- Everyone's experience - and therefore their recall - of something is unique to themselves. From a training/learning perspective I will remember that one size does not necessarily fit all.
- Sometimes note-taking gets in the way of hearing the next point.
- People need closure and staged endings.
- Beware of Groupthink!
- Lock up your Daughters! (Seriously, have you had a conversation with your children about learning to recognise situations that can escalate such that they are out of control and vulnerable? Drink and drugs really, really, don't mix!)
- Everyone who is summoned to Jury Service should do it. It's an important civic duty and a reminder to us all that real life is happening out there and affects us all.
Sunday, 18 March 2012
Something of a Trial
On Day Two, I was one of 15 randomly called out to form a cadre, who was then taken into court and again randomly whittled down to 12. Into the Jury box we went, we were sworn in, and we were off - Prosecution was on her feet, Indictment read out, hard copy issued to us, and the case started. I had barely exchanged a word with my fellow jurors, but we were going to have to collectively reach a verdict shortly which would profoundly affect everyone involved in the case. Suddenly it was very real!
To misappropriate the introduction to TV's Judge Judy, "the people are real, the cases are real, the rulings are final". We had before us a young man accused of rape, and, as the Prosecution laid out and developed its case, we heard from the victim herself and various other witnesses, who were examined and cross-examined by both the Prosecution and the Defence solicitors. I should state here that the Prosecution actually dropped its case on Day Six and we were directed by the Judge to acquit the defendant and we were excused immediately. Many in the Jury didn't understand what had just happened and others felt aggrieved that we hadn't been allowed to hear the Defence case nor be allowed to arrive at a verdict ourselves. More on the impacts of that later.
The alleged offence took place in September last year, yet the trial was at the end of February. Victim and witnesses were being asked to recall details such as how much was drunk, what was drunk, where they were standing, who said what to whom, what time did such-and-such happen, etc. Any deviation from the statements taken at the time was jumped on by both the Prosecution and Defence lawyers, depending on who sensed the most advantage. And I began to question my own attention to detail. I struggle to remember what I did last week, let alone what I was doing 6 months ago. I don't expect to live my life on the off-chance that I might need to remember every detail later under sceptical cross-examination. I certainly don't pay as much attention, or consider the details so critical, when I'm learning something myself or via the instruction/facilitation of others.
As a result, I became paranoid that I would remember all the information with which we were being presented in the case. It took a conscious effort to listen with all my attention. At the end of each day, I was exhausted. I was surprised at how few of my fellow jurors took notes however. How on earth were they going to be able to discuss the discrepancies and differences in the various stories we were being told when we retired to arrive at a verdict? Were some minds made up already?
Worth also mentioning here Tuckman's Group Development Model (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) in relation to the dynamics of the jury I now found myself a part of. There was a very obvious gender imbalance of 10 women to 2 men on our jury, a fact, no doubt, which gave the defendant some cause for concern. When we retired at various points during the trial to our dedicated Jury Waiting Room, we were free to chat and discuss the trial. This provided a focus to our discussions and a fast track to getting to know each other quickly. Lot of Forming and Storming going on! But I think it's safe to say that we were really only starting to 'Norm' at the point where the trail was terminated. I was lucky that my employers facilitated my absence and covered my salary (I returned the favour by doing as much work as I was able to do remotely in the early mornings and evenings however). Others were not so fortunate and were keen to get back to work as soon as possible. Was this influencing their thinking and their attitude? We never got to deliberate and arrive at a verdict, so we never got to 'Perform' (nor, indeed, 'Mourn' the end of the process either).
So, what were my take-aways from the experience?