Monday, July 25, 2011

Jury Duty: Part 3

During the entire trial, I was fairly convinced that the prosecution did not have a compelling case. The prosecutor's summation was a disaster. Why bother presenting so much technical evidence, police officers, ballistics, endless photographs of doorways, videos and recorded phone calls if you then undermine it by saying that the most credible and important part of the evidence is the testimony by two eyewitnesses? I would think that eyewitnesses can be unreliable and that hard evidence trumps recollection, but the problem, and I think they knew it, is that they didn't have much to go with. The prosecutor was not a compelling speaker and a rather disorganized presenter. He needs an acting coach.
The defense lawyer, court appointed, I believe, did a much better job in trying to raise our doubts, which is all he needs to do to be effective. He was far more eloquent and had a better sense of narrative. He was a big man, like a more handsome, younger version of Charles Durning. I thought he was pretty good.
At first I was convinced the prosecution did not have a case.  But the more I think about it, and I guess this is the intention and wisdom of deliberation, the more I can, in retrospect, see culpability, even though the connections are not 100% solid.
But here's the thing. The guy deserves to be off the streets even though the evidence against him may be shaky. Do you ignore this fact and, using your common sense, do a favor to the city and lock him up? Or do you really follow the instructions to the letter and acquit him, letting him out on the streets again?
I think something similar may have happened in the Casey Anthony trial, which I didn't follow, but I did follow the uproar after the verdict. Shoddy police work makes convictions difficult. Jurors feel a huge sense of responsibility and if they follow the judge's instructions to the letter of the law, they may vote to acquit, even if this runs contrary to the hunches in their hearts.
I did not get a full sense of who the jurors were and what they think, because we were a very obedient group and did not discuss the case among ourselves (that I know of). It was a mixed group of Manhattanites, racially, economically and professionally diverse, from people who seem pretty streetwise, to coddled liberal intellectuals and everything in between. I have a feeling there are several very smart and common-sensical New Yorkers in this dozen. I hope that the jury, as the judge instructed, uses their common sense and not their sympathy, prejudice, ideology or fears.
As I write this right now, having deliberated only with myself, I'm thinking: lock him up and throw away the key.

1 comment:

  1. Were you there when the judge read the instructions to the jury? By no means are jurors supposed to reach their decisions based on "the hunches in their hearts." They are absolutely obligated to follow the instructions "to the letter." Whether or not you agree with it, that is the way the justice system works in the U.S. The prosecution has to reach a very high standard in terms of proving guilt. They should only present their strongest evidence. Your description makes it sound like they didn't have a strong case -- two witnesses who you didn't think were credible and an armload of police work that didn't amount to anything. One of their mistakes, perhaps, was to throw in everything and the kitchen sink.

    What this case may have in common with the Casey Anthony case is the prosecution overreaching in terms of their charges. Some commentators say that if they had gone after Casey Anthony on lesser charges -- manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide instead of capital murder -- they would have got a conviction. It sounds like in your case they had a known drug dealer and perhaps should have tried to go after him on drug charges. You do not make it sound like they had a convincing attempted murder case against him.

    I would also point out that if drugs were legalized, none of this would have happened, and you, the other jurors and many other people would have not had to waste their time on this crap. But of course a lot of lawyers, judges, court clerks, stenographers, etc., would be out of a job.