor did he actually hurt her, but he did “create a substantial risk to bodily injury” when he shoved her. That is what did it for me. We spent about 2 hours convincing the other three people that he was guilty.
We found him guilty of all charges except the inteferring with the use of the phone.
It was kinda tough going back into the court room at 8:30pm where everyone was still waiting for us just to tell the guy he was guilty. I felt good with the decision, but it didn’t make it any easier to know that we just helped determine the next few years of his life (whether he gets counseling, parole, jail time, etc., is up to someone else).
It was actually a good experience, but I came home pretty tired. I’m off the hook for the next two years.