Day 3: Defense, Closing, and Deliberation

Day 3 was the last day of the trail. It has been a few days since I wrote about Day 2. I apologize to those of you who have been wondering how my experience as a juror ended. 

The beginning of Day 3 started with the sheriff taking our lunch order (they bought us Schlotsky’s!) as they anticipated that the we would begin deliberating around lunchtime. One of the jurors had a family emergency that morning and the alternative juror for a brief moment thought she’d be joining us for deliberation. We didn’t enter the courtroom until after 10. 

The defense called one witness, Mr. Jernigan, testified on his own behalf.  He was emotional and gave many details about his relevant health history, past criminal record (no offenses related to violence), and what he recalled from the evening. When asked a question related to Ms. O’Brien’s testimony he stated multiple times that if she said it, it was true. He made no excuses for his behavior. 

We left the courtroom for a short break and when we returned we received a packet that included the charges, the law, definitions, and directions for us to follow when we deliberating. We then heard closing arguments. 

The District Attorney’s closing argument summarized their case, used PowerPoint, and a clip of audio we heard during the 3rd & final call out to the scene. 

The defense council’s closing argument was brief. At times it felt like statements made were not necessarily in the best interest of the defendant (derogatory remarks). 

Both sides presented the law and detailed definitions related to the charges against Mr. Jernigan. 

A little after noon, we officially began deliberating. We chose a foreman and were given official papers to send if we had questions, wanted to view evidence, to request that a specific portion of the transcript be read back by the court reporter, and to record our verdict on the 2 charges in this case.  From this point in the day on, we were sequestered in the jury room. We had to call to be escorted to the bathroom (if you know me Im sure you can imagine how many phone calls I had to make) and we requested a brief supervised outdoor break after several hours.  Everyone was patient and committed. 

We deliberated until a little after 5 o’clock (that’s a little over 4 hours).  I feel that we thoroughly discussed the evidence presented. We had questions on 2 separate occasions. What I didn’t know before this experience was that the judge has to call all attorneys back together and wait for them to be present before an answer can be given. This process is rather lengthy and unfortunately, the answer came by being directed back to a certain page and paragraph number in our packet, which didn’t really clarify the answer to our question.  In the end we came to a unanimous verdict and notified the court. 

After the verdict was read, the defendant revoked his right to have the jury determine his sentence (he had previously selected this option) and accepted a plea deal for his sentence. 

The attorneys came back to the juror room after we were dismissed from our duty to ask questions to better improve their practice.  Answering questions was optional but everyone who could stayed. 

I hope that by sharing my experience you may feel a little less annoyed when you receive a jury summons in the mail. It’s rarely convenient but it’s your opportunity to participate in our justice system. I felt a great deal of responsibility over these three days. 

On a much lighter note, I’m not a great at selfies, but I needed a pic with my special yellow juror badge! 

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