Friday, March 26, 2010

#17 Jury Duty

If anyone has talked to me or heard from me in the last month you would know that I was a member of a jury. You could probably take it one step further and say that I love it. I just wanted to share my experience; mostly because it's really weighing on my mind.

I reacted how anyone does when I opened the mail box and saw an envelope marked "jury summons." I did what every good American should do, though, and I went Wednesday March 3rd. I had to report to the courthouse in Hayward. For those who are not Bay Area savvy, Hayward is about 20 minutes from where I live. I reported to a very large room with several hundred other bay areaens. After the courthouse workers got settled they started by showing us a really cheesy movie about how awesome serving on a jury was. I rolled my eyes and went back to my crosswords.

Not too long after the movie the workers called their first group of 90 people; I was part of that group. We were to go downstairs and report to Dept. 511. In Dept. 511 the judge prepped us on what the case was about and we were instructed to fill out a questionnaire and meet back on Monday, the 11th.

Monday, the 11th was a long day. They questioned almost all 90 people, the same questions bare in mind, before the jury was actually selected. Needless to say we were all caught off gaurd when the clerk swore in the new jury.

The case was about the killing, beating to death, of a three year old little girl. Through testimony we heard the injuries she had and the possible ways they could have happened. We learned about bruising, broken bones, pain, CPR, medical response, and old injuries compared to new. We saw pictures both "good" and bad. We heard a neighbor who couldn't speak English and kept contradicting herself. We heard from a 9 year old witness who was only 4 when it happened. Through all this we heard the DA give her case and we heard the defense plant reasonable doubt in our minds. This was all good and we pulled the majority of our decision from the above witnesses. The hardest part was when the mother of this little girl and the boyfriend/defendant gave their testimonies. Their testimonies of what happened the week she died were different. Two totally different stories. We spent the majority of our time in deliberation deciding what part of their testimonies was true and what part was a lie. We had to go back and listen to several testimonies. We debated, debated, debated. I sat open minded and to tell you the truth I was almost one of the last ones to agree with the majority.

Yesterday was so hard. I think it's when I realized that someone wasn't going to come in and say, "Good job guys. This was just a test. This whole situation was made up." It's when I realized that a little girl really did get beat to death. It's when I realized the sad little life she was living and understood why Heavenly Father felt she was better off with him. It's also when I realized that my decision might or might not put a man in jail for the rest of his life. No matter what, though, I had to make that decision. We decided on guilty. It was undeniable and we all sat in silence for a good minute after we made that decision.

When we went back into the courtroom to read the verdict my emotions were high. There are three very distinct things that will be etched into my mind forever.
1-Walking in and seeing the mother with here parents on either side. Her head was down and she looked like she was praying.
2-The defendant looked as if he was holding his breath.
3-When the clerk was reading the verdict; the defendant dropped his head and his attorney started to comfort him.
We then had to each state that we agreed with the verdict. I remember at one point the sweet prosecuting attorney saw my tears. She looked at me with understanding and I could tell she was saying it would all be ok. I feel good about the decision.

I'm so glad I met the people I did. I'm really sad that I'm not going to be spending any more time with a group of people that I became so close to.

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