I served on a jury last week. Not the most comfortable experience due to the type of trial, although I did like each of the other jurors and enjoyed my conversations with them. There were three teachers, a journalist, a student, and me. This was my third time as a juror. The previous two experiences were a business dispute and a theft case. In the former dispute, there was a suit and a countersuit, and we didn't give either party anything. Case closed. In the second case, it was quite obvious that the guy was guilty and we convicted (after a lot of discussion convincing one holdout in the jury - she probably felt better afterward when we learned that he had done this sort of thing before). Some idiot went into a convenience store and left his keys in his car, and some kid took off with it.
This case last week was a DUI. Well, damn. There but for the grace of God, you know. DUI laws are really strict these days, and punishment is severe. I really did not want them to pick me. I answered the lawyers questions accurately, and was very surprised that they did not eliminate me based on one answer in particular. But there it was. I was on that jury. Trapped.
We sat through the lone witness's testimony (the officer who made the arrest) and saw the videotape. It was a long afternoon. We all took notes and paid careful attention to detail.
The trial stretched into a second day. I awoke that second day with dread. It really seemed that we would have to convict that young man. But after the conclusion of the trial and with careful consideration of the judge's instructions on both the law and the meaning of "reasonable doubt" we ended up with a not guilty verdict on the charge that counted the most. We discussed the details for a long time in the jury room. We tried the "field sobriety exercises" ourselves, with sometimes comical effect. We asked to watch the video a second time, and did - with extensive note taking. It was a razor thin margin, and could easily have gone the other way. There was just enough lacking in the state's case that failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We all agreed the kid should not have been driving. But that was not what we were asked to decide.
The prosecutor was no doubt disappointed in the outcome of this case. But if she was serious about her motivation to make the county a safer place, then she did accomplish something this week. After my experience with this trial, I will definitely alter my behavior regarding drinking and driving. I don't want to be the one in that defendant's chair. There but for the grace of God...