What are the facts?

I’ve served jury duty before—actually was called and sat, being part of a group of 6 who decided the fate of one man. For what it’s worth, we found him innocent. There were other times I reported for jury duty, took the token paperback or writing pad to doodle the time away until our group was either called or released. I remember clearly one specific time I was called to report for duty. I made it to voir dire. There I sat in the jury box, being interrogated by both the public defender and the state’s prosecuting attorney. The defendant was a 19-year-old boy charged with selling drugs, and doing so near a school, which made it even worse. I was asked, “Do you already have a decision formed in your mind?” to which I replied, “No.”

“Well, why not, I mean, how can you be sure?” I calmly responded, “Sir, until I know the facts, I cannot make a decision.” State Attorney grins, prosecutor smiles—obviously that was a good answer. Someone went on to explain the charges could result in an extremely long sentence in the state prison, if the boy were found guilty. I raised my hand, and heard, “Yes, ma’am. You have a question?”

“Well, even if the State were to prove their case, I could not make a decision that would send this young man to prison for most of his life.” Here we went. “Ma’am, that is not your responsibility. The sentence has nothing to do with you. Your job is to sit in the jury box, listen to the case being presented and if he is found guilty, he will go to prison. But, that has nothing to do with your part in this. Dismiss that from your mind.”

“But, I can’t. I mean, I can’t live with knowing I am responsible for a young man living his life in prison. I couldn’t live with myself. Could he go into rehab instead? Could we ask for that?”

The Public Defender was smiling and quiet. The State Attorney was not. He was the one trying to make me understand that my decisions and choices had nothing to do with the life of that young man. My God! My son was almost twice this kid’s age. What if he had been required to spend half his life in prison? This boy was somebody’s son!

Abruptly I was brought back to reality when I heard, “Your Honor, State would like to thank this lady and asks that she be released at this time.” I was history. I left the courthouse never to find out what happened to that young man.

A jury has the responsibility of deciding the facts at issue in a trial. The jurors will listen to the lawyers’ opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, and the closing arguments of each side. They must listen and observe closely the testimony presented. This process means weeks of sitting, listening and observing for those seated on the Anthony trial’s jury. After the judge instructs them as to the law and issues of fact to be reached, they retire to consider the verdict. They will be required to decide what they heard or observed is fact and what is not. During deliberations the jurors will consider, examine, and weigh all the evidence in the case. They will have the sole power to decide disputed questions of fact and then put their conclusions together to render a verdict. Guilty or not guilty? Murderer or mourning mommy?

So, you see, those jurors and their alternates who are sitting, day in and day out, listening to the two sides present their case either against or on behalf of Casey Anthony, have a lot to deal with, as well. The decision they make, if incorrect, could either cause an innocent young woman to be put to death, or allow a cold-blooded killer to go free. Let’s pray to God they render the right verdict. I am convinced that after paying this service to the State of Florida, their lives will never again be the same.

Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her Everyday Health blog, Emotional Wellbeing, or her website at orangeblossomwishes.com.

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