Friday, May 9, 2008

Jury Duty

Lucky me. I got called for jury duty at the worst possible time. I have always wanted to be on jury duty...don't get me wrong. I just really didn't want it right now, with four little people at home all day and being pregnant. Ugh!

In our county, we are on for two months. I got May through the end of June. I got the first call last week. Half of the panel had to report and I was in that lucky half. Forty people and they were doing a magistrate trial, which needed 6 jurors. Well, looked like I was going to get pretty lucky. Not so. I was one of fourteen called, however, the trial involved our town's police chief. So I was a little smug thinking there was no way they were going to allow people from our small town to sit on that jury. I was wrong...I was picked along with one other person from our town. I did feel that I could be open in the situation. The stuff you hear in the media never really accurately describes anything and you never get the whole story. I felt that if I received the entire story, I could be fair and unbiased. And I was correct. I listened to everything and felt that the verdict we finally reached was very fair...and extremely unanimous. Five of us knew our verdict in the first ten minutes of deliberations and the sixth one knew in less than forty-five minutes.

The case involved three local juveniles jumping from a park bridge into a creek. They had been warned on three separate occasions to not be there; once by the police chief and once by another officer. The third time is when an alleged assault on one of the boys took place. The chief approached them and told them to get off. They all did, but the third boy went back on and got belligerent with the chief and said he wasn't leaving. When the chief saw no other options, he arm-barred the boy to remove him from the situation and leave. In the process, because he was arm barred against the bridge, there was left a small (1.5") burn. It was very small (unlike what the public saw on the news, we saw an actual ruler held against the injury) and it was caused by the young man refusing to leave the scene and hanging on to the bridge. So when the chief arm barred him and pulled him away, it left a little scratch. The boy and the prosecution wanted us to believe it was assault, saying the chief was angry and had "drug him along the length of the bridge." None of us felt that the injury resulting was from dragging along the bridge. It was a burn, not a cut. There were no splinters and it was a surface injury. And it was an inch and a half long. Seriously. It was easy to find the chief not guilty after looking at all the circumstances and evidence. The prosecutor kept telling us to "use our common sense." Well, that's exactly what we did.

I did not expect to be on a trial, my very first trial and jury experience, so heavily covered by the media. That was a little unnerving. When I delivered the verdict, I had a really hard time getting through it because as soon as I said "not guilty," the chief's wife started sobbing. In my hormonal state, that wasn't cool. I was not the only one with tears, though. Surprisingly, the entire jury was female and five out of six of us had children....and boys to boot!

I felt bad for Steve...the trial drug on for three days and he had to be home all those days. He went in every night to catch up on stuff at work, but it was just as exhausting for him. I don't think he ever really believed me when I told him just how busy our boys are...until he spent that much time alone with them!

After everything I learned about what occurs in our small town city park, I have decided my decision to not allow Austin to go down there alone has been a fantastic one. And it has also shown me, more clearly than before, that problems are everywhere. Even in small town Iowa.

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