I just returned from jury service. I was selected for a trial that lasted about three weeks. It is not important for you to know the details of the case; in fact, I find it has been exceedingly difficult for me to share the details of the case even with my friends. Let’s just say it was it was a felony and my experience of sitting through the evidence and rendering a verdict was intense.
When I finally did tell one friend about the experience, she congratulated me: “Good job!” If I did such a good job, why to I feel so sad?
Yes, the jury did do a good job. We took the law that the judge gave to us, broke the definitions of the crimes down into their components, and then applied to those components only the facts that were given to us in the evidence phase of the proceedings.
Yes, we did our jobs, but had you been with us in the deliberation room, you would not have seen any high-fives or shoulder pats after we finalized our decision. It was somber and sad and there were tears.
I cannot speak for my fellow jurors, but the suffering of all concerned with the case fell heavily on me. The defendant ruined his life with his actions. The friends and family of all the parties have suffered and will continue to suffer for a long while.
Our culture, at least my little corner of it, has taught me that we should be compassionate and understanding. My faith tradition informs me “judge not lest ye be judged”. We live in a culture of “do-overs” and “time-outs”. So it is no wonder this experience of passing judgment on another seems so counter to my nature. I got through the deliberations and the aftermath by reminding myself: “you have followed the law, you have considered the evidence.”
That being said, the sound of the sheriff clicking the cuffs on the defendant and the look on his face at the reading of the verdict are seared into my memory. The defendant and his attorney looked as if their guts had been kicked in. The energy of that fired across the courtroom and knocked me in the gut too.
So what did this experience teach me? Did this teach me to be more compassionate? Or did the fact that I had to be totally objective and solely attentive to the law and the evidence hurt my ability to be compassionate?
The jury is still out on that one.
Miss Pelican (c) 2014