Thursday, July 7, 2011


I’ve served on two juries; both of them were criminal cases. In fact, I was the jury foreman both times, which really doesn’t mean much.Trial by jury Serving on a jury was a great experience and gives one a different perspective of a case. One case we ruled the defendant was not guilty and the other we ruled as guilty.

During the selection process of the first jury, the defense attorney told us of the charges against the defendant who was sitting there. She asked us to look at him and then answer, “How many of you already think he is guilty?” No-one raised their hand. “How many of you already think he is innocent?” No-one raised their hand. “How many of you say you need more information before deciding?” We all raised our hands. The defense attorney said that we all just violated her client’s civil rights because in the United States he is innocent unless it is proven that he is guilty. It was a good lesson; it put me in a different mindset once I was selected to the jury. It meant that during the whole case I was to hold the defendant innocent until and unless each charge was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The charges were another interesting aspect. We didn’t just listen to all the testimony and then go into the jury room and vote guilty or innocent. The foreman is given a charge sheet which lists the charges and the standards which have to be met in order to render a guilty verdict on each charge. Even if you think the defendant is guilty overall, if each criteria of the charge is not met then the presumption of innocence must be maintained and the judgment of not guilty must be rendered for that charge.

As far as the Casey Anthony trial goes, it is possible that the jury members think she is responsible for the disappearance and death of her child. However, that opinion doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is whether all the criteria for proving each individual charge on the charge sheet were met. If not, then she must be judged not guilty on those charges.

I give a lot of credence to a sitting jury. At least on the two juries I sat on, we were serious about our work and following the judge’s instructions to the letter. I presume the Casey Anthony jury did the same thing. I further presume that the reason that the jury found her not guilty is because the prosecutors did not meet the standards required to prove each murder/manslaughter charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

I think that what is being spewed by many T.V. pundits is plain rubbish. Some are saying that the jury was too much like CSI and won’t make a guilty judgment unless there is DNA, fingerprints, etc… that today’s jury’s won’t convict people on good circumstantial evidence. To me, that is just sour grapes to rectify all their wrong pontifications on the case for the last three years. They weren’t in the jury room and they don’t know; no jury members have spoken to the media yet. Furthermore, why have a jury at all? Why don’t we just let the media render its judgment? There’s nothing like sitting in the jury room to get a unique perspective of a case.

Do I think that Casey Anthony is innocent? I know she is guilty of a lot of atrocious parenting, even by her own admission, even by barbaric standards. However, that wasn’t one of the charges and is quite different from being proven guilty of murder/manslaughter. Do I think she knows what happened to her daughter? Yes, but that wasn’t one of the charges either. Finally, there is the question of who killed Caylee Anthony if her mother didn’t? I don’t know but not being able to figure out who the guilty party is doesn’t meet the standard for a guilty verdict either? One other thing…the jury is not answerable to the media. The jury doesn’t owe the media an interview, an explanation, or anything. The jury is only answerable to the judge.

There is a high standard to render a guilty judgment in this country. Yet, our prisons are overcrowded. Juries have no problem rendering guilty verdicts, even on circumstantial evidence. Just ask all the people who continue to get released and remunerated for having been falsely imprisoned for crimes that DNA later proved they didn’t commit. Our justice system isn’t perfect by any means but thank God it is the best on the planet.

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