For the first time ever, I served on a jury. I was actually very impressed with the whole process, and especially my fellow jurors. Every member was extremely thoughtful and concerned about truly rendering a fair and just verdict. There was never any suggestion by anyone to rush to judgement, or to just decide on anything for the sake of going home. The judge did an excellent job of ruling on matters of law and insuring that all parties understood at all times how to proceed.
The case was felony assault of a peace officer. The defendant was accused of striking an officer once with a closed fist, while the officer was in the process of attempting to subdue a drunk driver who had left his vehicle and was fleeing on foot.
It was our task to decide both guilt and punishment. We returned a verdict of guilty after about an hour and a half of deliberation. It wasn't really a tough decision, but we were very careful to make sure that all jurors thoroughly understood all the points of law and no questions were left unanswered.
The punishment phase took about 7 hours. The defendant requested probation. We later learned he had already been offered probation in a plea bargain, which he declined.
There was initially strong sentiment in favor of probation, but after careful consideration of issues, including the failure of the individual to ever show remorse or assume responsibility for his actions, we decided that a recommendation of probation would not be appropriate. It wouldn't have adequately addressed the individual's actions, nor would it be fair to the victim (the officer) who was carrying out his lawful duty to protect our community. We denied the request for probation and decided upon 3 years in the state penitentiary system.
It wasn't easy to arrive at a unanimous decision, but, at the end of the day, I believe we came to a just verdict. As the jury foreman, I especially appreciated each juror keeping an open mind, but never abandoning their principles.
On the whole, I learned a great deal, and have an even greater appreciation for those who work in law enforcement and in our courts. They were all great professionals.
I encourage everyone to welcome the opportunity to serve on a jury. When the summons comes in the mail, don't groan and try to think of a way to avoid service. It's a critical to our system of justice that jurors take their responsibilities seriously, and make the tough decisions. It's not perfect, but it's up to us to make it the best it can be.