Friday, June 22, 2012

Week Sixty-one - Guilty on All Five Counts....

Having never done jury duty before, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I had a rough idea of the process, but living it is much different.  I think that if people had any real idea what it was like, they wouldn't be so quick to want to get out of it.

It's an incredible responsibility.  In our case, we had to decide if a man (who had a full time job working with handicapped kids) was guilty of five different drug charges involving marijuana.

Putting aside the issue of whether or not we think marijuana should be legal, the jury has to decide based on current law.  I learned a few things: Don't loan your car to someone who travels back and forth to the big city a lot but won't tell you why. Marijuana wholesales for $1000/pound.  Don't take your water pills if you are on jury duty.  But the most important thing I learned is that you can possess AND sell a drug without ever touching it or paying for it yourself.

You have to think of a few different things.  "Possession" does not always, even in our day-to-day lives, indicate that we have something in our pocket.  I 'possess' my bed and the sheets on it even when I am out of town - it is mine.  According to the law I possess something if I "have dominion or control" over an object even if it is not on my person.  So if the police find a drug in my home even if I happen not to be there, it is under my 'dominion and control' and I possess it.

And according to the law, "sale" means 'to sell, exchange, give to or dispose of to another person, or to agree' to do any of those things.  So, if I arrange with a supplier to return my friend's (32 pounds!) of marijuana, I have both exercised dominion and control (possessed) and sold (agreed to dispose of to another person) that (did I say THIRTY-TWO pounds?) of marijuana. 

The law also says that if I am acting in concert with another person and THEY commit a crime, I am equally guilty of that crime.  So although it looked to me at the outset as if this guy was really not involved, he was.  And they proved it beyond a reasonable doubt to all twelve of us. 

We didn't decide lightly.  One of this guy's partners is in prison for a minimum of 3 years on one of  these charges.  We deliberated for over three hours, re-listening to the recorded phone calls and examining photos.  In the end, there was no other way to vote.  Five charges, five guilty verdicts.  And they polled the jury, asking each and every one of us to state that we agreed.

It was hard.  It was agonizing.  Watching this man's family and friends weep as the verdicts were read may stand as one of the worst moments of my life for a long time.  But we did right, despite what was for me at least an overwhelming desire to find him innocent of at least ONE thing. 

And that is what makes me sure it was right.  I had to struggle to overcome my natural inclination to always believe the good, expect the best, and forgive in the face of wrong.  I fought long and hard before coming to know for certain that I could not find him innocent. 

But if I were accused of a crime, I'd want someone like me on the jury.  In fact, I'd want the jury I was on.  I'd want the guy who stubbornly demanded to know the meaning of certain legal phrases to help determine if the crime actually occurred within the given time frame.  I'd want the young girl who never lost her cool and helped the rest of us keep in order.  I'd want the man who insisted we be sure that the crime actually occurred in the location where it was alleged to happen (and more doubt there than you'd think - the crime was largely committed on a cell phone!).  I'd want us - pastor, insurance adjuster, aerospace engineer, doctor, students, teachers, waiters and retail employees.  Yup.  My peers indeed.

If they call you, don't look for ways to get out of it.  Do it.  You'd want someone to do it for you.


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