Jury Duty: May 30 – June 7, 2007

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About two weeks ago I was selected for jury duty in Kings County Supreme Court. On Wednesday of last week the trial started. This past Monday we started deliberations. At 11pm yesterday the judge found that we were deadlocked and unlikely to reach a unanimous verdict through continued deliberations, and released the jury with the thanks of the court.

Over the past four days I have spent something like 40 hours literally locked in a small room with eleven other people; every one of us could feel that room getting smaller with every passing hour.

I saw one juror who was certain — absolutely certain — of the defendant’s guilt on Tuesday morning listen carefully and thoughtfully to other jurors and re-reads of the testimony, and later thank other jurors for helping him see that he had missed some elements that had a significant effect on his view of the case.

I saw a juror break down crying, saying that it broke her heart to “think about another young black man going into the penitentiary,” but that she had to look at the evidence alone, and could not interpret that evidence in any way that let her vote “not guilty” in good conscience.

And, unfortunately, I heard a juror who was for many, many hours unwilling to discuss anything with the rest of the jury finally explain that the basis for her judgment was that “they all lie,” “they” being the ethnic group of one of the witnesses.

Last night I shared a cab home with a couple of other jurors, and as I was starting to get out the driver turned around towards us and said “thanks for keeping democracy strong.” I may be a big fat cynic on a lot of counts, but at that moment I was genuinely grateful to the man and at a total loss for words.

Today I’m trying to start processing it all with the little bit of perspective that a good night’s sleep and a sunny morning bring.