by Jez Bond
At 11.30am today we, the jury, were led into the deliberation room and asked to hand over our mobile phones. The door was locked behind us and we are left with our notes, the jury folders, the evidence (including two guns and a silencer) and a jug of water. We were not to leave the room until we had reached a verdict – and, appointed by my peers, I was asked to assume the role of foreman and chair our party to its conclusions.
The judge had indicated to us that at this time, and until such time as he would say otherwise, a unanimous decision must be reached on this case. There were two defendants on trial and, between them, nine indictments.
Following secret ballots for the main counts on each case, discussions ensued and irrespective of our beliefs both defences and prosecutions were put forward. It was an intense period and one many had felt would continue for far longer than it did. However, after just four hours a unanimous decision was reached. One defendant was found guilty on all relevant counts and the other not guilty on all relevant counts.
One of the most interesting things that arose was the intricacies of the legal system itself. The majority of us had some doubt as to the innocence of the defendant that we acquitted, however the law is such that if one is not completely sure of guilt one cannot convict. The onus is on the prosecution to determine guilt and not on the defence to prove innocence.
As foreman, when it came to deliver our verdict I was required to enter last and sit closest to the judge. Upon entering the room we were immediately surprised by the increase of guards both in the dock and the viewing gallery. There was a very different atmosphere in the court and one of which I was all too aware. As I stood to deliver our verdict an unusual nervousness crept in. And here I was reminded, most vehemently, that this was the theatre of the court and not the stage.
The last time I assumed the duties of a foreman was between December of last year and February of this year when the word took on a different definition to today. Throughout those cold winter months – in the days before this blog began – I led a group of strong young men in the demolition of the internal fabric of the building.
Having sent out the call for labourers I would receive multiple daily emails and phone calls from people looking to earn a little cash in hand. Had they turned up on site each morning I would have needed to select the fittest and strongest among them for work, like a foreman by the gates of the docks in the great American depression.
Thankfully I explicitly doled out the rotas over the phone and therefore never found myself in this position. However this afternoon things were quite different and far more life changing for all parties concerned.
It has been a remarkable experience and one that may not be over yet. Our obligatory two weeks are not yet up and tomorrow we all return to our duties. Armed with a good book (or in my case play) we shall sit and await the next case.