The Gravity of Justice

The way I got there is too convoluted to tell. Suffice it to say I made my way to a blog post that described the writer’s journey of being selected as a juror and then, just as the trial was about to start, excused when the defendant and the prosecutor agreed to a plea deal, the particulars are unknown.  At any rate, I read about the writer’s experience. And his experience made me think about how being selected to serve on a jury might make me feel.

Knowing me, at least to a degree, I know I would be extremely interested in the process. I know I would find the allegations and the refutations fascinating. I know I even the most mundane civil case would intrigue me. But a criminal trial would be even more riveting. The intricacies of the law and the ramifications to both parties of a verdict in favor of either party would capture my full attention. But, as I read about the writer’s experiences and thought about the consequences of a jury decision, either way, I realized how important it would be to me to ensure that my vote on the question of guilt or innocence  was right. I would not want to let a victim of a crime feel let down by the justice system. But I would not want an innocent person to pay for a crime he or she did not commit.

What really got me thinking about how crucial it is to “get it right” was my consideration of how finding a guilty person innocent would impact the life of the victim. He would not simply be let down. His reputation would be sullied. His friends and family might question he legitimacy of his claims. His employer might decide he doesn’t merit a raise or a promotion because…maybe he lied. And the victim might have good reason to fear a reprisal from the guilty party, who might want to “teach a lesson” to the accuser.

I can imagine turning that entire thought process around, too. If the accused was wrongly accused, yet it convicted, his life would be turned upside down. He would lose not only his freedom but his livelihood and trust and…on and on.

As I thought about the potential consequences to either party of a “bad” verdict, the weight of jurors’ responsibilities became far clearer to me. What had until just this afternoon been an abstract matter, a simple element of curiosity, evolved into something far more solemn than it had been before. Even a trial in which the life of a defendant is not on the line, the lives of everyone involved are, indeed, on the line. I would hope attorneys for the defense and prosecutors, as well, would feel the same sense that their roles are not simply jobs but are commitments to justice.

I’m sure it is easy to become jaded about justice, or its absence. But it is too important to allow indifference to ruin lives. I am not sure how I would perform as a juror. I’ve never been selected to serve on a jury. But, after deeply pondering the concept of justice this afternoon, I think I might approach the responsibility with the gravity it deserves.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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