Friday, February 22, 2008

Murder Trial - Trials by Jury

For more than twenty-five years, I have been involved in murder trials. Without a doubt, they are the most serious, most demanding trials – for all involved. Murder trials involve a great deal of time, money, energy and emotion - from the moment a person is accused until the moment the verdict is rendered. The lawyers obsess for weeks before and during trial on such questions as jury selection, trial strategies, and points weak and strong in their case. But those burdens, undertaken willingly by the lawyers, pale in comparison to the burden placed on each of the jurors, which is – in essence – to determine a person’s fate. That burden- undertaken “voluntarily” but feeling more like conscripted service (we all must be willing to serve as jurors) – requires that jurors set aside their personal lives, their work and their families and listen to weeks of arduous and often emotional testimony before retiring to the jury room. In that room, of course, they must then shoulder the greatest burden – decide the facts, individually and then collectively, and without passion or prejudice for anyone. We ask no greater task of an ordinary citizen, and we each undertake that thankless job, because as a society, we wish to be known as the most beneficent and civilized society. From such momentous, important work from ordinary, everyday people do we hold on tightly to our freedoms.