I did my civic duty last week. I had jury duty and was picked as juror number 8 for a criminal case. I can't get into the details, but it was quite an experience.
To see the criminal justice system in action, and having a front row seat, was an interesting experience to say the least.
Watching the prosecution and the defense battling back and forth over points in the testimony was straight out of Law and Order (be it, a much slower process).
In the end, we found the defendant, not guilty. However, each of the jurors, knew the kid was guilty of the crime. We just didn't have proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was guilty of the charges that we were asked to deliberate over.
It's a slippery slope in terms of what you THINK happened versus what you can PROVE happened. It's up to the Commonwealth to provide the proof -- via physical evidence or testimony -- that the accused is guilty of the charges. In this case, we had some cursory evidence, but nothing that tied him to that crime, on that day, at that moment, in those circumstances.
Each juror was frustrated. We knew we were letting a criminal get back on the streets. We knew that he was guilty, but couldn't prove it. We all felt awful.
After the non-guilty verdict was given (after two and a half days of testimony and three hours of deliberations), we had a chance to chat with the judge.
What we found out afterwards, was pretty telling.
The state changed prosecutors two weeks before the trial started. One of the major players in the case, was never investigated. The Boston Police did some pretty shoddy investigative work.
Basically, there were tons of holes in the case, which is exactly why the defendant got off, as they say.
Overall, it was a unique and eye-opening experience. What I mean by Jury Duty, being not-guilty of the Law is just that -- as citizens, we want our streets, neighborhoods, schools, etc. to be safe. But when you are bound by the law (and those that create them, enforce them and try them) your power is pretty limited when it comes down to it.
The defendant was guilty. We wanted to put him in prison. We just couldn't do it, legally, and it sucked.
Have you ever served on a jury? How was your experience?