- Posted by Johanna on May 24, 2006 at 8:26 am
- Category: Meta
Not feeling very talkative today, because I spent yesterday on jury duty for the first time. In short, it was a former cold case, a 1977 assumed robbery-gone-bad that resulted in the death of a pizza place’s 25-year-old night manager. (I learned, reading that article, that the victim was assumed to have fought back and was a black belt; that wasn’t part of any testimony at the trial.) A couple of years ago, they found a DNA match for blood left at the scene, and so they brought a 61-year-old man to trial for first-degree murder based on events almost 30 years ago.
I was the jury foreperson, mainly because I spoke up when some of the other women on the jury wanted to put the only guy in charge because he was the only guy. (He didn’t seem to want it.) When I told friends and family I was put in charge, their unanimous response was “of course you were.”
It was a little strange, hearing about these things that happened when I was a kid and living in another state entirely. Most of the witnesses were either retired police officers establishing the chain of custody for the evidence or scientific experts talking about why there were no usable fingerprints or how blood spatters happen or the DNA.
Given the DNA evidence (explained very well by the expert), it didn’t take very long to agree on the verdict. The sentencing took longer. The minimum punishment was 20 years in jail, and the jury tried to balance mercy (any sentence would effectively result in life), confusion over what sentences really meant (no one knew how parole worked, exactly, or when it would be likely), and justice (what was the appropriate punishment for murder?). “Imprisonment for life” is a very scary phrase to be responsible for, and any verdict had to be unanimous.