Grand juror, part two

Back in July, I discussed what it was like being on a grand jury.

I’m still on one. Our term is three months. Two months are served, but we should be done at the end of the month. Then supposedly I get at least three years off from again being a juror.

Generally, we meet once a week. Sometimes we get a week off. Only once did we need to take a lunch break. Generally, they keep us going and we are released sometime after 1 PM. Sometimes it’s just one case we look at. We’ve had as many as three in one day.

Initially, the cases brought to us for indictment were mostly about drug trafficking. We got a couple more of these cases since then, but it’s run a full gamut of crimes. So far we haven’t refused to return an indictment. The prosecutors are always very well prepared and the evidence is overwhelming. There is also the low probable cause standard needed for an indictment. Given we only need twelve of 23 grand jurors to indict, it’s hard not to indict.

The newness of being on a grand jury though has worn off. I often leave the jury room feeling soiled. “What a piece of work is a man!”, Hamlet reflects in Shakespeare’s play, where most everyone dies. “How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god!” From the perspective of a grand juror, I’m feeling pretty appalled by our species. Granted, we see society’s underbelly, but it’s a grimy and uncomfortable place to inhabit.

A few days ago we heard from a witness to sex trafficking. We haven’t issued any indictments on this case yet. It will take a few more visits from prosecutors. I know stuff that I really didn’t want to know. What makes it worse is you are privy to the names and sometimes addresses of those under investigation. This woman in her early 30s, fresh out of rehab, described in mind-numbing clinical detail her sexual encounters and the pimp that controlled her. From five to 8 times a day, she provided mostly blowjobs to clients at a house in my county. The john’s money was left on a table downstairs and discreetly picked up by the pimp. In return, he fed her drug habit and gave her shelter. He wouldn’t buy her clothes, shampoo or even tampons. The money was supposed to go toward paying the rent, but mostly it went to feed the pimp’s massive drug addictions. She was alternatingly crying and blowing her nose while matter-of-factly discussing the sexual services she provided. Blowjobs were apparently no big deal. But once she was taken to a hotel where she was anally raped against her will. That was the final straw. The pimp threw her out on the street, but she found a friend, went into rehab again and has been drug free for many months.

I was just appalled. I think everyone in the jury room wanted to say “I’m so sorry” to her and give her a hug. That wasn’t allowed, of course. We can ask questions but aren’t allowed to grieve with a witness and say we care.

We also indicted a man for murder. He’s indicted on four counts, one of them murder. Both were in their early twenties and both were unwisely put in a halfway house (actually, an apartment in a larger house) for young adults. I don’t understand why this agency would put two people of different genders in the same apartment. He was clearly disturbed but she was clearly doing well in the program, working at a local fast food restaurant and had a car.

The most disturbing part was watching nearly two hours of videotaped testimony taken at the local police department. For fifteen minutes we watched him play with his smartphone and carefully rearrange the contents of his wallet. Then the detective enters and starts asking questions. Over the course of nearly two hours his story evolves and changes. This rather normal looking overweight man toward the end of it just comes out an admits he murdered her. He doesn’t seem particularly bothered by it, but he is concerned about going to jail.

We also got to see voluminous pictures of the victim, the knife cuts she endured, and blood on the floor and refrigerator. I’m confident when he’s before a trial jury he will be convicted on all counts. Our state has no death penalty, but I’m awfully glad he’s unlikely to every taste free air again. Bail was denied, not that he had any money to pay it. He was picked up in his roommate’s car by the detective outside a fern bar where he enjoyed a free meal – he had a coupon apparently, and a couple of hundred dollars he stole from her.

There were also two indictments for rape. A local attractive young woman who worked at a local fitness studio met an old flame at a local bar. She didn’t like the vibes she was getting from him, so she left. Outside the club she gets to chatting with a stranger across the street who eventually offers her some weed. He offers to take her to his place, which she assumes is an apartment. Walking on a path through the woods she discovered his tent instead (he’s homeless) where he forces her to give him a blowjob and then sexually assaults her. This woman though at least had to good sense to report her rape and seek treatment. She seemed happy to testify against him to ensure this guy never rapes a woman again.

It’s not just men that we indict. We indicted one woman for a couple of dozen cases of animal cruelty. She wasn’t torturing pets, but neglecting farm animals she had purchased and stored in someone’s barn. She basically didn’t have the money to feed them. Several cows and goats died, and many of the rest were sick and near death. We heard testimony from a state investigator. There’s enough of these cases where there is a whole team working just on animal cruelty cases.

I wish our species was noble in spirit and infinite in faculties. And I’m sure there are some fine examples out there. But there are many base and disgusting people out there for which the term “human being” is probably more than they deserve. Just calling them bestial is too good.

I’ll be glad when my term is up and I can go back to pretending we’re not as bad a species as all the evidence I’ve seen and the testimony I’ve heard clearly indicates.

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