The first group of jurors was called and I was in a group of 45 people or so. We went to one of the courtrooms and began the process of jury selection. At this point I was feeling good about it because the numbers game of picking 12 jurors out of 45 people made the odds of yours truly not getting selected look pretty good. I wondered why this was such a large group, though. I remembered that the group of potential jurors was only about 25 the last time I did this. I would soon find out why.
We were quickly informed that the case involved the sexual assault of a 12 year old girl. The alleged incident was not a rape, but also not a pleasant subject. The attorneys asked many questions of the potential jurors such as "have you personally, or do you know anybody that has ever been involved in any kind of sexual assault?" I was a bit surprised that a significant number of people answered yes.
After spending almost all day on Monday enduring the jury selection process, I found out just before 5:00 pm that I was to be juror #4. Wow! Lucky Me!
The trial started the next morning. I'll not describe all of the circumstances but there was some very unusual details and confusing testimony for us jurors to consider. For one thing, the purported offense had occurred 4 years ago. Huh? Why that length of time? Secondly, the testimony of the various witnesses for the prosecution was somewhat inconsistent. Both the prosecution and the defense had DNA experts testifying on their behalf. We had to listen as each expert witness tried to substantiate their own separate test results. Of course, the purpose of the defendant's expert DNA witness was to raise some doubt as to the guilt of the defendant.
We, as jurors, had been cautioned numerous times that we were to assume the innocence of the defendant until the attorneys had rested their cases. We were not to speak about the case with each other, nor with anyone else for that matter. If we were to convict the defendant, we had to be sure that there was "no reasonable doubt" as to the guilt of the defendant.
The prosecutors called a number of witnesses. The defendant did not take the stand in his own defense and the defendant's only witness was their DNA expert. Again, we all were wondering why. ???
The jury finally went for deliberation at mid Thursday morning. We talked for a bit with each other, but quickly decided to take a quick vote, just to see where we stood. The initial vote was 11 to 1 in favor of conviction. After that, I suppose that a lot of us, like me, had thoughts about the old movie starring Henry Fonda, "12 Angry Men". I wondered if the deliberation would take a long time. I actually was a bit surprised at the results of the initial vote given the inconsistencies in the testimony and somewhat confusing nature of the DNA evidence. I thought the initial vote would be different.
The initial vote was by ballot and we didn't initially know which one if us had voted for acquittal, but that person (not me), quickly identified himself to the rest of us. And many of his concerns were valid in my opinion. I think we all had questions. None of us were absolutely sure what had exactly happened that night.
But in the minds of most of us, one fact was irrefutable. A fluid substance belonging to the defendant was found in a place where it shouldn't have been. The DNA evidence provided by the prosecution indicated that. In addition, the defendants own DNA expert confirmed the same result, but offered up some additional test result possibilities and a somewhat critical review of the prosecution's DNA testing procedures. That was the primary source of the defendant's argument for potential reasonable doubt.
We went around the table, each of us with an opportunity to express our thoughts and opinions. We discussed our many questions and misgivings about the case, but eventually we started to focus on the evidence that we felt was particularly important. In about an hour, the person that had originally voted for acquittal changed his mind and we became unanimous in our decision. It was just before noon. The bailiff said they were going to order in pizza for us for lunch. We decided not to tell the bailiff that we had reached a decision until after we had a chance for pizza. We were all sort of anxious to "get out of there" but we also knew that the court would not resume until after lunch anyway. Judges and attorneys always seem to be very conscious about proper lunch and break times.
The court reconvened not long after we told the bailiff that we had reached a decision. The final process went quickly and we were released from duty shortly thereafter.
After we had retired back to the jury room, the judge and both attorneys joined us and we had an opportunity to exchange questions back and forth with them. This was extremely valuable for us because we had a chance to get some of our little questions answered. For instance, we found out that the case was actually a re-trial. The defendant had already been convicted once and was granted a new trial based upon the newer DNA evidence. He had other possible counts against him, but this case was the one where the prosecution thought they had the best chance for conviction. A lot of this information was withheld from us for the reason that it might be prejudicial.
He was a bad dude! We went away very sure we had done the right thing. Because of a relatively recent new sentencing law, he will be in prison for a very long time, a minimum of 25 years. I guess I feel a bit sorry about that, but just a bit.
I learned a lot about the legal processes involved. Would I want to do it again? Well, probably not. Mainly just because it interrupted my life for 4 days and was a somewhat mentally draining and emotional process.
Ten men and two women came together to weigh the evidence. We went away knowing we had fulfilled our civic duty in a responsible manner. You could argue that the procedures are not very efficient, but we all should feel lucky that we live in a country where this kind of process is followed. In other countries, the process might not be as careful.