In the past week, I had one of those redefining experiences. The kind that helps to set your direction a little differently. You see, I was summoned to the court to carry out a civic duty that we all must be ready for. Yes, I was chosen for jury duty.
I have seen a summons or two for this over the years and for pretty much every one of them I had a winning move to be able to get out of it. One time I had moved. Another I was the sole care provider for our youngest son, who at the time was just a few months old. I really hadn’t intended to escape jury duty, I just found myself with something airtight which meant that I was not in the position of having to do it. Between the aforementioned excuses and the fact that I was a bonafide member of the media, I pretty much didn’t have to be a part of it.
This time, I found myself summoned and I figured that I could easily serve. This would be the last time I would use the word easy because it really wasn’t.
Now, mind you, the officers of the court from the bailiff to the judge himself couldn’t have been nicer. They made it as easy as possible to serve. However, it was the case that would make it tough and would change everything. I walked in the door and quickly found out what I was in for. The case would involve a sex crime of the most heinous type, child molestation.
When the pool of 50 plus people was narrowed down, I found myself a member of the panel and off we went. Without revealing too many details, the victim was someone that was the same age as one of my kids, which made it a personal thing. As we heard the victim’s story, it was clear that it was something that had changed them irrevokably. As a parent, I knew that this was something that I have tried to protect my kids from. However, as a juror, I was also charged with making sure that I presumed the defendant’s innocence until proven otherwise.
Fast forward to the end of the trial when testimony had been heard and it was handed over to the 12 of us to kick around. That we did for the next 6 hours until reaching a difficult verdict that we knew would change the lives of those involved. Enough evidence was there and a guilty verdict was reached.
What will stick with me are the facts of the case and the overarching problem in our society that it highlighted. This case tore apart a family and what happened tore into the victim in a way that can never be taken back. They will truly be dealing with this for the rest of their life. I have wrestled with what to do about the experience and hopefully, I will be able to settle on something. What I do know is that more can be done. The one thought that has echoed in my brain over and over is one simple question: what if we could stop this kind of thing from happening before it actually takes place? So many people and places deal with the aftermath of such a horrific crime. What if we could challenge those that decide to do this to change their way of thinking? What if they could come to the conclusion that this is the crime that we all agree it is before they commit it? We know that most evil acts don’t start with that itself, but with baby steps closer and closer to the line, all justified neatly so that it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s an old story that plays out again and again, where someone justifies something small in the name of the greater good. When they get to the end and realize how far they’ve come, it’s too late.
Something must be done. I’m truly unsettled and I feel a stirring to be a part of the answer. I’m not sure what that will look like, but it will take shape in time. Consider it a work in progress.