This afternoon I’m waiting for a jury to bring back their verdict. It’s the apex of any trial of course, the bit everything builds towards but that doesn’t make the waiting part any more enjoyable.
The thing is it’s impossible to judge how long the waiting is going to go on. It could be minutes, it could be days. This particular time it’ll probably be hours but you can never tell. Something happens to those twelve strangers when they become that peculiar entity…the jury.
It doesn’t matter what their personal beliefs may be, what way they vote or where or if they attend a church on Sunday. Once they get voted onto that jury they become a single unit. It’s impossible to predict what they’ll do or how long they’ll take to reach their decision.
Even if you’ve sat through an entire trial, listened to every piece of evidence and carefully watched the faces of the twelve overlooking the action, all you can do is guess what way they’ll come down.
This doesn’t stop the perennial question of when there’ll be a verdict, as if being a court reporter gives you the ability to mind read or a crystal ball that sees the immediate future. You can think you can tell the outcome but there have been enough trials where a jury has confounded all expectations to make you wary of making any kind of prophecy.
It’s sometimes as if a kind of madness comes over that special dozen as soon as the door closes behind them and the weight of justice bears down on them. There have been plenty of bizarre decisions in the past, juries stubbornly refusing to make an obvious decision or seemingly flying in the face of logic to make those used to this wait wary of what’s about to come.
Maybe it’s the weight of responsibility or the sudden realisation that they are suddenly the most powerful people in the court with the ultimate say over another human being’s life. It’s impossible to tell what goes on behind that door but it certainly makes waiting on a jury one of the most peculiar waits there is.
As soon as the jury leaves the courtroom empties. The families of the deceased and the accused disappear in search of something to take the edge off the tension. The rest of us wait, one ear always open for that knock on the door, trying to work, chatting about nothing. I’ve got one ear open now and I’m finding it difficult to see to the end of one of my own sentences so apologies for any rambling repetition or lack of narrative flow!
It’s easy to be frustrated when you’re waiting to file copy and a jury appear to be taking unnecessary time but that’s the nature of the process. It’s easy to make a decision on someone’s guilt or innocence when your opinion has no effect on their life. It’s equally easy to become cynical when you spend all your time in the courts but that’s why practicing barristers, court staff and court reporters aren’t allowed on juries and it’s probably a good thing.
Despite the sometimes bizarre decisions juries have come back with in the past it’s still the fairest way to judge a crime. It makes sense that we all have the right to be judged by our peers, even if sometimes those peers seem to be bonkers.
Mind you if I was shackled to eleven other people and locked in a room to argue over a total stranger’s fate I have no idea how I would react. Maybe a slight touch of madness is just part of the process!
So the wait continues. I have my laptop and a plug and Internet access so there are worse ways of earning a living. At least it’s not my fate they’re deciding!
But an early verdict would still be nice…
Leave a Reply