Thursday, September 15, 2005

Jury Duty, Arrrgggg

You got to love it. You get a jury questionnaire in the mail. All of us go through the effort of trying to avoid going. Many of us can't afford it financially, have children, sick elderly, or other very good reasons why jury duty would be a hardship or at the least a major inconvenience. But eventually your "get out of jail free" cards run out. You finally get that little yellow summons in the mail that reads something to the effect of "laying aside all excuses you are hereby summonsed to appear for jury duty....." Now if your not already irritated when you first see the envelope in the mail, you sure are fuming after reading the very rude demand in your face.

So I, being a red head, am ready to blow a top. I call up the number they give you for any questions and tell the very nice gentleman on the other end of the line ..... this is not an excuse as they so rudely state it in the summons, but this is the reality of life. I am a mother of three what do I do with my children while you are only paying me $7 or $10, or what ever it is, a day for jury duty. That won't even come close to covering my cost of daycare. Are you going to pay for the daycare. "Well, no ma'am. They have thought of doing a daycare, but just can't justify the cost. All you can do is show up and inform the judge of your hardship, but it may not get you off."

So anyway, my mother ended up watching the children, which she wasn't to pleased about, because it's hard for her to pick up and hold my 9 mo. old daughter for long. So long story short I did get chosen for jury duty. It was an interesting process to say the least.

THE CASE

I will not mention names here because I think it is done and over with and the people involved should be able to get on with their lives.

The defendant is this case was charged with a felony of willfully causing bodily harm or death to a child, willfully inflicting bodily harm to a child by not seeking medical treatment (I am paraphrasing, as I am doing this from memory) ...........

When I heard the charge my heart sank. I am a mother a three and I would never want someone to hurt my children, and if they did I sure as hell wouldn't want them to go scott free. But as a juror our duty was to find the defendant guilty of willfully causing bodily harm or death to a child, willfully inflicting bodily harm to a child by not seeking medical treatment..... BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT! Let's just say there was so much doubt that we reached a verdict in less than an hour.

THE INCIDENT

I am going to tell the short version. Basically the defendant offered to watch the 7 MO. old boy of a young mother (his neighbor), to help her out on the weekends when she had no daycare and needed to work. When the mother dropped the child off she informed him that the child was fussy, likely due to teething or possible ear infection, and he was........ Some time that morning the defendant was holding and playing with the child ....... he turned, tripped and fell. The baby landed on his right should beside him. The child fused through out that day when he was placed on the ground, (Defendant stated looking back now he could see why) but he just thought that it was due to the teething. He did look the child over later, but saw no signs of injury to the child. In fact mother picked the child up and through dinner with the care giver that night and through the next day didn't see signs either, other than the fussiness which had started Friday night.

The defendant chose not to tell the mother (I feel this was his undoing, but not a crime). He states that he was scared, and embarrassed that he had "dropped the ball" and hurt the child, after he found out that the child had had a broken clavical. He then tells the mother that the child fell from a couch (not his arms) because, in his mind, it wasn't as bad as a child getting hurt when falling from your own arms. The mother then tells the officer, defendant repeats that story to office, but then later comes in voluntarily to tell the offices what really happened.

Almost 48 hours later the mother does finally start to notice a red mark and when putting presure on the area notices a popping noise, and takes him to the emergency room. She tells the doctor that the child had been very fussy since Friday and that the shoulder had been swollen since Friday. She also talks to mother, step mother, sister about the child being fussy on Sunday. They all tell her he's teething. The doctors testify that redness would come and go. Swelling would be immediate, but may not be visible in a child of that age (baby fat hiding it), and that if the child had been thrown or beaten there would be other signs of trauma, such as bruises. Doctors, the mother, and pictures tell and show there are no bruises on him. However, the prosecutor and the detective tried blowing this up into a child abuse case like as if the defendant had purposely beaten the child because he was crying.

When the defendant went back later for a second interview with the detective he got it all off his chest and told the detective what really happened, that the child had fallen from his arms. He then asked the detective if he could be the one to talk to the mother and let her know what really happened. The detective told him no. The defendant then asked for time to compose himself and set there for about an hour because he was upset after what had happened to the child.

DELIBERATION

When we went into deliberation I wasn't yet sure what to decide. I felt that at the least he should have told the mother, but that was the mother in me thinking. That was not the thoughts of a young single man who doesn't want to deal with a mother when she gets hysterical over her child. Of a man who was embarrassed (as he puts it let his ego get in the way) and scared because had (although unintentionally) hurt a child.

Now remember we were to find him guilt if the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty of willfully causing bodily harm or death to a child, willfully inflicting bodily harm to a child by not seeking medical treatment....... Well they didn't prove that.

As jurors we were allowed to right down questions that were asked. There were some things that we asked like why the detective didn't follow up on the doctors notes that the swelling had stated on Friday. The detective stated that after talking to the prosecutor and the defendant he didn't think that was necessary. Well guess what, that was one of the main things that cast doubt. He never even spoke with anyone at the day care. Can you say the detective "dropped the ball."

Another thing was just our life experiences that helped us see how a young man like that would hesitate not to tell the mother, hide the full truth, make it out to be something less than it was because he was scared. But he showed in the video and in person that he was sorry that the child was hurt, and that he cared about the child.

All of us in less than an hour agreed that this trial should never have been brought to trial!!!

THE ENCOUNTER

Through this trial, the last three days, I continued to go to work. I would get up at 5:00 am get the kids around, to school and off to my parents in Rathdrum before going to court then afterwards go to work and work till 10:00pm-12:00am. I am exhausted!!! Then tonight what was an interested, enlightening, rewarding, difficult, challenging......... experience of my life, became one of the most unfair, excrutiating, nerve racking, painful..... moments of my life. The mother came through my line at the register tonight, I believe on purpose. When I politely asked (because I had not closely looked as I was grabbing items) with out knowing it was her, "How are you doing tonight?" She answer "I've had better days." It caught me off guard, and I said "oh, I'm sorry"...paused as I looked up, and probably turned white. She made sure she had my attention and said this is ______________" (I'll leave his name out as he is a child, and I hope both of them can some day put this behind them and get on with their lives). I went blank, all I could think to say is "Hi, _______ how are you? Which he gave me a shy but cute smile. The mother then said something about me working there. I answer that I had come back to work there at night so I could be at home with my kids during the day. She then in a very snotty voice says "oh, so you DO have children" I calmly answer (while my tummy is doing butterflies) "yea I have three." Not much more was said. But when I handed her her change she held it but didn't take it as she made eye contact and glared at me for a second.

As a mother I understand her anger. Someone hurt her baby, and she wants justice. I get it. But as a juror, my job was to find the man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There was just too much doubt. Why didn't the officer check out the daycare? Why did the doctors notes say the swelling in the shoulder had started Friday, when the mother testified that she didn't notice it until Monday? If the defendant did abuse the child, then why were there no physical signs of abuse? I was very upset that the mother had done that to me tonight at my place of work. It really wasn't fair! However, if I had another occasion to speak with her I would tell her that I understand, as a mother, her anger. I would probably feel the same way, but the best thing she can do for her son is to let him heal physically and mentally (if he'll even remember it). She needs to realize accidents happen, but that is no reason to ruin a mans life. Maybe he is responsible enough for a civil law suite because the child was injured in his care, but it doesn't make him a criminal. In this country a person is innocent until proven guilty. He WAS NOT proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

4 comments:

stebbijo said...

Jury duty is facinating. I was on jury duty in Bonner County once over ten years ago. It was a domestic violence case where the guy accused the woman of throwing their baby which was not true. The woman admitted to violating the restraining order and the man admitted to hitting the woman.

Interesting that the entire jury was ready to convict the woman because whe wasn't dressed right. I argued like hell. We settled that she was guilty for violating the restraining order and he was guilty for hitting her.

One of the first domestic cases in the state of Idaho that went the right way. The attorney was shocked. I realized then, that I won the case for her, not the attorney.

So, you can make a difference!

ErinG said...

That was an interesting case. One that I wouldn't have wanted to be on the jury for.

I saw Bre's comment that she saw you at Walmart the other night but didn't say hi. I, too, am guilty of that. I saw you on Tuesday night but you had a long line of customers and so I didn't want to bug you. Next time I will stop and say hi.

Bre said...

I'm excited for my upcoming jury duty. I was summoned once when I lived in Moscow but the case didn't go to trial. But this time I'm scheduled for 11 days, which I'm told by co-workers who've recently had it that they were only scheduled for 5 days. So I hope it's something juicy!

Ok, getting back on track. I'm sorry you had to go through that Amy. That lady had no right to do that to you. That's a scary thought, imagine if a big burley man had come through and done that. I'd be making a fellow employee walk me to my car at the end of my shift.

Word Tosser said...

You did it right.... you thought it all out. You did it from both sides. That is what being a true juror does. Good Job, Amy.

That is a little scary, that she ended up in your line.Like Bre, says, good thing it wasn't some huge guy. But you were fair. And she ...well, she is angry, and she has to understand, it was an accident. It could have happen to her. she could have fallen as well.

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