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Juror No. 11

10/22/06 | by Clarise | Categories: General Thoughts
The past 4 days, I have served as Juror No. 11. I have completed my civic duty and I could blog about my experience. Common impression I hear is that Jury Duty is like a plague that one avoids. I thought it was a very interesting experience. It was fun from the point of view that my co-jurors were fun to be with outside of the courtroom (we weren't allowed to discuss the case outside of the deliberation room). It was hard because one is asked to be impartial and to consider only the facts, the evidence and the instruction of the judge. We must be devoid of all biases, past experiences, sympathy for the defendant, and any appearance of injustice.

The case was about a 22 year old man accused of First Degree Burglary (California Penal Code Section 460 (a)) and California Penal Code Section 647 (h) - Peeping Into Windows or Doors Without Lawful Business. Given our judge’s instructions, we must find the defendant guilty if we find him breaking and entering an inhabited home with the intent or mental state to commit a rape or indecent exposure, even if the defendant did not mean to willfully hurt anyone. According to the judge’s instructions, it is indecent exposure even if the genitalia were not seen by the victim. If we did not find the defendant guilty of first degree burglary, we must decide whether he was guilty of trespassing.

The defense has presented his case that the accused had some mental deficiency. That he entered the room of the complainant with the firm belief that he was going to have sex. In his mentally deficient brain, he thought that the woman “hitted on him”. He alleged to have knocked on the door and on the window. When no one answered, he climbed through the window thinking that he was going to surprise the woman. He did not touch the woman but he undressed. When the victim awoke and saw the young man in her room, she grabbed him on the neck and asked him what he was doing there. The defendant then replied that he was horny. The victim then asked him to get out and the defendant, not touching the woman just kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” The victim called the police but did not find the defendant. A few hours later, he came back, lingering at the victim’s back yard looking in. The victim came out and swung a bat at him. During police interrogation, he was asked why he came back, the defendant said he wanted to say he was sorry.

The defense attorney was not polished like the prosecutor. He seems to have some speech impairment that he was not eloquent. The prosecutor on the other hand was very professional. She had visual aids during closing. She was very sensitive to the juror reactions. One of my co-jurors felt that the defense was not represented properly. I tend to agree with him.

My heart went to the young man who was the accused. He certainly was a troubled soul with some mental deficiencies. I felt that if he were rich and can afford a non-court appointed defense lawyer that maybe his case would have been stronger. Maybe a stronger police investigation would have been conducted or some of the circumstantial evidence would not have been admitted in court. Maybe if he had a stronger defense his confession would not have been admitted given that he had mental deficiencies. But at the end of the day, we had to be impartial. We had to work only with what we have and not what we think should have been. The confession of the accused was in. He admitted to going in through the bedroom window with the intent to have sex. We had to believe beyond reasonable doubt that given the legal definition the crime, the instructions of the judge and the evidence admitted and presented before us that a crime was committed. The jury did not have to decide whether it was rape or indecent exposure but that one of those was committed.

We had one holdout. It could have been a hung jury. My co-juror, Harvey, felt the injustice of the system. But at the end, he agreed with the rest of us and we gave the verdict of guilty. Harvey had to ask for a few minutes alone (so we asked the bailiff to grant the jurors a recess) because he said he needed to think whether or not he can live with himself.

I may be naïve but I believe that the defendant due to his limited capacity really thought that he was going to have consensual sex. I thought the intent to commit rape was too strong. But, I think he did commit indecent exposure. According to the judge’s instructions, it is indecent exposure if he exposed himself to direct attention to himself OR to gratify and satisfy himself. He came to the woman’s bedroom at 1:30 AM with the intent or state of mind of having sex. That is why I believed that he committed burglary. In terms of the second count, we also found him guilty of lingering and looking into a window because he came back and just stood there watching the victim.

When the sentence was read, the defendant’s family cried. One of my co-juror’s who had served before warned me not to look at the family. But I did. I can’t second guess my judgment. I believe that I had been impartial as I have been. I had given the defendant as much benefit of the doubt as I can. Intent and State of Mind was what we were asked to judge. I agree with Harvey that no one can judge what someone is thinking. But no matter how much benefit of the doubt there is, the accused had singleness of purpose to go in the bedroom, removed his pants with the intent and single purpose of having sex whether he intended to hurt the victim or not. Whether or not the victim would consent was not something we were supposed to consider in indecent exposure.

I have to live with my judgment that I had contributed to sentencing a young man to prison. The legal system is not perfect. Proving one’s innocence or guilt is in the hands of the lawyers and the jurors and how they interpret the law. I have trust that everything will be ok and if my nephew Raphael ever becomes a criminal attorney that he will do the system right.

I question if putting the man in jail will make him a better person or if he will evolve to be a hardened criminal after being in the company of those who committed greater offence. As Joseph said to me that one can’t “possibly make someone a hardened criminal. And if his experience in jail does so, it is still him exercising his free will to enter that life, and shows even more that he has the capability and the will to intend to do crime.”

Jury duty is a serious responsibility. Don’t take it lightly. Don’t do it just to have a Juror Appreciation bookmark. &#59;D If you can’t be impartial, find a way to excuse yourself.

So, Juror No. 11 rests her case.
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Comment from: JAdP

I don’t think any one person can really be responsible for another’s decisions and actions. You might influence that person, but you can’t control them. And either way, you could talk yourself into feeling guilty about this: you can feel guilty that your vote helped to send a person who had done a crime to jail and worry about the impact on their family and what that person might become, or you can feel guilty if he hadn’t gone to jail, even though you all agreed he had done the crime, and a year from now he’s a real rapist and two years from now he’s a serial killer. I know that you worry that when he gets out of jail, he is not worse than he is right now, or worse than he would have been if he hadn’t gone to jail. But you can’t know either way, because you can’t view the infinite parallel universes where all possibilities are played out :D From the moment he broke into that woman’s window, he created many branching chains of alternate realities. Your life just happened to intersect with his in this reality, which created a new set of branches. [ I wonder if the parallel universes can ever intersect and merge?] You can’t worry and feel guilty about all the infinitude of possible outcomes, and you’ll never know the one final outcome nor be able to absolutely trace it back to a causal node as being your vote. So, stop worrying, and congratulations on being Juror #11 just a few months after becoming a citizen.

10/23/06 @ 14:33

hi there..thanks, joseph, for your email. I almost had to testify at a rape case back home - a case I had done a rape on/examined because I was the doctor in charge that day - but did not get to do that because i received the subpoena only after I had been in the States. That is so totally different from being a part of the Jury, though, where one has to sift thru every bit of argument and evidence and come up with a verdict that is beyond any reasonable doubt etc. Kudos for your courage and impartiality, and keeping your eye on the ball, and congratulations on your citizenship!


10/24/06 @ 08:39

*oops, done a rape KIT on*

10/24/06 @ 10:07
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This blog contains thoughts that range from non-technical to technical. Its name is derived from "Yakity Blah Blah" a column I once had that discussed a cornucopia of ideas. Who am I? I'm Clarise Z. Doval Santos, providing Project Management and Technical Leadership for data management and analytic, data science, IoT and sensor analytics ecosystems 37.652951177164 -122.490877706959


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