The Burden of Proof

My first week on jury duty and we were called in. Wouldn’t you know it. At orientation last month, the bailiff said he only saw two of the three groups a few times each. The pool is selected by drivers license now, not voter registration, and serve for four months. So every Wednesday beginning this week, I have to call to see if we report on Thursday. And week 1 we did.

Can I just say, wow! some people are IDIOTS! Let me share a few stories.

I half-way knew what to expect, having served as a witness when I worked for the crime lab. So I brought a book expecting to wait. A woman sits down beside me and starts complaining immediately about the inconvenience this is. Oh, sorry that your democratic duty “inconvenienced” you today. Get over it. She is wearing a “National Day of Prayer” shirt and tells those around her that she hopes it will get her out of being selected. Then she starts to rail about how Obama’s administration is trying to do away with this recognized day. I had enough at the point and closed my book, looked at her, and informed her that in fact, a district judge made that decision and President Obama was the chief signor of the appeal.

A young man on the other side of me, who apparently served in our distinguished military began offering up information–unsolicited–about his tragic past, including his injuries sustained while serving and his stillborn daughter.

We finally get called in and go through the motions of what the defendant is charged with, we meet all the court officials and witnesses. Then we go right back out in the hall for unknown reasons. 30 minutes later we are called back in, only to be recessed a short time later because an interpreter is needed. During these sessions, the judge asks the group such questions like “has a crime like this happened to you”, “do you have any immediate family in law enforcement”, and “do you know any of the people in the court”. Actually, I did! A friend of a friend, who I used to watch Lost with, was the co-prosecutor. I wasn’t sure if that was enough, but we made eye contact and she nodded slightly, so I stood.

Finally we get started with the vetting. A box apparently containing all our names is produced and the defense attorney is allowed to stir it. The court official calls out 12 names, then the prosecutor and defense both get to ask questions. This is where the day really drug on forever. Some people talk too much. Like the toothless redneck guy who said he didn’t think the system was fair. Or the 6-7 people who had other things to do should the trial go into the next day. Or the veteran who said people who aren’t citizens should not be protected by the law. Or the people that didn’t understand what “the burden of proof is on the prosecutor” meant.

Two hypothetical scenarios were presented, one from each side. After asking if everyone could be impartial, no matter what, the prosecutor presented a situation where an elderly woman with cancer who could only find relief from the pain by smoking marijuana would be found guilty. The law says marijuana is illegal; there is no medical proviso in Arkansas law. Suddenly, several of the jurors changed their mind. The defense asked the jurors if the prosecutor did not present their case beyond reasonable doubt and the defense called no witnesses, would they have a problem issuing a not-guilty verdict. Oh boy…this one took a while. I wanted to be called on just so I could answer it. I wanted to scream it! People…the definition is that the burden of proof is on the PROSECUTOR. If he didn’t make his case, the defense doesn’t NEED to call witnesses. They have nothing to prove. Innocent until proven guilty! A not-guilty verdict MUST be rendered. But no….these people kept hanging on to their notion that they wanted more facts; more information. They didn’t get the scenario that there were no more facts; the evidence was presented. It wasn’t enough. The end. Not guilty. Go home.

Well it was an interesting day to say the least. Suddenly I’m nervous about who exactly this jury of my “peers” are if they are mostly of this similar niche of society. Not that I ever plan on standing trial. And I don’t mean that to sound ugly, but dang, it’s scary!

The Burden of Proof

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