Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Working My Way Back To You

Zowie. The last month has been insane. First there was the problem at work and the 12 hour days that followed, then faux heart attack scare and subsequent vicodin bender, then jury duty.

Let me tell you about jury duty.

We had jury selection on Monday, listened to testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday, heard closing arguments then we deliberated for 11 hours on Thursday (we left the courthouse at 11pm) and we deliberated for nine more hours on Friday.

The case was an accusation of rape against a not very savory man. The accuser was his daughter. She was a teen at the time of the allegations; prosecution said that he took her virginity. He was also accused of raping her on a weekly basis for over a year.


The problem with the case was that I didn't believe the young woman's story. She reported it ten years after the fact, yet there was no claim of repressed memory. She says she didn't report because she was afraid of the man, yet when her baby daughter (worse than if it were a son, imo) was born she took her to meet him. Defense claimed that she often asked for rent money. After the money stopped he was accused. We learned through a defense witness that she threatened that she said "I'm going to make you pay, you son of a bitch".

I'm trying to give you the largest swaths of the case. We listened to testimony for two days. We deliberated for 20 hours.

Though there were four counts in the case and the vote was different for each, essentially nine people thought that we should convict and three people felt the verdict should be not guilty. I was in the minority. The major difference was that 11 of 12 people felt that the state did not make its case against the man, but that 8 of those people felt the reasonable doubt threshold had been reached. The twelth juror was a nutcase who said straight out that rape stories are NEVER fabricated. (She also said that she could not vote for innocence in a case where the defendant didn't testify on his own behalf. Screw you, fifth amendment!)

When this lovely young woman took the stand, she had my faith and my belief in her. I wanted to do right by her. But as she spoke, she struck me as a bullshit artist. In my scribbled notes there were circles and arrows and question marks and the word "Contradicts". I would go into detail for you here but that would make a lengthy post that I don't have much of a stomach for. I've been living with this story in my head for over a week. It's there when I wake up and when I go to sleep. I truly truly wish that I could have believed her. The easiest thing to have done would have been to say 'guilty'. But I believe that it is worse to put an innocent man in jail than to let a guilty man go free. The state did not make the case against the man. One woman on the jury said the polar opposite: "I can't stand the thought that there's a possibility I'd let a rapist walk around on the streets". Screw you, reasonable doubt!

Though deliberations lasted for over 20 hours for the most part they were respectful, thoughtful deliberations. There were some heated exchanges but very little animosity. In the end, we were a hung jury and a mistrial was declared.

Ask me questions in comments about the case, if you like. I'll answer and/or give greater detail as to why, as much as it pained me to say so, I thought the accuser was lying.


Bubs said...

What a terrible burden, to have to sit in judgment on a case like that.

I'm surprised that the man got charged in what sounds like a classic she said/he said case. There was no physical evidence? The defendant/dad didn't make a statement? That case would not have gotten charged around here.

We get about 5 or 6 cases similar to that each year, and every one is depressing as hell.

Take care of yourself.

FranIAm said...

Oh wow -you have sure had a run Jess.

Hang in there.

I think you did the right thing - hard as it was.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Thanks for doing your civic duty. It's hard, but it has to be done.

Distributorcap said...

what a case.... i posted about mine a month or so back, but this was tough..... rape cases have to be extremely grueling and taxing.

it is quite the process that goes on in court....

thanks for doing your duty and i know how tough these past weeks have been all around

best in the holiday season

CDP said...

Ugh, it must have been dreadful listening to that. I've actually been raped (by a stranger who broke into my house) and I still believe that it is worse to imprison an innocent man than to allow a guilty one to go free. Good for you for standing by what you believed to be the truth.

dguzman said...

Sorry, Jess. But it sounds like you voted your conscience, and that's really all you can do.

Randal Graves said...

A murder case would've been easier to take than something like that.

Anonymous said...

Jess - you followed the rule of law and that's the purpose of the trial. It must have been awful.

I was raped last spring. I reported it and went through the whole process, but just like Bubs said - it was a classic he said/she said even though there was physical evidence. It would have been impossible to prosecute. I'm really surprised the case you sat on made it to trial.

I'm glad that you stuck with your convictions. That's how it's supposed to work.

Jess Wundrun said...

to all thanks for your comments. Especially Dcup and CDP who've been victims. The woman who came into court convinced that no one could ever make up a rape story really really really hated me for not simply buying into the story of this woman. I tried to explain to her that any time someone could make something up absolutely diminishes the cases of those who really do suffer.

The chief thing this young woman did was to tell her story of the incidents of sexual abuse with zero details. Other jury members said to me that that would seem to be the case if you suffered through something traumatic: you wouldn't necessarily remember what happened. But I think that it's a bit like a car accident. You may not remember exact details or a progression of events in a linear fashion -first A happened then B and finally C.

In fact, this woman told a story of a time her father was angry with her and tried to break down her locked door. The story was rich with detail. She told us that a mirror fell off of the wall and shattered onto a hard wood floor, etc. etc. When she was asked why she was afraid of him breaking her door down she answered "he might come in and yell at me". Prosecution urged her further and she answered "he might yell at me or be mean to me". Finally she said "or he might rape me". Because the fight was loud (in this one instance) a neighbor called the police. The police asked the woman if her father was abusing her, either physically or sexually. She did not say that she didn't remember how she answered the question. She said she didn't remember being ASKED.

I thought that if I had been abused for over a year, week after week after week, you can be sure that I would remember the very first lifeline that was thrown my way. I believe I would have remembered the question and the frustration of having to lie to an officer.

Defense showed us that over the course of ten years she was asked by her doctors during regular exams and by another detective at another time whether she had ever been abused. Again, what she didn't remember was not how she answered those questions. In every instance she said she didn't remember being asked the question.

Another thing I failed to mention in the post was that her father was not her custodial parent from the time she was 2 until she was 16. Then she alleged the abuse took place the very first night she stayed with him (the first incident of abuse was inappropriate touching - his open palm on her breast over her shirt. Incidentally, I did vote guilty on that count.) She alleged the first sexual intercourse abuse took place within the first week of her staying with him. The only reason, she claimed, she couldn't go back to her mom was that her mom would say "I told you so", alleging that her mom didn't want her to move in with her dad. The daughter moved in with her dad because she wasn't getting her way with her mom.

However, mom said that she let her daughter move in with dad because she thought it was important to get to know her father. What?!?

That said, and all of my reasonable doubt aside, I do fear that maybe this man did the crime. But an allegation isn't evidence and I really felt I had no other choice.

But arguing from the minority position was sooooooo hard.

The Cunning Runt said...

Jess, I sure don't envy you having to take that stance, but I understand and respect you for it.

An awful lot of unsavory characters are accused of crimes they didn't commit, and many are convicted with the rationale that "they must be guilty of something!"

I agree with your reasoning about letting a guilty person walk rather than convicting an innocent one.

Anonymous said...

You did the right thing. I've been called for jury duty four times and sat all day while every case, every one of them, was settled before trial. I never went through what you did so can't really comment on feelings shared by a jury. It sounds like it was horendous. Good for you that you stuck it out and did what you thought best.

Dean Wormer said...

Good on you for serving where most people just try to get out of it. Double kudos for actually taking it seriously.

IMHO jury duty was depressing because in the one case I served on (a robbery) the majority of the other jurors seemed very non-deliberative about a guilty verdict.

I did get to play lots of cards with old ladies so it wasn't a total wash.

Comrade Kevin said...

In the end, you have to go with your gut. And thanks for not second-guessing your instinctual response.

Karen Zipdrive said...

I would have looked hard for evidence that helped the kid to prove her story, but if I smelled bullshit I suppose I would have had to do the right thing and vote my common sense.
Still, one must wonder why a woman would put herself through the angst a decade later.

Mauigirl said...

I know how hard it is to be on a jury. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it might seem. And the strict rules of evidence mean that there are many outside stories you may never find out about that might have helped you decide. (In the case I was on, the jury almost deadlocked over whether one member of the group that robbed a bar was guilty of first or second degree robbery - because he didn't go in the bar but stayed in the car. Well, surprise, after we let him off on second degree, I read in the paper he was the one with a long record - which of course was not admissable in court).

I applaud you for holding out on this - I agree it is much more important that an innocent man not be convicted than a guilty man go free.

April said...

Thank you for following your conscience. I have heard so many horror stories of jurors who ended up voting guilty because they were harrassed by the other jurors. We do need to really be convinced of guilt if we want to avoid wrongful convictions. Thanks again.

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