Average Jane

A jury of my peers

I got the notice months ago that I was to serve on a jury of my peers in the district court of the great state of Maryland. When I told my boss, there was a collective sigh. “OK.” It’s never ideal. Taking off work when they have to pay you sucks for them, and missing work that you are responsible for upon your return sucks for you. But as fate would have it, I was free and clear on the day of my duty. I knew I’d be selected. No job. No opinion on the death penalty to speak of. No specific opinion on guns (besides that they are, like, not great… and can kill people). Young, white woman. I was doomed.

I will spare you the details of the voidiere process and insert the spoiler here: I was picked. It was to be a 3 day trial, finished “almost certainly” by the end of the week.

The questions I am most frequently asked are, in order of frequency, “Did you give ’em the chair?” and “Was it an interesting case?” I will also spare you my lecture on the lunacy of actually thinking I get to fry people, or that I would want to, or that it actually happens all that often. Secondly, and most importantly, jury’s don’t sentence the defendant. They also don’t tell you up front what the possible sentence for the crime is. At least they didn’t in my case. Which brings me to the next question: “Was it interesting?” No. It sure as hell wasn’t. It was nuanced and annoying and depressing. But interesting? Not really.

The defendant was charged with 7 counts, 2-3 of which seemed redundant. The idea that the state really tries to nail criminals is not an overstatement at all. They will get ’em on every last damn thing they can.

Here’s the part that I struggle with the most. He did it. Most of it if not all of it. Second degree assault. First degree assault. Conspiracy. Weapons charges. He did it. But they never asked that. They asked if the state proved its case and they didn’t.

He was a 27 year old Montgomery County resident. Previous felony gun conviction. Black. Lived in a not-so-great area of MoCo that would be considered Beverly fucking Hills to someone in Compton. And “everyone has a gun”. They need it for “protection”. 10 minutes from my house! He went to school in my county. He may have gone to the high school I would have gone to if my parents hadn’t moved me across town to a better zip code early in my life.

I want to say he had every opportunity that I had. I want to say he made bad decisions. But I don’t believe it.

The victim* was a middle aged man. Came into court on some sort of narcotic for sure. He was combative with the defense attorney. He backtalked the judge. His 15 year old daughter was pregnant by the defendant. His 17 year old daughter just had a baby. His 2 younger children are more than likely headed down the same path. His 2 older children are with their respective  mothers.

Do you know what I will remember most from my time on that jury? That will haunt me forever? Not the gun I held, submitted into evidence as proof of existence, not necessarily proof of use or ownership (they are trying to nail the guy who actually wielded the gun, I guess… not just the guy who could have possibly owned the gun). Not the police officers who, had they not stopped this car full of black men for a small traffic infringement, would never have recovered the gun, and never would have sent this young man to court. Not the 15 year old girl paraded into court as a smear campaign against the defendant — Look what he did, that monster!

I will be forever haunted by the handwriting on the letters the defendant wrote the defendant and his pregnant daughter from jail. An apology letter. A love letter. A promise for a future of happiness and hope. Perfect script, far better than I ever could muster on my best day. His “i’s” delicately dotted. The unnecessary contractions extraneously punctuated. His poor grammar and misspellings flooded a page, all slanting gently to the right, toward the future. All the letters in perfect step.

He had a chance. He is not an idiot. This 27 year old who they forced out of his orange jumpsuit before the hearing began so we didn’t assume his guilt. What went wrong? What could that hand produce besides a gun?

“Whatz up baby girl?”

That letter will haunt me long after I forget the counts we convicted him on which were too few to make a difference in his life and too many to assuage the pain of convicting him at all.

*Note: Originally, this said “defendant”. Which was wrong. And weird. 🙂 Sorry — he was the victim.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * Shannon says:

    Wait. The defendant impregnated his own daughter? Or is one of the men the defendant and the other the victim?

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  2. * PRSlaveDC says:

    That’s my question too… and if he’s 27, he had a daughter at 12???

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  3. Wow. That sounds like one complex situation. Life has so many shades of grey. =/

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 4 months ago
  4. * The King says:

    I read it that he impregnated the victim of the assault’s daughter.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 4 months ago

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