When closing arguments began, I had no idea what I would decide. I was dying to know what my fellow jurors thought of everything we had heard. Throughout the four days we were in court, we couldn’t speak to each other about anything relating to the case. Every minute spent together in the jury room was filled with small talk. I couldn’t wait to actually be able to talk about the case, ask the questions that had been haunting my dreams, and finally wrap my head around all the facts.

There was one minor hiccup once all was said and done by the attorneys. There were thirteen of us. Only twelve would go back to the jury room and deliberate. I hoped to high heaven I wouldn’t be the one to be dismissed. How disappointing it would be to sit through the entire trial and then simply be released, to be thanked for one’s service and dismissed with no other words. I would have been pissed. But, as it stands, that didn’t happen to me. The juror in seat three was released.

The judge read us our instructions and then we filed back into our ever familiar jury room.  I took my regular seat and waited to see what would happen next.  First thing was first: we were going to order some lunch. And I was to be the one to record everyone’s order due to my neat handwriting. (I always knew I’d be good for something!) Ordering lunch was a feat in and of itself but we finally got it under control. We called Mike, our court officer, and gave him our order.

That was when deliberations began. During the time it took to figure out what everyone was eating for lunch, we had also decided our foreman. Rather than picking the woman who has sat on a jury every two years since 1985, we went with the man she nominated, who sat in seat number four. We decided to tackle the lesser charges first, and then discuss the big one. It didn’t take long at all to go around the table and say “guilty” to the first count of furnishing alcohol to a minor (Brianna).  We then did the same thing for the second count of furnishing alcohol to a minor (Monika).

To begin our discussion, we went through each of our witnesses and judged his or her credibility. In doing so, we got to hash out all of the details of the case.  We tried to come up with our own timeline of events; we tried to figure out exactly what happened. We tried to determine what seemed to make sense. It was seriously difficult.  That’s when we all started to agree upon all of the holes in the story. We all seemed to have the same questions and a couple of our own theories.

The element of personal injury to the charge of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree needed to be met. While there had been a 2 millimeter “laceration” noted in the medical records of the victim, the sexual assault nurse examiner couldn’t rule out other causes of the injury, nor could she determine how long that injury had been there. The fact that there was no physical, DNA evidence anywhere could have been overlooked had the story made any sense at all.  The personal vendetta theory that the defense had been working on started to seem more and more likely the more we went over what the witnesses had testified. And don’t even get me started on the 9-1-1 tape. We listened to it at least 7 times. I could probably quote it, verbatim.  The worst part: all of it was a fabrication; the victim’s friend/girlfriend had called 9-1-1 and pretended to be the victim. And when questioned on the witness stand by the prosecuting attorney, who was livid, she didn’t have an explanation for her actions.

All in all, we couldn’t convict him of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree because we all experienced reasonable doubt.  It’s such an interesting concept, one that I didn’t even really understand until I felt it.

When we reached our verdict, I wrote Mike the note (“We have reached a verdict”) since we weren’t allowed to speak to him. Another juror called down to his office and told him we had the note ready. Then we waited a few minutes and were called back into the courtroom.  The judge asked our foreman if we reached a verdict and then he read what we had decided.

I still can’t believe I did this, but when our foreman read the verdict, I was looking at the judge.  Can you believe that? I was looking at the judge, rather than the defendant. I thought to look at him, to read his facial expression, after we had moved onto the lesser charges. I missed his very first reaction to the “not guilty” verdict for criminal sexual conduct. By the time I looked over, he looked relieved. He was shaking the hand of his attorney and he looked… thankful. In my head, I decided he was on the verge of tears because he was so relieved.

As soon as he finished reading our verdict, we were shuffled back into the jury room one last time. We waited only a few minutes before the judge came in and talked to us. She seemed to agree with our verdict, which made me feel even better about the choices we had made. She spoke candidly to us about the case. It was really awesome.

Obviously, I think you all can tell that I really, really loved my jury duty experience. I feel like I can honestly say that it is probably one of the most important things I have ever done, and I just know I’ll never forget it. And, just for the record, I think everyone should sit on a jury at least once. It’s an amazing experience!

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