Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jury Duty

How much faith do you have in our justice system? Since my 'jury' experience several years ago, I have to tell you that I have very little. There is too much bullying, intimidation and strong arming going on during deliberation to allow those who aren't strong-minded enough to stick to their guns. I sometimes feel society is more interested in closing a case than assuring that they have the right person.

And what fool said, "You are innocent into proven guilty?" How can that be when you are arrested, taken to jail, arraigned and treated like a criminal until you go to trial and have your innocence proven. Actually, you are guilty until proven innocent...don't kid yourself.

When I was eighteen, I was falsely arrested for shoplifting. At the time I had a top-secret security clearance and worked for the United States Air Force so it was humiliating and scary at the same time. I need to blog about it sometime, because it was also pretty hilarious given that during my one phone call my mother fainted when I told her that they'd taken my brother to juvenile hall and me to jail. Luckily, my Dad came to my rescue. He was always my hero. No one believed I was innocent and were hell bent to prove that I took a pair of $2.99 sandals. I guess back then that was a big deal. *lol* If I was going to shoplift, I think I could be much more selective than some crummy shoes.

Anyhow, I watched Montel today. His guest was a man who was just released from prison after fifteen years. He maintained his innocence throughout, was denied a retrial for years, and spent every waking minute trying to prove law enforcement had arrested the wrong person. His conviction was based on bite marks on a dead body even after one forensic dentist was convinced he was not the perpetrator. A second one testified he was and the man was convicted. He lost time from his life, his children's life, and precious years with his wife. When Montel asked if he had a job, the man looked near tears, saying no one would hire him because he was honest on his applications about spending fifteen years in prison. Even though he has now been proven innocent, the system also robbed him of years of job experience and took away his livelihood. He has filed a civil lawsuit, but believes he'll probably be dead before it's settled. How awful for him. It's kinda hard to hide a fifteen year gap between jobs.

I've also been watching Women in Prison and I'm touched by some of the stories. I know from my experience as a Correction's Officer, most people claim innocence, but I also believe there are some who are telling the truth. It seems recently, someone is released every month based on now available DNA that might have saved them from an earlier conviction. Thank goodness for science and the strides we've made, but God save us from professionals like the first Forensic Dentist who was more interested in showboating than finding the real culprit.

So, take my advice. If you receive a jury duty notice, fake illness, lie, get a doctor to excuse you...break your leg if you have to. It was the most unpleasant experience of my life, and had it not been for one woman who had the strength to hold out, a man would have been wrongfully convicted in my opinion. My only regret is that I wasn't that woman. I know it's our civil duty, but I learned one important thing while serving. I'm not jury duty material.

1 comment:

Estella said...

I was recently, but I had it postponed, and will keep postponing it as long as I can.
I sat on a Grand Jury once and that was enough for me.

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