Jury Doody

Finally a moment to breathe. That is a good thing. Breathing. Standing upright is good too. Not being in prison is even better.

I have survived a week on jury duty, and as per the judge’s instructions, I can now talk about the case. But I am not interested in that. I am more interested in the process of the legal system. First the pros: It was a great experience being thrown into a room with people from different cross sections of the Brooklyn world. All ethnicities, and political inclinations sitting together in a room for a week and hearing a case, with the intention of being impartial. The interaction, for the most part, was friendly. Of course there was a backup of laundry and work I could not get to. But I am glad for the experience.

The cons: This is an imperfect system. We ended in a mistrial which means the jury could not come to a unanimous decision. We all heard the same case and the same testimony. In my mind, and the minds of 8 of the other jurors, the defendant is a serial robber and mugger. According to 3 of the jurors, they felt there was insufficient evidence to convict and felt like they did not want to put an innocent man in jail. What we learned afterwards from our court officer and the lawyers is that this guy was SO guilty. He was already in jail and going back there afterwards. He has had a long history of serial robbery (as most of us believed by the court testimony) and that he was EXACTLY how he appeared to be: a crook.

The truth is that when I entered court, I had no preconceived notion of the case we were hearing. I have no interest in the penal system and already feel that we have too many people in jail. We have a prison industry which is unmatched anywhere else in the world, which trades on the AMEX and I certainly do not want to be part of adding to it. That said, this idiot was so guilty that it was not even funny and because of the indecisiveness of a few of our fellow jurors to render a clear and impartial decision, a criminal could be pointing a gun in your direction any day now. He will do so for no other reason then he thinks the crap in your pockets has some value, and he seems to have an itch to get back to jail. The crime we heard was done “in concert” with others, and was a deliberate and foolish act. It is an indication of how screwed up our society really is. But the jury still gave me hope.

To place 12 people in a room and have them listen to each other is a miracle. Despite the differences. And from this vantage point, I would do it again in a minute.


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