I normally don't write about this kinda stuff. But it has effected me this week. See I was called for Jury Duty Monday. What luck, only the second week since Christmas that I am scheduled to be home so I could do it. I have lived in the same county for 20 years. See here is the routine. I get called about once every other year. Show up, they have too many people and never get called. I assumed with a last name of Weston, they did it by name and I was always at the bottom of the list. One good time to be at the bottom of the list. Now it's totally random, and you don't even have to register to vote, they do it off driver's licenses now in Texas.
So as you can guess I got picked. 2 hours in the morning Monday to say come back at 2PM for jury selection 20 of us assigned to a court that needed 6 jurors for a criminal case.
So I showed backup they put us in a very specific order. I was #4 out of 20, great I was going to get picked. We went thru 2 hours of grilling by the lawyers to try to eliminate some of us and get down to 6. Yep I got picked. The questions were very interesting, they couldn't be about the specific case, but could be similar examples. We knew it would be an assault case. But no details like man on man bar fight, or husband wife, or anything. All we knew was the guy that was accused.
So we came back on Tuesday and testimony started right away. In the US you are not guilty until proven so by the courts. So the burden of proof was on the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it. Lot's of discussion on what beyond a reasonable doubt means, they can't give you a definition. It is some where between clear and convincing evidence and 0% doubt, or 100% facts that they did it.
First we hear from the victim, it was very hard for her to testify. 26 years old, two kids 3 and 4 years old(not his kids). They saw it happen. She went into great detail to explain the attack and why she didn't go to the police right away. Two days after the event she was still in pain(couldn't move her hand) and went to the hospital. The hospital called the cops and made her fill out a report of the assault. So no motivation on her part. Parts of her story didn't make sense. Like she let him take the kids to school after the attack. The attack happened in the single wide trailer they shared with his mother(so sad). The real victims were the kids that saw this. She did admit doing drugs and having her kids taken by CPS after the event. Since then she has gotten her kids back from CPS, but still lives in a trailer and works at 7-11. All just sad.
We got pictures taken of her injuries at the Police department. Very convincing black eye and many bruises on her arms.
Next was the cop. He was a mess. Didn't remember details, did no investigation, they wouldn't let him read from the police report, etc. No help to the state.
Then we got someone from the hospital so they could give us the medical records as evidence.
The state rested in 1 hr. Amazing.
The defense only had one witness. The friend that came and got the victim after the event, also who took her to the hospital. She claimed the victim told her she did it to herself while on drugs, put her head thru a wall a the trailer. The biggest bruise was a black eye, hard to get that while putting you head thru the wall. Her story didn't match up. This witness is also on trial by the DA for hot checks. Again sad.
We then got orders from the judge and then closing arguments. Both sides lawyers were very dramatic. Too much, and we gave them that feedback afterwards.
Many times they took us out of the court room. We know they were arguing some points they didn't want us to hear. Back and fourth to the jury room. So by 11:30 we were deliberating.
The 6 people on the jury were a great cross section of society. We had a 19 year old retail clerk. Dr's assistant. Grandfather retired air force(but in software now), HR director, and computer clean room operator. Most had kids. 4 female, 2 males.
We took two hours, but went thru the evidence, took only 2 votes and found him guilty. We thought we would then come back and do punishment. Ranges were from probation, to $4000 fine and 1 year in jail. We sat there for 30 minutes out of the court room. What happened was they did a plea bargain. They came in afterwards and told us about it. He was already in jail for the last 8 months on a drug conviction. The state agreed to only give him 90 days, but tack onto the existing time he already has. They also marked his record, that next time any assault would be a felony next time.
We also heard from the lawyers afterwards details they couldn't let us know during the trial. There were other times the victim called the police on him after this date, but we couldn't use that or the fact he was already in jail in our ruling. It made more since why some of the details were missing now. The Police did investigate after the second time, but couldn't tell us that.
It was great to see the system work. It makes me think about my daily struggles. Life could be much MUCH worse. These poor people, just about everyone involved had major legal/drug issues.
I know it took two days away from work, but I am glad I did it. It makes me proud to live in the USA. I know at least this part of the jury system works.
I was feeling so Civic, that I went and voted early.
Now back to work.