Sharon Randall, 4-2-12: Memories of jury duty on murder case

Published:

A jury summons is not something most people are thrilled to find in the mail.

The prospect of taking a few days (or, God forbid, weeks) out of your life to sit in judgment on matters that may seem of little importance is disheartening, to say the least -- especially if you happen to be someone who doesn't get paid unless you actually show up for work.

It's enough to make you think twice about voting or driving or using electricity or anything else that might put your name on a list of potential jurors.

But when it turns up in your mailbox, like it or not, there it is: Your civic duty. Show up or face a bench warrant.

Having already been granted two postponements for various reasons, I knew there'd be no getting around it again.

So I reported to the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas along with what I estimated to be a few hundred other citizens, none of whom appeared to be particularly glad to be there.

I expected I'd either be dismissed outright or sit through jury selection and be released for cause -- the cause being that attorneys are not often keen about having newspaper columnists on their juries. Not that I blame them.

What I did not expect -- and never wanted to happen -- was to end up, after two days of juror selection, seated on a jury for a murder trial.

I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say this: One man stood accused of deliberately shooting and killing another, a heinous action described in ironically poetic words in a statement read by the clerk of court as "contrary to the form, force and effect of the statutes in such cases made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Nevada."

For five days we sat together (12 jurors and two alternates) hearing testimony, watching videos from surveillance cameras, taking notes, weighing facts.

We were even allowed to ask questions by writing them on slips of paper and handing them to the bailiff to give to the judge, who would then decide if they were admissible, and if so, read them aloud for the witnesses.

Finally, the prosecution and the defense rested and the jury went to work. Twelve people (the alternates were excused) who had only just met began the daunting and intensely personal task of deciding the fate of another human being.

As individuals, not one of us, I suspect, certainly not I, would feel worthy to sit in judgment. But 12 minds together -- vested with the authority of the State and the voice of the People -- are wiser and worthier than one.

It is nonetheless impressive that 12 people from different backgrounds and experiences could forge a discussion and reach agreement on anything.

But that is what we did. In the end, we found the accused guilty as charged. The judge will decide sentencing (maximum is life in prison without possibility of parole) at a later date.

That ended our service, but the experience and the feelings it stirred will linger for years. I will remember several things:

-- First, everyone did their jobs. The police, the prosecutors, the public defenders, the judge, the jury -- we all worked hard and took great care to secure justice for the victim and the accused.

-- The 911 call from the victim's daughter sobbing hysterically that her father was dead.

-- The sound of weeping from the back of the courtroom as the verdict was read.

Finally, I'll recall the words of a fellow juror who said he hadn't wanted to serve on a jury until he learned it was a murder case. Then he thought of how he'd feel if he were the defendant (or the family of the victim) and decided he owed it his best.

And that, I am proud to say, is what he gave.

(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.