Friday, December 14, 2018

Jury duty: the verdict

After less than an hour, the judge, clerk, court reporter, defendants, and the attorneys returned to the courtroom, and the bailiff opened the door to the jury room. We assembled in the anteroom, and the bailiff let us into the courtroom. We filed into our assigned seats in the jury box for the last time, but now empty handed, without our pens and stacks of legal notepads.

The scene was at once familiar and foreign. The officers of the court, defendants, the judge's bench and witness stand, tables and chairs, jury box, gallery, seal of the Great State of Minnesota and the clock on the wall, and the American flag were all arranged as they were during trial and seared into our memories. For the first time, the defense and prosecution tables were bare of notepads and three-ring binders of evidence. Same courtroom, but this was a very different day.

The judge read each charge and asked us to confirm verbally in unison the verdict indicated on the verdict forms that our foreperson signed just minutes before. The defense accepted the option of having the jurors polled individually to confirm the unanimous verdicts. So the charges were read again and this time we were asked, one by one, whether we agreed with the verdicts as read. In those long minutes, we felt the full terrible weight and responsibility of our decision. We were unanimous in our verdicts and felt that justice was served, but that did not make it easy to face the accused.

The judge thanked us for our service, and the bailiff led us back into the jury room.

Some jurors later remarked about the reactions of the defendants and attorneys, but I found it too difficult to look in their direction during the reading of the verdicts. One juror remarked that she could feel her heart pounding so hard that she was afraid she was going to have a heart attack.

Eleven days after jury selection began, our jury service was over.