Duty calls…

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“An adventure a day” has been our marriage mantra from the beginning – any time we find ourselves up against a plot twist, we have to figure out how to turn it into something fun, interesting, challenging, or in some other way memorable. Easy-peasy most days, as it turns out, and we have some great little stories to show for our efforts.

We’ve also each carried a desire, over the years, to belong somewhere. Kim’s been looking for it since his growing-up years in SoCal, and I spent a lot of years wishing to feel at home the way I did on the family farm where I grew up, as I felt forever the outsider on my married-into one.

Lawrence is proving to be that safe space for both of us – the vibe, the weather, the manageable scope of our surroundings, the sense-of-new that’s in the air we breathe. Being seated on a jury this past week only added to the knowledge that I’m a real citizen here.

Physically and psychically it was a challenge (aka adventure). Having been a jury member twice now, both criminal cases, it’s my heartfelt opinion that sitting in judgement of a fellow human is the heaviest responsibility this side of bringing home a new baby.

The charge was Criminal DUI, the charged a young Hispanic man. Young white prosecutor, older Hispanic defense attorney. Young white highway patrolman, phlebotomist, and KBI expert. All-white jury pool. All-white jurors, five women, one man. (We learned that misdemeanor offenses require a six-person jury and felonies twelve.) I think I could be an effective jury consultant after watching the attorneys narrow the pool by dismissing every male the approximate age of the defendant and keeping all of us who looked like sisters, moms, and grandmothers.

The charges…

1.) Operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner

2.) Driving 92mph on a 75mph interstate

3.) Driving under the influence of alcohol

4.) Refusing a breathalyzer and a blood test

The highway patrolman’s testimony was articulate and the evidence of speeding was solid. The KBI’s toxicology reports were quite conclusive and delivered in a succinct manner by a young woman who clearly reached her level of expertise by virtue of knowing things. The phlebotomist from the hospital demonstrated serious credibility and provided key testimony about the chain of evidence. In the only nebulous part of the evidence presented, the grainy dashcam video shot at 2am was helpful but not conclusive as to the charge of unsafe driving.

We were the typically assorted crew, and although we exchanged very little personal information during off moments, our personalities were coming out by deliberation time. Our lone guy struck me as neutral, right down the middle, just the facts, please, all in a day’s work. Of the five of us women, one was a no-nonsense Fox News conservative (her words) and not interested in nor affected by any discussion of potentially mitigating circumstances; another was an educator, probably in her 40s, who engaged us in discussing various scenarios and possibilities; there was an adorbs sorority girl from The Hill who seemed to be most concerned about making all the numbers add up so as not to wrongly convict the defendant; then you have me, the eldest in the room, focused on all my unanswered questions; and finally, a young woman not too long out of college and involved in a career. She volunteered to serve as foreman, which surprised me until I saw her in action.

Foreman Woman efficiently and dispassionately took us through each of the charges one by one and we discussed them until we felt ready to vote. We voted GUILTY on three of the four charges, the only logical thing to do in view of the evidence. Even as we filed back into the courtroom, my brain was still trying to work out why the defendant had requested a jury trial for a DUI, and how a conviction was going to affect his mother, who was in the courtroom both days. Nonetheless, it was done, over.

Afterward, the judge came to the deliberation room and talked to us, and in answering our questions she provided two key pieces of information that have allowed me to let it all go:

1.) Sometimes people request jury trials on the outside chance that a jury might have enough doubt or sympathy to exonerate them.

2.) This was his second DUI offense.

Okay, I’m sorry, nice-looking young man, go do your time and learn some things about life.

And I’m sorry, mister well-trained professional law enforcement officer, that I entertained the slightest possibility of not taking a proven menace off the highways. Wow, he looked so clean and earnest and hopeful, too.

When I met Kim for lunch I realized that I was shaking all over, mostly from relief that all of us together had managed to do the right thing. The heavy sense of responsibility stayed with me into the evening and I found myself crying over silly things on TV.

Alexander Hamilton, et.al., placed a lot of trust in the jury concept – that Americans through the years would retain enough personal integrity to make life and death decisions as concerning their fellow man. This one was fairly easy to own because the solid truth of the body of evidence was overwhelming – we were presented with established facts from credible witnesses. And yet when you walk into the deliberation room you’re hit with the sense of accountability you owe to the entire process, and that’s good – it should never be an easy assignment.

I’m relieved and gratified to say that heritage didn’t show up in any way as a topic for consideration – we discussed only the facts and the evidence supporting them as they related to the charges. Each of my fellow humans on the jury surprised me in happy ways and each one taught me something. Thank you, our beloved forebears, for entrusting this important task to simple citizens – we truly are all in this together.

This, for whatever reasons, has been a hard post to write – I’ve been trying to find the words since last Thursday and now I’ve written a whole LOT of them and this has grown long. I keep thinking of what the educator in the room said: “If any one of us were to find ourselves in trouble in a court of law, we would hope for an honest, serious jury who would consider nothing but the facts of our case.” Amen. It matters.

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marsha
    Sep 27, 2017 @ 07:56:26

    Being a conscientious juror is an important part of our responsibilities as a citizen.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. AuntB
    Sep 26, 2017 @ 21:04:26

    Excellent !Well said.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Cari Wasson
    Sep 26, 2017 @ 17:53:33

    Well said, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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