Well, I was all geared up to be a service to my community and fulfill my obligations and responsibilities as a juror. But that was not to be. The norm of jury duty is that if you are not called to serve on a jury the first week, you won't be called at all the second week. So, I anxiously called in every night after work to see if I was needed the next day, and it was all for naught.
I was disappointed and even depressed about it. (We were warned to not take it personally, but my heart is on my sleeve, and I was just sure it had to do with my legal secretary experience, and the fact I have many police officers who are personal friends.)
During my second week of jury duty, there was a case going on across the hallway from my case. It was the Jay Olsen trial to find if Officer Olsen was guilty of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment for shooting Shonto Pete in the head and firing four other bullets in Peaceful Valley on Feb. 26, 2007.
Amazingly enough, Olsen was found not guilty. This was a unanimous decision of the jury. Now, I sat back and wondered about how this verdict came about. I find it confusing that a police officer was cleared of reckless endangerment – where it was proven that he fired shots in a residential neighborhood while being intoxicated beyond the state legal limit. That alone, I believe, is reckless endangerment.
However, what we DON'T know are two things: 1) What was the law that the judge gave to the jury? 2) Were some jury members swayed by the fact that it was close to 5:00 on a Friday when they made their decision?
1) What was the law that the judge gave to the jury? In my case, the judge said that once the jury was seated, she would give them "her" law that the jury was supposed to base their judgment on. She said it was not what they perceived as the law, but that it was HER law, and they would go by that. So in the Olsen case – what was the law that the judge gave to the jury? We don't know.
2) Were some jury members swayed by the fact that it was close to 5:00 on a Friday when they made their decision? This was a question asked by the judge in MY case. She asked us to take this seriously and consider if we would give in and go along with the group if the jury was in deliberation on a Friday afternoon. Would they cave and give in even though they felt just the opposite of the rest of the jury members?
I wondered about that because I experienced something similar a couple years ago. I was in mediation over my mother's estate and what I considered was owed to the estate by a sibling. We were in separate rooms and were negotiating what was due to the estate. It took hours and hours. We started at 9:00 in the morning and by 8:00 in the evening, I was exhausted and totally warn out. I caved at $35,000 instead of holding out for the $150,000 that I had receipts for.
So, I wonder now if the jury had a couple that caved.
Jury duty is a critical and necessary responsibility. It involves clear thinking, being very objective, discerning fact from fiction, discerning the credibility of each witness, and holding to your convictions once you have made your decision.