I was called for jury duty last week, and was selected to sit on a criminal case charging child molestation. Now, I am aware that many people claim to hate jury duty, but I have to tell you, I love it. I find the legal system and court process very interesting, and certain kinds of cases – fascinating! The one I was on certainly was. My new employer only covers three days of wages though, so I worked some early morning and weekend hours to make up my full paycheck. It was a tiring week.
About twenty five years ago, I served on a child molestation case in Tucson. The case was ground breaking in that the judge had allowed the testimony of the child to be video taped rather than making her come into the court room. The defense argued the defendant’s rights were violated, in that he was supposed to be allowed to face his “accuser”. The story hit the media and several jurors heard about it. The judge was forced to declare a mistrial. I was SO disappointed! After hearing opening statements and a day of testimony, I didn’t get to see the end of the story. (I later heard the man was acquitted. It was his ex-wife who had brought the charges against him during a custody battle for their little girl.)
This week’s case was really intriguing. And appalling. The little girl’s parents had an “open relationship”. They were swingers. The mother met a guy online, developed a relationship, and he came down from Washington state to move into their tiny two-bedroom apartment with them. He shared the bedroom with the wife while the father slept on the couch. The mother worked nights; the father worked days; the boyfriend didn’t work, so he took care of the two children during the day while the mother slept. After approximately five months of this arrangement, the mother discovered he had molested the daughter.
The little girl testified, and she was one of the sweetest and most precocious four year olds I’ve ever seen. Fortunately, she did not seem to be too traumatized by the event. I think she was young enough to not quite understand all that had happened to her.
The most interesting testimony of the case was the expert witness. She was a specialist in forensic interviewing and juvenile counseling. She described it as assisting children in identifying a situation. She was not familiar with this case at all. She was simply there to give us information that would help us determine the facts and validity of the testimony we were hearing.
I was the jury foreperson. We deliberated for six hours. In the end, it came down to whether we believed the child’s word or the defendant’s. We believed the child.
After the trial was over, we were allowed to meet with the attorneys and ask questions. It was then we discovered this was not the defendant’s first conviction. He was a registered sex offender from an offense when he was a juvenile, but that information was not admissible in court. Now the guy is going to prison for 10-25 years, and he’ll NEVER be allowed around children again.