Jury Duty
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     On a cold winter night just outside the city limits of Los Angeles, Sheriff deputies got a call from a fast food outlet that a Policeman had been shot nearby and was bleeding heavily and looked like he might be dead or was dying. In less than five minutes a police and detective unit responded and began questioning people in the area. The victim was a white Caucasian, 30 years of age with dark hair and medium build who had been a Policeman for 4 years. Upon arrival, the Medical Examiner pronounced the man dead from 5 gunshot wounds in the chest and abdomen, and approximated the time of the shooting to be within the hour.
     Within the next 45 minutes, Police squad cars located a suspect found running down a dark alley, in possession of a firearm. The man, who was later found to be an African American Black Muslim, was taken into custody, and after a preliminary investigation was booked on suspicion of murder.
     The following is a transcript of part of the opening statement by the prosecuting attorney representing the District Attorney's office in the trial of the man being held and accused of first degree murder. The jury consisted of 2 African American females, 5 male and 3 female Caucasians, and 2 Male Mexican Americans.
     "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you heard the indictment: murder in the first degree! And you may be asking yourself, 'What does that really mean? What am I supposed to do?' Well, it simply means that the oath you took before you sat down on this panel asks you to decide several things. Does the evidence presented here in this courtroom prove, to you, that the defendant, the man there at that table, had a motive to kill the victim? In other words did he have, what was to him, a good reason to commit the crime? And was he capable of committing the crime? That is, did he have the ability and the opportunity and the means to commit the crime? And, finally, did he plan to commit the crime before the act, and then did carry it out to its deadly conclusion? Those are the things the defendant is charged with. And what you, the jury, are charged with, which is no easy matter, rest assured, is to decide whether the evidence presented here proves that the answers to each of these questions is yes. And, if you all agree with the evidence, every last one of you, with no dissenting vote allowed, that the defendant committed the crime, you have no choice but to find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree. And every one of you must be certain of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt!
     "But, you wonder, what exactly is a reasonable doubt? What is reasonable? By law, a reasonable doubt is when, in your mind, you believe the evidence presented shows that it is possible that the defendant did not commit the crime, but that someone else did.
     "Now, the defense counsel in this case would like to have you consider issues beyond whether the defendant committed the crime he is charged with. They want you to consider whether minorities are treated fairly by our judicial system, to play on your sympathy for the defendant for any harsh treatment of blacks or Muslims in our history, whether, as in this case, the fact that the defendant is a Black Muslim, whether that is the primary reason for the indictment. And, the defense contends, if this is true then the defendant should be treated with at least leniency, if not acquitted of the charge altogether. And this in spite of the fact that you may believe he committed the crime.
     "But this clearly goes against the grain of our country's dependence on the Rule of Law, doesn't it? No reasonable person would deny that racial and religious persecution has taken place in our country. But remember, you did not take an oath swearing to decide if our country was guilty or innocent of prejudicial treatment of Blacks or any other group. What you swore to decide is whether the defendant is guilty or innocent of the crime he is charged with, namely murder in the first degree. And that's the only verdict you swore to decide. Nothing more and nothing less."
      After 6 weeks of deliberation the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. Prosecution mulled over whether to make a motion for a retrial, as two of their witnesses mysteriously disappeared after testifying during the initial proceedings. The defendant was then advised that he was free to go!