Friday, January 30, 2009

Deliberation

It's been a long road. Two weeks of complex testimony. Expert witnesses. Distressed plaintiffs. Of course, two weeks for the jury is a drop in the bucket compared to eight years for the plaintiffs and defendants. Eight years of pain and fear - enough for all sides.

So it's down to us six. Six people from different walks of life, who now must render verdicts based on what we heard, what we saw, and - yes - what we bring to the table in terms of experience and bias. It comes down to direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, and a lot of "he said/he said/he said." All can be considered, according to our judge.

As far as I'm concerned, this cannot be rushed. We have 17 pages of questions from the judge. One question per page. We cannot move on until 5 of the 6 jurors have come to a consensus. One dissenter is allowed, but we all have to sign off on each question. Our yeas and nays will be sent to the judge to formulate the verdict. But each question must be considered.

Alas, we have three members of the jury who just want to be done with it. Truth be told, I just want to be done with it, too. But this is no time to rush to judgment, just to get out of the jury room. Real people's lives will be affected, whichever way we go. All sides will feel the impact. All sides - 1 plaintiff, 2 defendants - gave compelling testimony and evidence. All sides gave lousy or questionable testimony and evidence. It will take time to sort out what's what as we go question by question. Every element of the case has been teased out to force us to consider all the action in question. This cannot be rushed.

We deliberated yesterday for about an hour and a half before being dismissed for the day. We made it through the first question fairly quickly, which allowed us to skip to the fourth question based on our answer to number one. The question facing us now is a tough one; I think it's the toughest thing we have to decide. We need to bring real intelligence to this, and to rush through it just to "get done" is failing our duty as a jury, I believe. I do think it interesting that of the three who want to rush, two are retired and one works part-time. The other three of us have full-blown, 50+ hours-a-week jobs. But we did take an oath, and deliberation is not the time to fail the plaintiff, defendants, the judicial system, or ourselves.

I'm not looking forward to today. There will be some wrangling, believe you me. The truth is that I, too, hope we finish this afternoon. It's hard being on a jury during the day and catching up with my work at night and weekends. I'm tired. But this part of the process is called "deliberation," not "let's just check off on these questions and get home." It's about logic, reasoning, and thoughtfulness. And lives will be changed by our decisions.

3 comments:

jomoore said...

I'd certainly want you, and 11 like you, in my jury, Mary.

(Not that I'm planning anything, you understand...)

Richard said...

You know -- if the world was comprised of "two kinds of people," one kind good and the other bad; one kind right and the other wrong; one kind just and the other un -- we would have no need for courtrooms, judges or juries. If that were so all questions, like you question number 1, would be easily answered. It's question 5 and beyond that require deliberation.

Anonymous said...

Let 'em swing.