Juries CAN Doubt

July 6th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

I have not wallowed in the Casey Anthony murder trial. In fact, I avoid sensationalist news and even morbid and tawdry television dramas. Yet what has been thrust before me reinforces that juries need more than slathering of speculation to convict in violent felonies.

Last evening, I turned on TV news. That in itself is unusual, but caught, I saw the lead-in with the not-guilty verdict of the young mother accused of plotting and carrying out the murder of her two-year-old daughter. Immediately the point of the reportage was plain as the camera and mic captured one spectator after another in a viewing room decrying the verdict. They wanted guilt, retribution, execution. They wanted blood. They were outraged that the jury did not.

Having sat on a few felony juries, I was less willing to damn the dozen who had discussed the trial for only 11 hours before their agreement. Such public bifurcation with a jury seems a norm, much like family, friends and neighbors being positive that the accused, whom after all they know, did not, could not and would never have committed the crime.

The jury so far also agreed as a body not to discuss their deliberations. Surely several will eventually do it anyway. Meanwhile though, second and third guessing abounds.

My personal touchstone for such was a trial at which I was a juror. It was not murder, but it was still horrific. A stepfather was charged with multiple instances of raping his very young stepdaughter. Mom was not prosecuted but may have been aware and done nothing, according to the DA’s office.

We did in fact find him guilty, but only of a single count. After our verdict, which took a longer deliberation than the Anthony jury’s, I was close enough to the bench to overhear the judge and assistant DA going on about what fools we were, that it was obvious that he was guilty of the long list of charges.

Show Me The Proof

We on the jury strongly thought he was a dastard who likely had done it all. The problem we were unable to get over is that the prosecution only proved a single crime. We did not have the slack attitude, in effect contempt for the legal process, that the judge and assistant DA did. We took it seriously when we were charged with finding him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this case, the prosecution only bothered to present real and detailed evidence on a single rape charge, apparently assuming we’d spread the assumption of guilt like so much melting ice cream.

The young girl did not testify. She was in a much safer home already as well. We heard police and forensic evidence, plus obviously false denials by the accused. While the prosecution allegedly had proof on the other charges, he never revealed any of it to us.

It was extremely frustrating to end up in the deliberation room without just cause to find him guilty on all charges. We said as a group that he likely was guilty of many more instances, but again, we had no evidence.

After the trial, a couple of us chatted. Two agreed with me that everyone in the case seemed sleazy and worthy of jail — including defense attorney, assistant DA and even the judge. None seemed to respect the process of justice. None of them seemed to have the morals befitting his job.

I feel for jurors who find themselves with reasonable doubt. Their raw emotions may well want to convict an accused whom onlookers are absolutely positive is guilty, but they have as they say in Star Trek, a prime directive.


One Response

  1. Amy says:

    Everyone on a jury should have as much integrity as you and the rest of the people with whom you served. And prosecutors should bring evidence on every count for which they want a conviction. I hope a few DAs read your words.

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