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A Truly ‘Impartial Jury’ Is Hard To Come By

Jury box
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I have no doubt that if the case I deliberated on were tried in a blue city, jurors would have found a legally innocent man guilty.

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Jury duty is often reviled as a nuisance unless it comes with TV fame and a big check. In reality, juries are a constitutional right and responsibility that should be fulfilled with the utmost reverence and care.

You wouldn’t know it from the zany jury selection drama plaguing former President Donald Trump’s New York trial this week, but upholding the integrity of the American judicial system is still important and possible. You just won’t find good examples of it in politicized trials in New York City or Washington, D.C.

I learned this firsthand when I served as the forewoman for a small criminal trial in my county last fall.

Jury selection kicked off bright and early on a crisp Monday morning. I giggled to myself when the courthouse employee posted by the front door thanked me and 200 of my newest friends for responding to a summons that, if left unfulfilled, threatened fines and jail time.

As annoying as it was to be herded like cattle through security and into a room for a mandatory event that would likely interfere with my week, I wasn’t mad about my summons. I wanted to be on a jury because I knew I had what it took to be objective.

Impartiality is a hallmark of the jury process, as outlined by the Sixth Amendment and reaffirmed by the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment. A jury that can’t remain impartial is at risk of dismissal. Similarly, a jury that can’t maintain a presumption of innocence as ensured by the due process rights outlined in the Fifth Amendment violates its duty and undermines the quest for justice.

Failure to uphold impartiality and innocence unless or until guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt renders jurors not only useless in what is supposed to be a free and fair trial but also in direct violation of their constitutional duty.

If the Trump trials have taught us anything, it’s that Americans whose streams of information are poisoned by the corporate media and apps linked to communist China are largely incapable of impartiality and a presumption of innocence.

I was surprised by the number of potential jurors in the pool with me who admitted to the prosecution and defense that they couldn’t be impartial or presume innocence in a sex crime case for various reasons. A few knew or knew of the defendant. Others raised their hand and said they had bad personal experiences with sexual assault or were inclined to “believe all women.”

I, along with a few others, however, reassured the court that we were capable of making an unbiased assessment based on evidence. I was in what the court called the “splash zone” of selection, which meant that while I wasn’t necessarily a shoo-in for the box, I could make the cut if the potential jurors ahead of me were dismissed.

Sure enough, I was selected as juror number six of six. Joining me, a female journalist, in the box were two female public school employees, a male civil lawyer, a male IT professional, and a male corporate energy company employee.

The Case

Most juries in our county, the lawyer juror noted during one of our breaks, do not end up with an even number of men and women, likely because women are exempted more often from service as the provider for children under 12 years of age who need adequate supervision.

Since this case focused on an alleged sex crime, two counts of indecent assault against a woman, however, the lead prosecutor likely rooted for more women in the box than normal.

This particular criminal case was the first of its kind to be litigated in my county. The judge informed us that it was also one of the first times this alleged conduct went to court since the law making it a crime was enacted in 2019.

Texas Penal Code Section 22.012 defines “indecent assault” as:

A person commits an offense if, without the other person’s consent and with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the person: (1) touches the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person; (2) touches another person with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of any person; (3) exposes or attempts to expose another person’s genitals, pubic area, anus, buttocks, or female areola; or (4) causes another person to contact the blood, seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, saliva, urine, or feces of any person.

The alleged offense is often classified as a Class A misdemeanor. The state legislature amended the law in 2023 to elevate the crime to a state jail felony if the accused was previously convicted of this offense or one similar or was a health care or mental services provider who allegedly committed the act on duty.

In this particular case, a personal trainer was accused of touching his client, a female police officer who was off duty at the time of the alleged crime, in the chest and genital areas with the intent to gratify himself. The pair maintained a friendly but flirty training relationship, which included text messages and suggested hangouts outside the gym, up until the point when she claimed he assaulted her and then tried to kiss her.

She waited a few days to fire him from training her over text and then waited a little longer to report the alleged event to her supervisor at work.

The defendant did not come off to the jury as the most upstanding guy in the world. He didn’t even take the stand. But the selected jurors including myself pledged to the defense during striking that the trainer’s silence would not sway our ability to remain impartial about the case.

Justice Is Served (Sometimes)

After one day of selection and introduction and another day and a half of arguments and evidence presentation, we were dismissed to deliberate. As presiding juror, my job was to keep us on task and ensure that discussions were focused on evidence, not feelings.

Intent is a difficult thing to prove because jurors can’t possibly know what the defendant was thinking at the time of the alleged incident. “Intent to arouse” is an even higher, more specific burden of proof because it requires evidence that the reported inappropriate touching was done for a very specific purpose.

Even with video evidence that the prosecution suggested showed the first crime, the trainer touching her breasts as he spotted her during weighted squats, there was no physical indicator on his body or face that the defendant demonstrated the intent required to convict him under this law.

The real bombshell evidence came when the alleged victim disclosed during questioning that she was sexually abused as a child. As we listened to her testimony of the treatment she received from her mother’s boyfriend, we noticed it mirrored what she accused the trainer of doing to her.

Less than one hour into deliberations, five of the six jurors including myself determined the defendant was not guilty on both counts. After another hour of review and debate, the sixth juror, who admitted to us that his feelings about his wife’s own history with sexual assault were affecting his ability to be objective, agreed the evidence did not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

As forewoman, I signed the verdict and turned it in to the judge who read it to the courtroom.

Contrary to what some may think, being a juror does not require you to cast a moral judgment on a person, just a legal one. The defendant could be the least upstanding citizen in the county, but if his alleged actions did not meet all of the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, he is not guilty.

My jury did what we could within the scope of the very specific law and evidence presented to us.

I have no doubt that if the case on which I deliberated were tried in a big, blue city like New York or D.C., it likely would have resulted in a guilty conviction simply because of the pervasive #MeToo movement and tainted jury pool. In my conservative city, however, the alleged assault of an off-duty female police officer by a male personal trainer wasn’t a political trial and, as far as I knew, drew no media attention.

Thanks to the impartiality and presumption of innocence unless or until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a legally innocent man in a Texas city walks free.


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