I have been summoned to jury duty in a criminal court tomorrow and I must say that I am deeply disturbed by this. I am one who takes my civic duty very seriously so I never considered not going. However, I know that I would never be able to actually serve on a jury that involves a case where assault weapons are involved because of my past experiences with domestic abuse and having been a witness to a murder. I would not be able to be impartial but it is not because of what you might think. As an abuse survivor, I would never vote to convict anyone accused of a crime involving assault weapons.
With the jury duty looming in front of me, I couldn’t help but wonder about all of the others who have experienced physical abuse and violence and what they think and feel about having to sit on a criminal jury. I can’t believe that anyone who has ever lived physical violence in any form would be able to be impartial in hearing a case involving violence.
This started my thinking about others who have been abused in the same way that I was and wondering if the call to a criminal court would affect them in the same way. It reminded me of my own personal years of being physically abused and threatened with a loaded gun in my face. It reminded me of the times when I was promised that if I ever left my abuser, he would hunt me down and kill me. It brought to mind all of the cases with which I am familiar where such criminals were tried and convicted and released from jail and what they did in retribution to those who were responsible for their being jailed.
I believe that any person who can physically assault another person in any way, shape or form has a very different mind set than others who are not capable of doing so. Whether such behavior is a mental problem or a learned behavior or a combination thereof, I don’t know. But, the one thing that I do know is that I have not seen one case where such a person has not continued such behavior throughout his or her life and when such behavior is punished, the aggressor only becomes more enraged and seeks retribution on an even greater level. Most often, that retribution is directed to those who were responsible for the punishment that the aggressor received.
In my own case, I witnessed a man kill another man over a $5.00 bet on a pool game. The murderer was given a 5-year jail term and may have been released earlier on good behavior. I knew the district attorney in this case and he said that of all of the criminals that he had convicted in his career, this was the one that he was most concerned about what he would do when he was released from jail. I left town within the year and never looked back.
With regard to the domestic abuse, my husband’s abuse escalated during the time that I was in our home and I knew that my way out was not through the court system. Had I ever had him arrested, there would have been a huge penalty to pay. I can only imagine what would have happened if it had ever escalated to the point where he committed a crime that would have gone before a jury. If he had not been convicted, the retribution would have been bad enough but if he had been jailed, I would have definitely feared for my life. Being promised that I would be killed anyway if I ever left was enough for me. I left town and went into hiding from him and never looked back. And only when I knew that he had died did I ever really stop mentally looking over my shoulder.
With the jury duty looming in front of me, I couldn’t help but wonder about all of the others who have experienced physical abuse and violence and what they think and feel about having to sit on a criminal jury. I can’t believe that anyone who has ever lived physical violence in any form would be able to be impartial in hearing a case involving violence. Nor can I believe that facing such a possibility would not bring back a past that survivors have worked so hard to put behind them. Of course, I am only speaking for myself but I certainly do not think that I am alone.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.