Set aside, for a moment, your feelings and opinions about the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial and think about jury service and how you’d react in that environment.
Juries tend to form a bond throughout the length of a trial and this connection is even stronger among sequestered jurors. How could you, in that position, ward off succumbing to the pack mentality?
The only hope any of us have of avoiding being part of hive-think is if we contemplate it in advance. If we realize the pull of cohesion and guard against it. Enter the situation determined to think as an individual rather than respond as the member of a group to thought of the whole.
Let’s say you accomplish that and still, you are deliberating a case that seems to have no right answer. You’ve looked at all the evidence and come to the conclusion that the state did not prove their case. But in your gut, you are certain the defendant is guilty. What do you do then?
If you follow the letter of the law, you would vote for acquittal. But if you did that and allowed someone you believed to be guilty, go free, could you live with yourself afterwards?
I’ve long been a strong proponent of civil disobedience. I think there are times when the clash between law and personal principle requires the most law abiding citizen to stand up against the law. But is the jury room the right place to do that?
I know that if I were faced with that dilemna, I would be torn. The worse the crime, the greater the temptation to do what is technically wrong for what felt morally right. But would I succumb to that temptation? I don’t know. Would I be wrong if I voted “guilty” and stuck with it in a small room with eleven others in disagreement with me? Would I be wrong if I decided the greater good dictated that I hang the jury and give the state another opportunity to prove its case?
Honestly, at this moment, sitting here by myself, I cannot swear that I know what I would do if placed in that situation. I do know this: if I ever served on a jury again, I would think about my options–all of them. Hopefully, I would land on the right side of justice.
What about you? What would you think? How would you react? And would your actions benefit or harm our system of justice?