Earlier this month I reported for Jury Duty. While it was a big inconvenience, managed only because Big Brother was already home from college and able to retrieve Little Brother from the school bus in the afternoon, I don’t regret participating.
However, I am relieved that after 3 days of voir dire–involving 500 jurors–I was not selected to hear the case. After listening to the indictment, I was quite sure that there was no way I’d be able to be an impartial juror.
The two defendants were indicted on nearly 50 counts involving the sexual abuse of four teenagers over the course of several years. One defendant was a police officer in a neighboring town. One woman left the courtroom in tears after telling the judge that she could not serve as a juror in such a case. The two defense attorneys managed to get any juror with children over the age of 2 tossed out of the pool right then and there.
I was at the end of the random list of 500 jurors–and one of the last 13 who had not yet been interviewed (50 questions per juror) by the time all attorneys agreed that an acceptable jury had been seated. But I figured that if I had made it to the interview process, they wouldn’t like my answer to the question regarding my ability to hear this case impartially.
I have two children and seven nieces and nephews in the same age group as the victims in this case (plus my older son and older nephew who are both now over 18). My husband and I are both deeply involved in volunteer work with children. And I was ready to be perfectly honest with the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney that I did not believe that I could put my first instinct–to protect a child–aside in a situation like this.
I was not ready to say that the defendants were automatically guilty, as I believe in and respect the principles on which our justice system is based. But I could not be fair about it, and that’s just the way it is.
Unfortunately, this case did not come to trial last week as planned. The day before the trial, one of the defense attorneys perished in a house fire caused, fire marshals suspect, by smoking in bed. Now the jury that had been assembled has been excused and the whole thing will start all over again. Next year.
If children were victimized in that situation ending in 2008, their nightmare is going to continue another year as they wait for justice. If the two adults were falsely accused, their nightmare will continue. Either way, it’s not good.
When it comes to backyard disputes over whose turn it is to use the Super Soaker or who made the mess, I’m as impartial as they come. (You can share it, or it’s mine; and I don’t care who made the mess–I just care that you pick it up when I tell you to.) But this is way more than a fight over a water gun or the scattered pieces of a board game. The stakes are too high. Both sides deserve what I could not give them.
Both sides deserve prayer too, and I struggled to remind myself of that during the reading of the indictment and the juror interviews that followed. I struggled even more after I was excused from the case and went home to google the gory details–and those details were quite gory.
Even if the adults in this case are found to be innocent, there are many adults who are not. Today, pray for them and for the children who are their victims. And pray for those falsely accused and for their accusers. It’s heartbreaking.