Jury Service, Its Impact On Those Who Serve And The Role Of The "Monday Morning Quarterback"

Jury Service, Its Impact On Those Who Serve And The Role Of The “Monday Morning Quarterback”

Performing jury service is a civic duty involving a personal sacrifice of time and effort in both civil and criminal cases. It is especially demanding when serving as a civil or criminal case juror in high-profile cases attracting a great deal of media attention. Such cases involve listening to the testimony of witnesses and considering their demeanor on the witness stand, examining various evidentiary exhibits admitted into evidence and listening to the Court’s instructions. These cases can go on for days and even weeks before jury deliberations begin and a verdict rendered.

Although compensated for their service, the amount paid jurors is very nominal at best. It is not surprising therefore that performing such service often leaves jurors with a net loss of income for the days they were obligated to attend court proceedings. If sequestered and unable to return home the juror’s personal responsibilities and obligations must wait no matter how urgent they become. This too adds to the burden and strain a juror feels under such circumstances, so it is very gratifying that the vast majority are able to remain composed and content to perform the important duties involved.

No matter how diligent and attentive jurors are while deciding a case, it does not stop those generally interested in its outcome from becoming what I refer to as a “Monday Morning Quarterback” deriving great enjoyment from second guessing and critiquing the appropriateness of its outcome. It is a pastime engaged in by many people as a matter of general interest. While the obligation to return a proper verdict is the responsibility of the jurors sworn to hear the case, “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” evaluating the final result almost never blame the jurors when unhappy with the outcome preferring instead to point their finger at the defense counsel no matter how inappropriate or unjust that conclusion may be.

This statement by an author unknown to me that “if you want to get away with murder move to Florida” seems truer today than it has ever been and it greatly increases the burden on jurors having to decide such cases. I believe we can thank the Florida Legislature for this sordid situation. It is neither the fault of the jurors sitting on homicide cases nor the defense bar. The difficulties lie in the fact that Florida’s Stand Your Ground Statute, 776.012 has eliminated the duty of a person to retreat when in a dangerous situation and as a result by passing that legislation in 2005, the Legislature has unwittingly declared open season for shooting Floridians by those afraid to leave home without a gun strapped on their body looking for a chance to use it. Hopefully those who carry weapons in violation of law and those with a valid permit, will give serious consideration to the lessons we can learn from cases recently brought to trial in our Florida courts and understand that shooting someone is a very serious life altering event from which the shooter may never completely regain his composure and loss of standing in his community. Such a person is not a hero even though some happy warriors may think so. He is much more likely to be the unfortunate victim of his own foolishness and lack of good judgment. Jurors have enough cases to decide without the added burden of having to weigh claims of self-defense where such homicides could have been easily avoided if the shooter, even those with a valid gun permit had opted to retreat to a safer location instead of remaining in place and compounding the tragedy by fatally shooting someone.

© 2013 Douglas M. Midgley, J.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide


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