Yesterday I was summoned for Jury Duty. While, I wasn't thrilled to be going, I took the day off work to perform my civic duty. Turned out there were approximately 50 to 60 of us there. I found that to be an unusually large number. After a brief orientation we were all directed to an upstairs courtroom wherein was the Judge, Prosecutor, Defense Lawyer and the Defendant. The Defendant was a fairly young man and just above his collared shirt I could see he had some sort of tattoo on his neck. I am not against tattoos, I just think on your neck is a little extreme and, yes, in my preconceived notion, indicates trouble. The Judge read the synopsis of the case. It was a murder case. This young man was accused of murdering another man.
My mind began to wonder. How old was the man he allegedly murdered? Was the murder victim married? Is there as widow hoping and praying for some sort of justice? Although, I know justice will not stop her pain or the grief she is feeling. Did the victim leave behind children? Did the victim have siblings who are now grieving the loss of their brother? Are the victims parents still alive and if so, how awful for them to have to bury their son.
I then looked at the Defendant and thought how could you? Did you not realize the pain and grief you would inflict on so many people? What about the daughter that won't have her father to give her away at her wedding or the elderly parent who won't have their son to help them as they age? What about the sibling who will forever be changed by the death of their brother. The widow. I couldn't get the thought of another widow, forever changed, and struggling to once again gain just a pebble of normalcy to her life. I was disgusted by the sight of him there in dress slacks, dress shirt and tie; a style of clothing I was sure he had never worn in his life.
My thoughts were interrupted by the Judge saying they had preselected 27 jurors, and of those 16 would be hearing the case. He began calling names and one by one they were directed to the juror box to be seated. "Juror #4, Sandra Webb." Oh hell! They obviously don't know what has been going through my head. I had already convicted this "kid". I was already sympathetic to the victim's family. Rather, the family that I had created in my head.
I must say that I believe in our justice system. I believe everyone deserves a fair trial by a jury of their peers. It pains me when I hear of people wrongly accused and convicted only to, years later, be found not guilty. Although, I felt like I was not his peer nor was I in a place to be fair and without bias in this case. When the judge questioned me I explained to him my physical therapy schedule and there was no way I could be to court on time on my therapy days. I was dismissed. I was pleased I did not have to explain the thoughts in my head in order to be dismissed.
While I have no doubt that everyone brings their own baggage to a trial, I do wonder how many can actually be impartial and take only the evidence presented into account. Could you set aside your first impressions and your life experiences to be completely impartial?
Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt