Day Eight – The Last Full Day of Deliberation

I write this at 9:45 PM, following another endless day of deliberation. Apparently our 4:30 PM note asking the judge for a discussion on our ability to continue deliberating for the day could only be taken at face value, and the judge declaratively stated he could not discuss that with us. Legally, I suppose we worded it inappropriately. (I wanted to rephrase it along the lines of, “We are unable to reach a verdict today. Would it be possible to come back tomorrow?” In the manner that we wrote it, it was not up for discussion and we were sent back in for dinner and deliberation. And though it sounds exactly like something I would do, it was not my idea to send that note to the judge, I swear.)

I don’t usually get stir-crazy when forced to sit still for any length of time. There are people who can’t stand it, who get claustrophobic and panicky, but I’ve always been able to retreat within my mind and pass the minutes solely through imagination. Yet even I was having a tough time being confined to a single room for twelve hours straight, with only an adjoining bathroom to offer brief escape. You don’t realize the importance of a lunch break outside until it’s taken away, and those moments of solitude I have always cherished were replaced with elbow-to-elbow company.

While initially put out by the judge’s decision (he had actually been the one to plant the idea that we would not be staying late, as all sorts of overtime had to be requested and granted) it turned out for the best, as I believe we got some good work done, and a decent headway of progress to set us up for the next day, so maybe he wasn’t entirely wrong about it.

At this point I have to say something about trials and juries: everything I ever thought I knew is wrong. Unless you are on the jury, presented with the evidence, and locked in a jury room to deliberate for days, you have no idea what it’s like. What we see is nothing like what the public sees, or thinks they see (and given the news reports we would later see and laugh at, the news media usually gets most of it wrong).

I will never second-guess or assume anything about any trial ever again. The system is designed that way, and to that end I have to believe it provides the fairest way of insuring each and every person’s assumption of innocence until proven guilty.

By the end of the day we are exhausted and drained on every level. As we pack up for the evening and the sheriffs enter to escort us out again, one of the jurors says it feels good to be with a good group of people – and I can honestly repeat that I have come to genuinely like each of them. That sort of thing doesn’t happen every day, or very often, especially when you consider there are twelve of us. Even with that, the next morning will prove to be the toughest, and I will think back to the innocence of that night as one of those moments you don’t realize is the last until another one fails to appear.

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