A few weeks ago, I was called for Jury Duty, to report on February 7.
I remember when C was called for Jury Duty a couple of years ago. All he did was complain about it. I lectured him about civic duty, and he responded, “Easy for you to say. YOU didn’t get called.”
“I know,” I replied. “But I really want to get called!”
He sighed. “Of COURSE you do.”
I’m a civics geek. OF COURSE the idea of jury duty had me very excited.
Anyway, I stuck the notice on my fridge and completely forgot about it until the morning of. Roscoe, my cat, was mewing and looking expectantly at me to give him some treats, so I reached to the top of the fridge (where I keep them, so the little snot doesn’t eat into the bag on his own), and while doing so, my eyes grazed the notice.
Oh crap, I thought.
I called in to find out my instructions, then from there I took a picture on my phone of the notice and emailed my boss. I called work as I was boarding the bus downtown.
I was armed with my Kindle and a crossword puzzle book to pass the time as we waited. We were informed that there were two cases, and if we had read the front page of the Times Union that morning, we should let them know because we would be ineligible for one of the cases.
Ooooh, I thought. That’s the GOOD one. That’s the one I hope I get called for!
To my delight, that IS the one I was called for. We entered the courtroom, and the case was mentioned along with the witness list. The expected dates of the trial were told to us, and anyone with conflicts of any kind were invited to come forward to be excused. Then, they called names and numbers to go up to the jury box. And I was called.
Clearly, I was beyond excited at this point.
It was then that I learned what the case was about.
As many of you know, my mother works for The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, and prior to that, she worked for a county social services office doing, among other things, Child Protective Services. She now trains child welfare workers in counties and nonprofit agencies how to deal with cases of domestic violence.
Because of her work in CPS, she was friendly with a number of police officers, one of whom married her best friend a couple of years ago. We attended their wedding, and they came to ours. My brother-in-law is also a police officer.
The case? A police officer was accused of beating his girlfriend. And, from the questions the attorneys were asking us, it appeared that the physical evidence was sketchy at best, as was the girlfriend’s past.
Oh. Oh dear.
I was going to have an issue with this case, if chosen for the jury. I already felt the battle of wills in my head: my moral position (that it is more likely for a woman (or man) to lie and say she (or he) is not being abused when he/she is in fact being abused rather than the reverse; that it is also common for abused partners to wait to come out and report after the fact, particularly when they think no one will believe them because their partner is a respected member of the community (such as a police officer); etc.), vs. my ethical position (that one is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt).
Surprisingly, though I was asked if I had any close ties to law enforcement (yes) and if I or anyone I was close to had been the victim of domestic violence (also yes), I was never asked about whether or not I or someone I was close with worked in the domestic violence counseling or prevention field. Because it was not asked, I did not disclose it, and I do feel a bit guilty about that.
I then thought of all the people who stretch the truth about whether or not they’re “comfortable” serving on a jury based on the case, etc., so they can get OUT of jury duty. Was I really able to separate this and be a good juror, or was I just telling myself this because I really wanted to be on a jury? I do like to think that I could have separated it and made the right decision, but my gut was telling me that it was likely this jury was going to have to acquit, and that I was going to have a very difficult time with that.
In the end, I was not selected. I wasn’t told why, though I assume it was because I raised my hand on both the law enforcement question and the domestic violence question. So, the first thing I did when I got home? I read the story in the Times Union.
On Thursday, I saw that he was acquitted, just as I suspected he would be. My stomach turns when I read the story. Obviously, this was an unhealthy relationship for a vast number of reasons that have little to do with domestic violence, but I can assure you that many of the jurors agreed to the acquittal not because they didn’t believe her, but because they couldn’t say beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn’t do it.
Or, maybe, that would just be me.
I look forward to being called again in six years.