The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation

By John Gastil; E. Pierre Deess et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Citizen Judges

The critical stage of jury service for many jurors begins when they enter the deliberation room. They sit together through the trial, through lunches, through long delays and breaks, never discussing the case itself, and unsure of what to think about what they have heard in court. At that point, many jurors have an experience like that of Ted, who discovered quickly that his King County jury was already unanimous. As sometimes happens, the foreperson “did do a preliminary vote,” and “we all voted he had done it.”1

The criminal charge in this case was violating parole by carrying a concealed weapon into court. Having looked around the room and seen that all were in agreement, the jurors, nonetheless, opted to pick apart the prosecution’s case. As Ted explained:

We did not want to just come back with that opinion. Everyone agreed that we should talk about it and see if there was any way we could be wrong…. And I remember feeling very good that we did that…. Everyone wanted to discuss it, even though we all had other things to do in life. We all kind of wanted to make sure that we weren’t missing something.

The coat of the accused was found in the courtroom with a gun in it, and Ted and the jurors began to speculate about possible explanations, beyond the one they had first accepted:

Either maybe it was his coat and he sold it or lost it. Maybe there were
many of that model that had the same pattern, or I think it actually was
a stain rather than a [distinctive] pattern…. We wondered if the police
had put the gun in the coat, if there was any chance of that. We thought
that was pretty far out. But maybe they had it in for him. Maybe he had

-73-

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