Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lessons I've Learned, Jury Duty, Part III

Okay, so maybe this isn't the most aptly titled post. I've either known this stuff or suspected it for some time now, but this trial really nailed it down for me.

First off, "real crime," from my very small sampling, is not like what you see on TV. What I mean by that is that at one point in the trial I sat there and thought to myself, "I have no idea what happened. This side is saying that it went down like this. This side is saying that it went down like this. Neither side of the story has any similarities of any consequence other than the defendant shot and killed the decedent. That's all I know!" In reading books or watching TV, you most of the time know what happened or are aware of a variation of what happened. Then, there's that great moment when an attorney stands up and has his/her defining moment by sticking it to some poor witness who isn't sure what hit him/her.

Second of all, well, let me preface this by saying that I think that the law enforcement on this case did, for the most part, a great job. There were some things I thought they missed, but hind sight is 20-20. And I have family that works in law enforcement or criminal justice at some capacity and I like these people. They've got a dirty job and it's mostly thankless.

But here's the deal. The next time I get arrested for anything, I ain't talking to anyone without a lawyer there to represent me! "The police are not my friends," will be my mantra. I know a lot of us are concerned about profiling, but right now I'm much more concerned with the use of "themes" in "interviewing" suspects. This technique is being taught across the country and it being used everyday to deliberately deceive suspects so that they will contradict themselves and therefore become easier to convict.

As I sat watching the local police floating themes to their suspect, I thought they were leading the man, entrapping him, and taking advantage of his confused and upset state of mind. And that was before I was aware of the "theme" technique. The police seemed more interested in getting this guy than they were with finding out what happened.

I did learn something. I learned that for all of its flaws and letdowns, the American justice system works well. I was very impressed with how sterile everything was. I often felt as though I were in someone's lab as they conducted experiments to determine what was factual. The lengths the court went to in order to make sure that the jury was uncontaminated was impressive. I left this experience having more confidence in the justice system.

Not only did I finish this tour of duty with a strengthened trust in the system, I also left with my belief that we must, as a society, do more to prevent crime and eradicate the poverty that has become so pervasive in our Nation. But that is a topic for another post.