Said Juror Number One
“Not Guilty, are we done?”
Said Juror Number Two
“Juror One, I’m with you.”
Said Jurors Six to Three
“We completely agree.”
From Juror Number Seven
All concurred through Eleven.
And then there was Juror Twelve.
The case was assault and battery. The prosecution contended that an older son had punched his own father and beaten his younger half-brother with a belt. The state presented the jury with an ugly picture of a massive bruise.
The prosecution then presented multiple witnesses’ testimony that repeatedly contradicted their own earlier statements to police, a police officer who did not videotape interviews nor take notes during interviews, and a police report so error-filled that the defendant was given his brother’s name.
On top of this, the father even testified that he had yelled at and shoved the defendant at the start of the altercation. Which brought in self-defense as a viable defense strategy. The father admitted he was mad at his son because his son owed him money.
So basically, the prosecutor had an ugly picture of the father’s bruise taken days after the alleged assault. They had a picture of the younger brother’s face, which was unmarked by the belt buckle that supposedly nailed his eye.
I was appalled that the prosecutor had even brought the case to trial. In her defense, however, it’s possible she had no idea all her witnesses were going to start lying once on the witness stand. (Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister made me add that last sentence, as witnesses apparently pull that sort of shit all the time. You know who hates live witnesses and loves security camera footage? Prosecutors.)
In a civil case, a verdict only requires the “burden of proof” be met (i.e., whoever has the most, best evidence wins). For a criminal conviction, though, the prosecution has to prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt” (i.e., if the only other explanation for DNA evidence on a dead body and the victim’s blood on the defendant is time travel or aliens).
I was Juror #4, and I thought our jury deliberations would be pretty quick. Which was good, because we’d been stuck in court for weeks, listening to a ton of contradictory testimony and something like sixty pages of juror instructions. It was now the second week in December. Work was piling up. So were Christmas errands, like buying gifts for family (did I mention that my immediate family is, like, over 30 people?), gifts for work/friend exchanges, and gifts for Andy’s family, assistants, and subordinates because, hahahahaha, you didn’t think Andy would get them anything without substantial and sustained wifely prodding, did you? Every woman ever married to a man is laughing with me now, amirite?
As soon as we were in the jury room and seated I spoke. “So, I’ve been jury foreperson before and unless anyone else wants the experience, I don’t mind—”
A hail of exclamations interrupted me:
“Oh, thank God!”
“It’s all you!”
I said, “You sure?”
In unison: “YES!”
Who was I to deny such universal accord? First we did a show of hands: 7 votes for Not Guilty, 4 Undecided. (I don’t vote, because I’m a scrupulous foreperson and don’t want my position of power to unfairly sway anyone…until SPOLIER ALERT absolutely necessary.)
Then we went around the table, and everyone explained their position. The jury room had a helpful chart that looked like this:
By the time we gotten around the table and the Undecides had examined the chart, three had changed their votes to “Not Guilty.”
As Juror #2 explained it, “There was probably a fight, and the defendant probably hit his dad. But it could have been self-defense for the first count of the indictment. For the second count, I definitely don’t think he hit his brother with a belt. I mean, where’s the mark and who has time to take off a belt in the middle of a fight?” The other two formerly undecided jurors agreed.
That left Juror #12. He sat at the end of the long conference table in the jury room. Juror #12 said, “I don’t know. I can’t decide.”
We went through the evidence, piece by piece. Juror #8 had taken kick ass notes, almost verbatim, on the testimony of each witness. We spent two days pointing out the discrepancies in various testimony. By the end of Day Two of Deliberations, Juror #12 agreed that the defendant was Not Guilty of assault against his brother.
As for the first count of the indictment, Juror #12 remained undecided. Don’t ask me how.
The rest of the jury wanted to throttle him. So did I, but if we did, the investigation would last for weeks and we’d never get Christmas.
I finally asked, “What exactly is your thought process?”
Juror #12. “I’m not sure. I mean, how did the dad get the bruise if the son didn’t hit him?”
I said, “Well, there was a fight with at least four family members, and it took place right next to a wrought iron fence with spiky tops. As other jurors have pointed out REPEATEDLY, he could have fallen into one of those. Or he could have fallen into anything in the week between the fight and the picture. It might not be likely, but it is possible.”
Juror #12 nodded.
I said, “So you agree?”
Juror #12: “No. I still can’t decide.”
Long-suffering sighs and barely stifled groans filled the room.
I said, “In my head, there’s a whole flowchart, and there’s only one way the defendant can be guilty. He has to throw the first punch with intent to harm.”
Other jurors nodded.
Juror #12 said, “I think it would help me to see your flowchart.”
I said, “Are you serious?”
I asked, “If you don’t mind me asking, what is it you do for a living?”
Juror #12 said, “I work for an insurance company.”
I thought of all the red tape, the foot-dragging, the “lost” paperwork that had to be resubmitted when I filled out insurance claims. “Of course you do.”
I closed my eyes and mentally whimpered.
We were in grave danger of deliberating until New Year’s.