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Jury duty, Part VI - The discharge

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We had taken almost the entire court day, but we were relieved to have finally reached a verdict. We shuffled back in the jury box for the reading of the verdict. As the clerk read the decision, I kept wondering whether my vote was cast in good conscience. I could have held out for a lower amount, I could have argued my position more strongly, and I didn't have to compromise. In the end I decided that my vote was 1/6 of the verdict and I had fought a fair fight in the jury room.

The defense lawyer was obviously displeased with the decision, so he asked the judge for permission to poll the jury, that is to make sure that the entire jury was in agreement. One by one we were asked if we agreed with the verdict and we all answered yes. The judge thanked us for our service and we were then discharged. The case was over, at least as far as we were concerned. As we were gathering our personal effects in the jury room the judge made an appearance to thank us personally. It was a nice touch. We asked him whether our figure was within an acceptable range. Wisely he replied that there are were no wrongs here and our decision, in view of the judicial system, was the right one, no matter what.

In the days that followed I often thought about the case and questioned my judgment. Had I voted in best conscience, as I was sworn to do? The answer to that question still eludes me. In the end one must accept that the laws of this land are created by people, who, by nature, are imperfect and fallible.

My training as an engineer gives me a tendency to see everything in black and white. But human nature doesn't fit within the rigid rules of science and engineering. It's a gray area and no amount of rules can address its every nuance. What we have is the best our society could come up with in the face of our profound flaws and short-comings.

Still I am thankful that we have our laws. They're not perfect, but neither are we.


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