Summoned For Jury Duty
Jury duty is an interesting experience. It is something I was wondering if I would ever experience. I will be 53 years old in November, and until last month, I had never received a summons for jury duty. That changed last month when I received a summons from The United States District Court.
After receiving the jury duty summons, many questions flooded my mind. What was this case involving? Was it a murder trial? Was it a trial involving armed robbery? Being it was a trial in the federal court, I was certain it involved charges far beyond petty theft or assault and battery. Intrigued, I was eager to discover the nature of the case.
The date set for me to appear in court for jury selection was Tuesday September 6th, 2016. The attorneys from both sides had a pool of 37 jurors from which to choose. From the start, I never expected to be chosen as a juror. I was expecting to be sent on my way with a “Thanks for coming, but you’re dismissed” from the court. After being screened with a battery of questions, the pool of 37 potential jurors shrunk to 13 jurors; one juror being chosen as an alternate. I was one of the 13 chosen to serve as a juror.
The Trial Begins
With the members of the jury now decided, the trial began. The judge introduced himself to us and explained the subject of the case and the charges being brought by the United States Government. The charges against the defendant were once count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Over the next two days, an enormous amount of incriminating evidence against the defendant was presented to the court. The defendant, a Caucasian, middle-aged man, sat quietly and expressionless with his lawyers on the far side of the courtroom. His dark blue suit echoed the look of sadness in his eyes.
As hours passed during the trial, the jury heard testimonies from people whom the defendant had defrauded and stolen money. The defendant had been operating what was essentially a ponzi scheme. He had established a company that was a front for an investment company. In reality, his intent was to defraud and steal from his victims. The witnesses testified of how the defendant had gained their trust through his charismatic personality and charm, only to later defraud them and rob them of thousands of dollars.
By mid-day on Wednesday, the members of the jury had endured hours of testimonies, documents submitted as evidence, and examination and cross-examination from the attorneys. I think by that point the jurors were mentally and emotionally numb and exhausted. For a few moments as I sat in the jury box listening to the testimony of a witness, I drifted into a place seemingly far away from the events surrounding me. It felt as if I was inside an impenetrable bubble looking out into the courtroom. During those moments, I wasn’t absorbing any information being presented. For a few moments, I was trapped in a bubble alone with my thoughts and God.
My Message From God
In the moments that followed, God spoke a message I will not soon forget. I will try my best to share with you what God told me. As I sat in that jury box, whisked away with God and my thoughts, I reflected on my life. God said, “You are sitting here along with the others hearing people speak of the wrongs done to them by the defendant. It is your duty as a juror to listen to the testimonies, analyze the evidence, and decide whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. You cannot know for sure whether this man is guilty or innocent. You must rely on the testimonies and arguments of others to decide.”
As God continued to speak he said, “When you first came to me, you had done many wrongs. You had sinned many times and were guilty of trespasses against others. You knew you were guilty, and I knew you were guilty. There was no disputing your guilt. You weren’t tried by a jury of twelve. You were tried by a jury of one. I pleaded your case to my Father, and even though you were guilty, I declared you innocent.”
After God spoke those words to me, it felt like the bubble disappeared. I was now back in the courtroom hearing the proceedings, but pondering the words God had spoken. I began to think about what the Bible says in Romans chapter 3. In that chapter we are told, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past; for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26 New Living Translation)
Reflections About Life
In that moment I was reminded of my own indictment. We have all made mistakes, have all sinned, and yet we have been declared innocent by God’s grace. It was through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross at Calvary over 2000 years ago that we were acquitted of all charges. We deserve to be punished for our sins, but Jesus took that punishment for us. Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” This is comforting because I know the things I’ve done wrong and how I’ve sinned in the past. Yet, because of God’s mercy and grace, I was acquitted.
Because of the sacrifice Jesus made of himself on the cross, you also have been declared not guilty. You were acquitted of any sin you’ve ever commented. All that is needed on your part is an admission of your guilt and an acceptance through faith of God’s grace.
As I continued to sit in the jury box, I looked across the courtroom at the defendant. I wondered what he had gone through in his life that brought him to this place. God has a plan and a purpose for his life. God has a plan and purpose for everyone’s life. I felt sad that he hadn’t discovered God’s purpose for himself and had made shipwreck of his life to this extent. The words God spoke caused me to look at the defendant as a person wandering from God and not simply a con man and swindler.
The Verdict Is In
None the less, I had taken an oath along with the other jurors to hear the case and apply the law to the best of our ability. After hearing the case, the jurors had little doubt regarding the guilt of the defendant. We went into the jury room at 5:40 pm on Thursday evening for deliberation and reached a verdict within 90 minutes. The verdict was guilty on both counts. On the wall of the jury room is a small electronic button. When a verdict is reached, a juror must press the button to send notice to the judge a verdict has been reached. I was the one who pressed the button.
In the past, I always thought if asked to be a juror on a criminal case, it would be rewarding to know I played a part in putting someone behind bars. I thought of what it would be like to help send a child abuser, a murderer, or a rapist to prison. The crimes the defendant in this case committed were heinous. He robbed people of their life savings. Yet, I realize this man is much like you and me. He is a person who needs God in his life. Regardless of the things he has done, he is not disqualified from receiving God’s forgiveness and grace. It is only by God’s grace any of us are alive today. We are all struggling to find our way, and Jesus is the answer.
A Juror By Divine Appointment
I am thankful for my experience on that jury. It was an educational, interesting, and emotional three days of my life. I may never be a juror again. I know my being chosen as a juror was no accident. It was by divine appointment. It’s amazing the situations God will use to relay a message you need to hear. Thank you Jesus for loving me and being my attorney.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 New Living Translation)
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,