Friday, January 30, 2009

You There -- Out of the Jury Pool!

This week was my term of service on the circuit jury for my county. The last time I was liable for service I ended up serving on a jury -- two days of a trial for sexual abuse of a minor.

This time when I called in on Monday, jurors 1-152 were told to appear the next morning for jury duty. This seemed like an pretty high number just to get 12 jurors qualified. I went in, and it was pretty much "hurry up and wait". Well after the time that things should have been underway there seemed to be a flurry of activity in one of the side rooms, and after a while the presiding judge came out and addressed the jury pool with "good news and bad news".

The good news was that we would be going home for the day since the prosecutor had dropped the charges and would be refiling them probably within the day. In any case, this would no longer involve us. The judge then left without delivering the bad news.

The bailiff was able to get everyone's attention as they were putting on their coats and chattering away, and it fell to him to inform us that we still needed to call in every evening for the remainder of the week. That turned out to be good news in disguise, since no other jury trials were scheduled for this week.

So what was this all about? I read the local afternoon paper later Tuesday and learned that this was to have been a first degree murder trial resulting from a shooting that occurred in the past couple years. The judge in this case had ruled that the defense could raise issues related to a Missouri law that allows deadly force when there is a danger to one's own life or the lives of others. (This is a fairly recent law that makes it a little easier for such people as battered spouses or other abuse victims to take action when they feel immediately threatened. My personal take on self defense or defense of others is that my threshold for acting is set significantly higher than what the law apparently permits. )

So I breathed a sigh of relief. It is doubtful I would have been selected for this particular jury for a few reasons. First, the defense would probably not have wanted me since I spent three years as a reserve police officer in Colorado. The prosecution would have probably dismissed me since I am one of those knuckle-dragging neanderthals who believe the Second Amendment to the US Constitution can be understood in plain English to guarantee an individual right to keep and bear arms. I don't know whether this was to have been a death penalty case, but I am opposed on moral grounds to the death penalty, so that too would have disqualified me.

Having said all this, had the trial proceeded, and I were picked a a juror, I would have listened to both the prosecution and defence as they laid our their respective cases and I would have followed the instructions of the judge in my delberations and done my utmost to render a fair verdict. I'm just glad I didn't have to serve this time.

No comments: