Saturday, March 16, 2024

Jury Duty Littered with Sex: My Life This Past Week -- Part 2


The FBI agent the case centered around was interesting. She was obviously trying to look stone faced during the trial, but that resulted in her having an unusual look on her face. She had received special training to work cases like this, and she was unflappable on the stand. The prosecution, of course, lobbed her softballs to lay the foundation for the case. She did a great job in explaining everything in a clear fashion. The jury was, however, bored to death at the overkill the prosecution used to go over the defense exhibits. 

Once the defense got its chance, it was clear that their objective was to make the FBI agent appear not only inaccurate in her work, but also selective in sharing information, implying that she didn't keep records of conversations that would help exonerate the defendant. Additionally, they pointed out some photos of legs of the adult FBI agent that, according to them, could not be mistaken for the legs of a 13-year-old girl. Finally, the defense pointed to conversations at all hours of the days and some other interactions that should have tipped off the defendant that he was not speaking to a young girl. Although he did not speak at the trial, the jurors had the impression that the defendant was not particularly bright.

I believe that everyone in the courtroom had a good idea of how things would end. The defense seemed to have everything stacked against them and appeared to be grasping at straws. Their only defense, aside  from what I mentioned previously, was to question a sex expert whom they imported. The alternate theory was that the defendant and the girl were involved in DDLG (Daddy Dom/Little Girl) role playing and that the defendant was aware the the girl was really a woman. However, DDLG was only mentioned once in 700 pages of chat (unless there was more and the defense missed it, but I doubt that), and several things the defendant had written made it abundantly clear that he really believed that he was talking to a young girl.

It was heart wrenching to see the defendant's parents, and especially his mother, in the back of the courtroom, listening to the sexual chat their son was aiming at an eighth grader and seeing pictures and videos of their son's penis and him masturbating. At one point, the mother could not take it anymore and left the room. I couldn't even imagine my own mother (R.I.P.) having to sit through such a scene, or my wife listening and watching the same scene with our son as the defendant.

We knew virtually nothing about the defendant, and he seemed more of a pathetic person than anything. There is absolutely no excuse for what he attempted to do, but I think that, aside from the elicit sex he was hoping to have, that he actually might have fallen in love with this fake persona. He came from a small town and had never even flown on an airplane before his trip to Phoenix. I didn't see any reason why he couldn't have used common phone apps to find someone closer to his own age.

The court case concluded with instructions from the judge late Thursday afternoon. We were excused a little early and instructed to begin jury deliberations at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning. In my mind there was no doubt that he was guilty as charged of the first two charges, but the third dealt with "obscene" material, and I knew there would be no quick decisions on the third charge.

We began our deliberations on time. I had originally thought that I'd like to be the foreperson, but knowing that we had several people who liked to talk a lot, I decided instead that I would make my role one of trying to bring the group to a final decision if we were stuck.

We decided upon the first two charges rather quickly: guilty on both. The third charge, however, would be difficult. The judge's instructions (including the Miller test) seemed to contradict the basic charge. Everyone had a different idea of what was obscene. We were supposed to leave our own beliefs aside. We finally took a vote on each of the nine items we were to consider as being obscene. A few items had 9-3 votes. Most were closer to 7-5. One was 11-1. We sent a note to the judge asking for a clarification on seemingly conflicting information and took our lunch break. when we returned, we received the response from the judge. It was basically "figure it out yourselves."

We were discussed many things but but were moving very slowly to a conclusion. I threw out two logical ways we could end the stalemate: 1) If the one holdout who said one video was not obscene  would change her answer to yes, we could vote not guilty on the others and guilty on only that one; and 2) The fact that we discussed  the issue for several hours and could not come to a consensus on what materials were obscene (Can anyone really decide what is obscene?), that likely means that the bar for "reasonable doubt" was met. Since the defendant was already going to prison for the first two charges, we decided that our lack of agreement justified a not guilty verdict on the third charge. It was a decision that we all could live with. We took our final break, then informed the court officer that we had reached our verdicts.

The final part of court went very quickly. The court officer read the verdicts and we were excused from the court. The judge asked us to return to the jury room as he wanted to speak to us for a few minutes. We went back to the jury room and the judge came in a few minutes later. He thanked us for our service and attention, especially since we had to deal with an unpleasant topic and pictures and videos that we would rather not have seen. He advised us not to feel guilty for what we had decided as the crimes committed were solely the decision of the defendant. We only did our duty in determining the facts of the case.

I was thinking that some of us might stick around to talk for a bit, but everyone seemed to scurry away and begin their weekend a little early. Maybe they felt as I did -- that it had been a long week and they wanted to rid themselves of the muck we were living in the past several days. I headed home.

It is less than 24 hours after the case ended and I still feel very strange. It's a feeling I can't accurately explain. I detested the boredom of the testimony that laid the foundation of the case. I liked my fellow jurors and appreciated that we all had different opinions. I was happy that the defendant never harmed a real little girl, but I felt some sympathy for his just being a pathetic person and especially for his parents. It was awkward seeing the pictures, videos and sex objects publicly with so many people, but I felt some degree of desensitization with it all.

I get to take the rest of today to physically, mentally and emotionally recover from the trial. Tomorrow (Sunday), I will see the band Toto for the first time, and then Monday morning, I head to Las Vegas for a much needed three night stay. A little time with Las Vegas poker and some of my poker friends will hopefully help me get back to feeling normal again. I look forward to that.

Thanks for reading!


Blogger Ace said...

Curious at what age did you serve jury duty for the first time? I am starting to think that my time is coming lol

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love hearing about trials from jurors’ perspectives. Thanks for sharing your experience.

8:14 PM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

@Ace - I first served when I was 20-24. You never know when the notice will come.
@Anonymous - Although some parts were really boring, it was a good experience overall. I feel pretty good for having done my part despite the details of the case.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good writing! It only makes sense for them to use their resources this way if it’s highly publicized to act as a deterrent. I wonder if he was molesting really little kids or doing stuff online that they couldn’t fully prove enough to get a conviction for so they did this just to get him in jail. You’ll never know the full story but I really doubt this was the worst thing he was involved in. The mother acting dramatic was probably told to do that by their lawyer to manipulate the jury’s emotions. Thank you for serving.

3:32 AM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

@Anonymous: I really got the impression that the case was exactly what it was. However, with the array of sex toys/aids and how freely he sent self abuse videos of himself, it sounded like he had at least been trying this before. As for the parents, I don't think they were the conniving type -- just some rural Arkansas people who were terribly humiliated by what their son did.

11:39 PM  

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