October 1

Lessons from Jury Duty

Tuesday of this week I spent the entire day from 9:00am to 4:00pm in the jury pool for the murder trial that began this week at the Marquette County Courthouse.  I had never been called for jury duty in my life, and not knowing the nature of the case, Ellen chided me that it probably would be a murder trial.  Imagine my surprise when it was.

Throughout the course of the day 30 jurors were dismissed after questioning by the attorneys.  The defendant is claiming self-defense in the shooting death, and since alcohol was involved, many of the questions posed to the jurors related to 2nd Amendment rights and addiction to substance abuse.  The lawyers had the right to dismiss as many jurors as they desired without giving reasons.  Many were dismissed for knowing witnesses or members of the deceased man’s family.  Others were dismissed simply because their answers apparently made the defense attorney uncomfortable.

Early on the prosecutor addressed the jurors about philosophical or religious biases.  He mentioned the commandment Thou shall not kill.  That seemed odd because the reason we were all there was because of the possible violation of that commandment.  Perhaps he meant that some might interpret it as forbidding all killing under any circumstances and so pacifists would not make good jurors in this case.  He said he thought it was the 5th Commandment.  I turned to the lady next to me and said It’s the 6th Commandment.  It’s sad when even attorneys don’t know God’s Commandments upon which all law is based.

As the day wore on and the jury pool thinned down, I prayed and told the Lord that if He wanted me to serve on the jury I was willing and would do my best to render a just and unbiased verdict.  At 2:30pm the juror in seat number one was dismissed and my number was selected to replace him.  After answering Judge Solka’s basic questions about my knowledge of the case and the witnesses, I fully expected to be questioned by the defense attorney.  Up until that point every juror selected as a replacement was questioned.  Imagine my surprise when the defense attorney passed on questioning me.  Having information that I was a pastor, my first thought was that he trusted my judgment and believed I would be fair and impartial.  After an hour passed and I was still in seat number one, my conviction grew stronger that I would have to render a verdict when the trial concluded.  Then at 4:00pm the defense attorney dismissed me, the judge thanked me for my service, and I left the courthouse.

Not having been questioned, the only basis I could conclude for my dismissal was that I am a pastor.  Since alcohol was involved making the defendant’s judgment at issue at the time of the murder, the attorney must’ve assumed automatically that a pastor would not be favorable to his client.  But without questioning me, how could he know?  I was ready to let the evidence decide that.  Perhaps he also felt that as a pastor I would have a large influence over the others jurors persuading them in my direction.  It’s hard to know and I don’t want to presume on the lawyer’s actions.  But I am troubled.  Are we at a place where pastors are automatically seen to be troublesome to the cause of justice because of their biblical worldview?  If so, we’re a long way from the days in which ministers were looked upon as men of integrity whose knowledge of God’s ways was a safeguard for the community.  May God help us.

Your friend, observing and learning, Pastor Brian (:-}).