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Jury Duty

Until recently, I had never been called for jury duty. My wife has been called several times, but has never actually served on a jury. So, when I did get called for jury duty recently, I imagined that I would go to the courthouse, sit around for a day or two, and then be sent home.

At first, it seemed pretty much the way I had expected. We saw a video about jury duty, heard a talk from a judge, and spent a lot of time sitting around and waiting. That was Wednesday, and then we had Thursday and Friday off. When I called for instructions Friday evening, I was told to report to the courthouse Monday morning.

Monday was different. I was the first name called for a jury, and neither lawyer chose to dismiss me. This meant that I was the foreman of the jury. What's more, it was an emotionally packed case. The defendant was accused of rape, and the person he was accused of raping was someone who was pretty helpless.

For two days, the prosecution introduced many pieces of evidence, and put many witnesses on the stand. The defense gave no evidence, and produced only one witness: the defendant. The defense, in a nutshell, was this: Yes, something happened, but it was well-meaning and consensual. The job of the jury, then, was to decide whether we believed the defendant or the victim. (I suppose I should say alleged victim, but I believe she was a victim.)

juryThis might sound like a tough call, but I, and most of the other jurors, didn't find it so hard. The defendant was constantly changing details in his story. Even in the middle of one interview or testimony, he would change a detail or two to make things fit better with the evidence. The victim's story stayed the same. What's more, the victim had no motivation that I could see to lie. The defendant had every reason to twist the truth.

The jury included some strong-minded people, and we could not agree on all the charges, but all of us except one definitely believed the defendant had committed some of the crimes of which he was accused. The one holdout was Joan (not her real name). Joan said that she believed parts of the victim's story and parts of the defendant's story, but it seemed to me that she believed the defendant on all the important points. She was persistently unwilling to declare the defendant guilty of any of the charges of which he was accused.

And so, we were a hung jury. I believe this means that a mistrial will be declared and the state will have the option to retry the case. Given the finances of the state I live in, I tend to think the defendant will simply go free. I found this deeply distressing and disheartening. When one of the other jurors emailed me after the trial to let me know that she had searched on line and found that the defendant was already a convicted and registered sex offender, it only made it worse.

I started the trial feeling proud to do my civic duty. I ended feeling that I had been part of a process that put a sexual predator back on the streets. I want to share some things I needed to remind myself of.

  • God is just. "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." (Deuteronomy 32:4, NIV) It isn't that God chooses to be just, he just is. He cannot be unjust.
  • No one can fool God. "Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows." (Galatians 6:7, NET) God knows ALL the facts. The defendant may think he has gotten away with something, but he hasn't.
  • "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
    Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
    A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found." (Psalm 37:7-11, NIV)

JesusThis is good to know. The Nazi who managed to sneak off to Argentina and live a comfortable life on the proceeds of treasures stolen from murdered Jews did not "get away with it." In the same way, the defendant in my trial (assuming my judgment is correct) will have to answer for what he did, possibly in this life, but certainly in the next.

But there is one more thing I need to remember. It's easy to hear about the type of misdeeds we were privy to in this trial and feel revulsion for the perpetrator. It's also easy to feel a certain kind of self-righteousness that says, "God, I thank you that I am not like other peopleā€¦" (Luke 18:11, NIV) Or even like this rapist.

Yet, do I think I could stand before a perfect God and be found blameless on the basis of what I have done and thought? I'm very good at self-deception, but I'm not good enough to believe that. I have done and thought many wrong things in my life, and I probably had a far better upbringing than the defendant did. There is only one reason I believe I will spend eternity with God, and that is because of the mercy of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for me.

Please pray for the woman in the trial who was the victim. I worry about what will become of her, and how she will feel if her attacker is released. But also, please pray for the defendant. He needs God, and he is not beyond God's reach. Praise God, neither are we.

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*Photo credits: Jury from .

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