Saturday, March 15, 2008

Justice - you've been served!

Among the millions of other things we have going on right now, I was summoned to jury duty a couple weeks ago. I could write an entire entry on why the jury selection process is weird and inconvenient, but that's really not the point I'd like to make.

I had forgotten to call earlier in the evening, and by the time I remembered it was 11pm - I didn't think I would be called in, but indeed, I was. So, I rose, bright and early and drove with all the morning commuters to our county courthouse. We were assembled in a room which reminded me instantly of one of my many high school classrooms at Meridian High - a window or two, strange dark brick walls - fluorescent lighting - hideous carpet - you get the picture. I think there were about 45 of us in the room, "breakfast" was served and we watched a rather humorous video about how important this civic right is and why it's important that we participate, and what is going to happen for the next hour or so.

At this point, we were told that there would be a jury trial soon, and were escorted into the courtroom. We filed in - and awaiting direction from the judge regarding the nature of this case and how they were going to select a jury. He stated the case and who was involved, and the charges and they started calling numbers of jurors for "selection". I think they narrowed it down to about 25 (which included me), and then down to 13 (which also included me).

At this point, I was like "huh?! I have 3 kids at home, with a husband who's supposed to be sleeping right now... I don't have time for this!!!" - but there's really nothing to be done. We were escorted to the jury deliberation room, and told to relax for a while - they would call us back to the courtroom when the trial was about to start.

We filed back into the courtroom, and were told a lot more details of the charges against this defendant. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. And honestly, I was like,"oh, this is gonna be a cinch!. The whole time I kept thinking... just listen before you make up your mind... just listen...

The prosecution laid out their case - and it seemed pretty cut and dry. The guy was pulled over on unrelated charges, and when searching his vehicle, they found a small bag with residue of a controlled substance (meth) and a digital scale in the glove compartment (which they instantly assumed was for weighing drugs).

After hearing the prosecution's case, we took a lunch break - I sorted out the childcare situation, and headed back to court.

The defense argued that the defendant had no idea that baggie was in the car, or what it had contained - and that he used the digital scale for another purpose entirely. His story was that he had gone fishing the day before, and had taken 3 "friends" with him - and when the cop asked him what the baggie was he thought it was a fishing lure bag. He had a very convincing story about what he uses the digital scale for - including a mathematical equation he uses for weighing, and then using water displacement, and determining what type of rocks he finds in the desert.

Now, we know that his story had holes, and that he could have been in possession of the meth, and been using the scales for weighing drugs... we know that. BUT there was reasonable doubt... the prosecution failed to prove that he knew what was in the bag, or that he had intent to use it... or had used it ... or that he had actually used the scales for an illegal purpose.

So, in the end, when we went back to the jury deliberation room, we went around the table and every single juror voted not guilty on both counts. Yes, we discussed the holes in the prosecution and the defense, but in the end, we had to come back with a not guilty verdict.

It was really interesting being a part of the judicial process - and it gave me new trust in the system. I absolutely believe that justice was served in this case. Was the defendant a drug user? - yes, they had even found marijuana in his car!! - But he admitted to the possession of that. Was the defendant being pulled over on an arrest warrant? yes - totally unrelated to this issue. Was the defendant lucky that the detectives failed to test his scale for drug residue? - yes. Do I think the defendant knew what was in the bag? I really don't know, and it really doesn't matter.

In the end, there simply wasn't enough evidence, and we can all sleep easily knowing that he's not in jail on possession charges of someone else's drugs.

I was really struck with how much grace there is in the justice we served in that court. And I am hoping that I live that way outside the court. That I know all the facts before making my verdict. That I may "think" I know it all, but that's just NOT good enough. I have to know beyond a reasonable doubt before making my verdict. And you know what? I think the majority of the time, we don't have that - and we're going to have to overflow with grace, and not pass our judgement on others. It's really God's business anyway - not ours. We can rest easy in that! Knowing that He DOES know all the facts beyond any reasonable doubt, and he is able to judge with perfection.

It's also so encouraging to know that OUR defense is Jesus ... and you know he's not one of those "weasel-y defense attorneys" - he was willing to take on our punishment, so that we wouldn't have to - and willing to plead our case with God ... even when we're the ones that look awfully guilty. The charges against us are full of holes, we're not bound to them. When God comes back with his verdict of "not guilty", we are able to walk out of the courtroom with our head held high, because the charges are not only dropped... they're erased! So, instead of being introduced as "suspected unrighteous" - we're introduced as "Child of God!". Pretty cool huh?!

I sincerely hope that the defendant walked out of court with his head held high. And if they were his drugs and he was weighing drugs on that scale - then, I hope that he takes this as a second chance. And if they weren't his, and he wasn't weighing drugs - then "phew!" what a relief!

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