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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Most of the members of my jury were also members of my generation, although it's possible I was the oldest. Too close to call, really, but the youngest juror was the quiet young man in the wheelchair. He was also the only one who had to be drawn out to give us his thoughts on the case. He was willing to talk but not willing to interrupt his elders, I guess.

We all came into that room with the same goal, but with twelve different points of view. I've always been the kind of person who could see where other people were coming from, and I could relate to the way the other jurors were thinking, whether I agreed with them or not. In fact, for some with whom I disagreed, I felt I could make their point better than they did. I chose not to. I chose to use whatever powers of persuasion I had to promote my own point of view.

Maybe that wasn't fair, but I couldn't see prolonging the inevitable by muddying the waters with words that didn't move us in the direction I wanted to go. To compensate, I held back a bit on my own point of view. I told myself I was doing it out of respect for the people I disagreed with. Maybe if I'd been a bully, I could have got us out of there sooner. Or maybe if there had been a bully on the other side, I would have conceded and voted with the early Not Guilty majority. But that jury room was a non-bullying zone.

Besides, what we wanted was a verdict we could all live with. As someone pointed out, none of us would be there for the others at night, when they had to look at themselves in the mirror and wonder if they'd done the right thing. We read and reread the instruction that told us we could only return a Guilty verdict if each of us had an "abiding conviction" that the defendant was, in fact, guilty. I was the biggest "abiding conviction" advocate in the room, I think.

But I couldn't help making the case that if we all had an "abiding conviction" that Spike had committed the crimes (and by now we all did), then the only way we could have come to that conclusion, each of us separately and all of us together, was because of the evidence we'd seen and heard in court.

We didn't know anything about anything before the trial started, and all we had to go on was the evidence. If we believed he was guilty, only the evidence could have convinced us. I was also convinced of one other thing. I was convinced that if I said it enough times, with authority, everyone else would be convinced.

By 4:00 that afternoon, we were resigned to coming back the next day to continue our deliberations. The last holdout still insisted that she wasn't ready to convict. "But I'm getting closer," she said. "I still have to work it out in my mind." The bailiff knocked on our door and told us that if we didn't have a verdict in the next half hour, the judge was prepared to send everyone home for the night, since it would take another half hour after that to get all the parties together in the courtroom. We didn't tell her we were close, because we didn't know if we were or not.

Just before the deadline, we took one last vote for the day, and with no hesitation the last holdout became the last Guilty vote. I was curious, but didn't ask, what it was exactly that had turned her. Could her doubts have been overcome by the fact that eleven other people were so certain? That seems reasonable. But it might also have been the stories by other women on the jury about having been harassed (and in one case stalked) themselves, and the fear that had allowed them to empathize with the defendant in our case.

Whatever. By that time we didn't want to talk about the case any more. We were done, at least for that moment. Wendy, our bailiff, had given her cell number to the foreman. She said texting would be the best way to get her attention, in case she was in session and couldn't answer. He didn't have any reception in the jury room, so we went around the room, each of us trying to text or call. Finally someone with Verizon (not AT&T) got through, and all that was left was to wait for everyone to be called back into the courtroom so our verdict could be read.

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