Become a Fan
By Norman Wesley Firth
Monday, December 03, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
Being on a jury is serious business unless You find that laughter is good medicine.
Here we sit, twelve good and true people, about to decide the fate of the young man in the dock. I resign myself to the fact that jury duty had been forced upon me, with no valid excuse to exclude myself, I decide to treat it as an experience that will allow me to further develop my writing skills. The clerk of the court walks along asking my fellow consignees to swear an oath on the bible. When he approaches me I insist that I cannot swear on the bible and I will simply take the affirmation. We are dispatched to the jury room to select a foreperson. I advise the others that my reason for refusing to take an oath is not because I am an atheist, but because I am a Christian and swearing on the bible is not necessary for my word to be true . “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no, anything more than this is from the evil one.” I quote confidently. Much to my amazement a voice at the end of the table says “I think she should be our forewoman,” and everyone immediately agrees. What on earth am I supposed to do now?
The two charges against the accused are for possession of marijuana and dealing. We dutifully sit through the evidence both verbal and photographic and I feel sorry for the accused, he has the worst defence lawyer to ever step into a courtroom. He shuffles his papers, his feet and mumbles his words so that the judge continually has to ask him to repeat himself. He loses his train of thought and we wait patiently while he thrashes around with his rhetoric ramblings and confuses the judge, the prosecutor and the jury. Eyes roll and the judge yawns before he says, “Are we going anywhere with this?” There is no doubt the accused may be found guilty purely on the inability of his lawyer to present a good defence argument. After two days we retire to the jury room to reach a verdict. This is where the fun begins, lots of coffee and a fine lunch-time sandwich selection.
“I know he’s guilty,” says a middle aged man in a pin striped suit dribbling curried egg on his tie.
“How?” says Felicity in the floral dress.
“Because he looks like a drug dealer. I see his type all the time,” replies Pin Stripes, with confidence.
It is now up to me, as foreperson, to put this thinking straight. “I’m sorry but you cannot rationalize that thinking. You can’t base your finding on the premise that he looks guilty.” Suitably admonished, Pin Stripes, nods sheepishly and the remainder of the jury mumble their approval. We quickly agree we must find him guilty of possession and proceed to discuss the second charge. After about an hour I call for a show of hands to indicate what the jurors are thinking. Nine hands are raised for guilty and three, including mine are held up for a not guilty verdict. The guilty side asks us to explain the reason for our verdict. “The marijuana was found in an outside lean-to under a bed and there was no attempt to conceal it. Surely if he was a dealer he wouldn’t risk stashing it in a place that was easily accessible; there was no lock on the door and the side gate to the property was open. As a dealer, wouldn’t he be more cautious, knowing that his customers might be tempted to drop in and help themselves.” I watch their expressions to see if there is any agreement and then continue, “apart from this fact,” I go on, “the quantity was only 250grams – not really a lot.
“That’s right,” says Mousey Mini, “There’s no evidence to show that he had people dropping in all the time.
An elderly woman with a bedspring perm and eyebrows that arched like two boomerangs over a nose as large as Uluru raises her voice to 80 decibels, “Of course he’s guilty, you can tell by the expression on his face.”
“What expression?” says Mini.
“The guilty one – surely you saw it.”
“Not enough to convict him,” I patiently reply, “Besides if expressions determine guilt, then Rowan Atkinson would have been shot at dawn years ago.”
It is time to apprise them of the most important thing. “Your verdict,” I say, with the wisdom of Solomon, “must be based on the facts. Your verdict of guilty can only be given if you are absolutely convinced of his guilt, based on the weight of evidence. If there is even a tiny doubt in your mind, then you have no choice but to find him not guilty of dealing.” I wait to see whether or not they understand. Mr. Pin Stripe shoves another egg sandwich into his mouth before speaking. “I think maybe we should have another show of hands. This time six hands are raised for guilty and six for not guilty. “Oh God,” said Sylvia Mini Skirt, “this is going to be a bloody marathon. Thank God he’s not being charged with murder.” The clerk of the court comes in to see how we are going, answers a few questions and withdraws. “What happens if we don’t reach a verdict before tea time, says Motherly Marilyn, “does that mean we have to stay in a hotel for the night?” “Oh for heaven’s sake!” says Sylvia Mini-Skirt – you must be joking: as if they’re going to put us in a hotel for a piddly bit of hash.” A few more hours pass and the deliberation becomes heated. It is clear that the guilty side is basing their verdict on circumstantial evidence. I sit back, amazed at my expertise, Perry Mason would have been proud to have me on the team. It is at this moment that I seriously consider becoming a lawyer, if only to save people from inadequate defense counsel. Pin Stripes verbalizes my estimation of the young man’s lawyer. “To be honest with you all,” he says, “the lad deserves to get off and his lawyer should be on trial.” After another hour we once again have a show of hands. It is now close to 4p.m. and Motherly Marilyn is getting twitchy. The count is now ten not guilty and two guilty. Sylvia Mini-Skirt breaks the impasse. “I’ve had enough of this shit. As far as I’m concerned he’s guilty but I’m not going to stay here, I’ve got other things to do. So he’s not guilty! Let me go home. Our last guilty juror nods in agreement, changes his verdict and we call the clerk back.
“How say you forewoman, do you find the accused guilty or not guilty of possession. “Guilty your honor.” The judge scribbles the verdict on to his papers. “And on the charge of dealing, how say you?” “Not guilty, your honor.” I say, confident that justice had been done. To my astonishment the judge says, “A suitable outcome, thank you members of the jury you may leave.” The accused shoots me a charming smile, the prosecutor shakes his head in disgust and I feel conspirital but convinced that the judge’s words mean I have been instrumental in the liberation of an innocent young man.
So that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I managed to swing a jury – I should be a bloody politician!
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