Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Civic Duty

A couple of weeks ago I got a jury summons. I dutifully completed the questionnaire and waited for my notice to appear or whatever it's called. It came last weekend and I was told to come to the Matheson Courthouse for jury selection on Tuesday morning. I had no idea if I would be chosen and I wasn't sure if I cared one way or the other. Some are really excited to be called in for jury duty and others absolutely dread it. I thought it could be interesting to see the justice system at work and to participate in a very real way but if I wasn't biggie.

Once called to participate in a specific jury selection you are ushered into a courtroom with the prosecution, defense and the judge. We were told it was a criminal case...the butterflies started going in my stomach. The judge read the laws that the defendant had allegedly broken. My heart sank. Sexual battery and sexual assault of a child. The questions they asked after that narrowed the jury pool down further. With each question the feeling of dread became like a brick in my stomach. My heart dropped into my stomach when they read my name for the final jury.

Numerous people over the past several days have told me how jealous they are that I had been selected. People thought it would "cool" and "fun" and "entertaining". It was undoubtedly interesting to see the justice system at work and to see the process from beginning to end. I am grateful for our system of government.

Yet, I wish with all my heart that I had never had to go. I wish with all my heart that such circumstances never came to be. I sat and listened to two days of child testimonies. I listened to two young teenage girls with autism describe the abuse. I saw a man break down into tears as the jury instructions were read and he realized just what could possibly happen to him.

The verdict was guilty. I am very glad that a threat has been taken off the streets and more children will not be in danger. However, that is not a decision to be taken lightly. It was a huge responsibility. Today I irrevocably changed a man's life. The responsibility of that will never truly leave me. I believe we made the right choice and I don't regret it. I only wish it had never been necessary.

Some of my fellow jurors were almost flippant about the verdict and the accused. The children did not have the best home life and comments were made about people like "them" and "us". Maybe it was a way of dealing with the horror of the situation...a way of separating themselves from the tragedy.

I didn't expect I would react this way. I didn't think I would be so affected. I went to my parents and cried to my dad. It still upsets me to think about it. To know that there is such evil in the world. To know there is such danger and uncertainty in the world. It breaks my heart.

I am grateful we have the opportunity to be tried by a jury of our peers, I truly am. I wish with all my heart and soul that it was never necessary. What I participated in these past several days was nothing short of tragic.


Megan said...

I know it was hard and must have been heart-wrenching, but I know for a fact that those children are so grateful for that verdict. Tears quickly came to eyes as I read this post and I am grateful that you did you duty.