It's finally over. Guilty on all counts. Justice is served--or is it?
Have you ever served on a jury? It sounds interesting, doesn't it? Maybe even fun. Excused from work for an easy day or two of sitting around doing nothing. It isn't until you get into a trial that you realize it isn't as easy as it appears. The good guys don't wear white hats; the bad guys don't have squinty eyes. It isn't like in the movies where everything suddenly becomes crystal clear, and you get a feeling of satisfaction as the credits roll (or as the verdict's read). The reality hits hard. These are real people, not actors, and your decision will have a tremendous effect on their lives.
When a jury announces its verdict, everyone assumes they all agreed--correct? Not necessarily. After hours of deliberation, we twelve did finally agree. We told the judge, the plaintiffs, and the defendants we had reached a unanimous decision, but what we didn't say was that each one of us compromised a little in order reach a decision that was acceptable to all twelve.
In the end the plaintiffs won their case by the preponderance of the evidence; however, I believe they lost as well. Some jurors thought the plaintiffs deserved damages in an amount greater than was awarded; others thought they deserved nothing. How can that be? We all heard the same witnesses and saw the same evidence. How could we view the situation in such different light?
As we filed back into the courtroom, I don't think any one of us was thrilled with the outcome. We discussed the evidence and came to a decision we could all accept. We voted our conscious. We decided the defendant was ultimately responsible, but not necessarily guilty; the plaintiffs proved their case but were not necessarily victorious. Confusing? You bet your life--or in this case money. After all was said and done, the attorneys were the only winners.
What did I learn from this experience? If I decide I want to sue someone, I plan to think again and perhaps see if we can't work something out. My advice? If you think you want to sue someone, see if you can't come to an agreement instead. I doubt everyone will be pleased with the terms, but trial results probably won't make everyone happy either.
A few parting words of wisdom: "When you go into court, you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty." ~Norm Cosby