I did jury duty a few weeks ago. It was a rape case, and there were five charges in total. We were able to only deliver one verdict, guilty on the charge of traumatic injury to an intimate partner. The case was complicated by having only a single witness, the victim, who also was rather unreliable. She admitted freely that she did not remember many of the events of that day, and what she did remember, she wasn't sure of their order. Both people involved had been smoking meth, which was used as a way to further cast doubt upon her testimony, despite clear instructions during jury selection that we should not let that bias us. Three of the four charges which we were hung were overwhelmingly tilted towards guilty, where one juror held out because she felt that the witness was not reliable at all, again despite instructions regarding the single witness rule. The one charge where we were definitely not close to any consensus was the actual rape charge.

It's difficult not to come away from a trial like that feeling that the system is tilted away from justice for the more vulnerable population, or feeling that, by thinking that she could have gotten a more just verdict if she had been a more reliable witness, it's not that far from saying that the victim didn't do enough, which is certainly not compassionate. There was no question that the defendant was a manipulative creep, in addition to his prior history, including a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence.

After the trial, the judge asked the jury if we would stay behind to speak with both lawyers in order to talk about the case and ask any questions or give any feedback. Half of us did it, and I'm glad that I did so. During deliberations, the court recorder came in to read testimony back for us, and she commented that it was a dream trial in the sense that both lawyers were not only on their best behavior but actually worked well with each other. I noticed how remarkably civil and helpful they were, a far cry from the scripted undercutting and backbiting you see on television. I asked the public defender how well-funded his department was, and he said that he would only consider working for Santa Clara County, San Francisco, or New York.

3/21 '20 2 Comments
My one and only stint of jury duty was aggravated sexual assault, which I think wasn't rape only by dint of the fact that the aggressor didn't get beyond removing some clothing items from the victim. There were actually two charges, through which I discovered that "a credible threat of death" is a serious offence in Ireland.

The parties knew each other. The defence made much of this, more than I was comfortable with, given the solid statistics on a rapist being someone that the victim knows. Neither of the parties were sympathetic, either - not quite to the extent you've described above, but certainly there was a sense that this was just another disaster in the lives of two people who had plenty of other disasters in their lives. There was some stagey antagonism between the lawyers (barristers? solicitors? there's some nuance here that I don't know offhand about who gets to be in court and who just wears a suit in an office and takes your money in return for some quantity of legal advice), and I got the sense that it was grandstanding for the jury and the minimal public gallery, and that after the case the two would be off down the pub for a cosy chat.

The thing that struck me most was the whole concept of "beyond a reasonable doubt", which is the standard required for the assault charge; the judge explained to us that if there was any other /possible/ interpretation of the evidence, no matter how implausible, we should make a finding of "not guilty". I get the reasoning behind this, but it's an extraordinarily high burden of proof for a situation which frequently has no real chance of reaching that level of confidence, not least because there may only have been a single witness who also happens to be the victim and the accuser. I think, when it came down to it, there was a certain amount of fuzziness in how the jury interpreted this, because I may have been mistaken but it looked like the judge raised her eyebrows a little when the guilty verdict was delivered. I'm comfortable with my own vote on this, in no small part because of the audio from the emergency services call which we had access to. I don't much care what happened beforehand and who might have given what mixed signals to whom, the person on that call was terrified, and no amount of mitigating circumstances or alternative reads of the evidence could alter that.

Not, I would say, an experience I enjoyed. But an experience, nonetheless.
Ugh that is a wrenching situation. Thank you for doing the work.