Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Juror's Perspective

I received a comment this afternoon from one of the jurors who served on the bank robbery case I tried a couple weeks ago. The comment was gracious and compassionate. I reproduced it and my response for your pleasure.

From the Juror:
I admire your positive outlook on things during a trial. I can only assume that this is a must in your case. I can also only assume that a large portion of your clients are guilty. I'm sure the positive outlook is vital to keep the energy moving in the right direction. The "snitch" was just that and not a very likable person; however he was not a liar. I think it is clear now that all 12 of us thought he was a lot of things, but not a liar. As for the DNA: you had me for a minute. You should have put your client in the car before the robbery. Don't leave it up to us to assume when he could have gotten in that car to deposit DNA. You put him there with a witness and your case begins to teeter the other way... You are a good lawyer. Even the good ones loose cases. Keep your chin up. After all, he did rob that bank...even you couldn't change that.
From me:
Thank you for respecting the job I needed to accomplish in the courtroom to protect not only the rights of my accused client, but all our rights as free citizens. Your comment here was a surprise, but very welcomed, especially in light of how this case ultimately turned out. There is always a fine line between being honest with the jury, but permitting them only to hear what is necessary to assure a fair and impartial trial. I strive to deal with the jury honestly but to also protect my client. Thanks again for your comment.

As far as the DNA goes, I didn't know what the witness would say if I asked him whether my client had gotten into the car. It was a calculated risk not to ask it.

In any event, I appreciated your service to Brazos County and your courage in correctly applying the law to the facts of this difficult case.
There was a reason this comment meant so much to me. After the jury convicted my client they were discharged from the case since the judge was to assess punishment. When I went back to the courthouse on Friday afternoon for the hearing about six of the jurors were there to observe. I made eye contact with several of them. I could see they were a bit unsure how to react to me. Maybe they thought I was angry at them for convicting my client?

Despite their trepidation I approached each of them and thanked them for their service. I wanted each to know I wasn't angry and I respected their week of hard work. When the hearing was about to begin I noticed one more juror had arrived to watch. I made eye contact with her and I pressed her for a smile. Her eyes widened, her face brightened with a smile, and I knew she and I were OK.

Criminal defense lawyers must learn to love those who decide the fate of our clients. They are good people. They have good intentions. They want to be fair. And every once in a while? One of them pays you a compliment.

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