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The Jury’s In

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “Saying what we think gives us a wider conversational range than saying what we know.”

- Cullen Hightower

I guess I should come clean with what I’ve been doing for a week and a half. You see, I was on the panel of a court martial and could not talk about it. For an avid blogger, you can imagine how difficult it was for me. But of course that’s nothing compared to someone actually going through the trial so in the overall picture, perspective is paramount.

If you are looking for some chuckles, sorry, you might want to skip to the next entry. Obviously with something so sensitive and serious, it’s not exactly a topic to make light of.

Additionally, I will not divulge details although there are plenty of them. I’m probably under some official obligation to keep the details under wraps but even if I wasn’t, the topic and details are not in the realm of blogging fodder. Sorry folks.

But what I can talk about is a little of the procedure. For those of you that don’t know, a court martial is much like a civilian court scene. You have your prosecutors, defendant, judge, bailiff, witnesses, and jury.

We were screened and many of us were dismissed before the trial even started because it was such a high-profile case. I guess I’ve been so busy as of late that I was able to somehow avoid the sensationalism surrounding the case.

When the trial started, we heard opening statements and then witnesses. We would be excused to the deliberation room when the judge needed to talk about matters without influencing us and called back in when they were ready.

When we would go back to the deliberation room, we could not talk about the case so even though we had just heard some juicy testimony, all we could do was talk about the weather and sports. And our careers. It was really the only familiar stories we could share.

After the prosecution was done calling witnesses, we heard from the defense. They called in their witnesses and we listened to examination, cross-examination, re-cross-examination, and so on.

When both sides rested, they gave closing arguments and we heard an unsworn statement from the defendant. It was not under oath and basically it was an opportunity to give his side of the story without having to answer to questions from the prosecution.

We were then given a very long list of instructions from the judge and sent to the deliberation room where we were finally able to talk about the case.

A few hours later we came up with a verdict. Since there were 3 Officers and 2 enlisted Marines, not only did 4 of us have to agree but doing the math, one had to be one of the enlisted members. That was a good thing since no one could claim that a bunch of Officers were railroading an enlisted Marine.

After the verdict was read, we came back for sentencing on Monday. We heard some additional testimony and then went back to the deliberation room were we came up with a punishment.

Sorry folks, but that is about all I can talk about. I would love to talk about how the testimony affected me and the balance between duty and emotion. Between being an impartial jury member and man with feelings, opinions, and emotions.

I would love to talk about some of the witnesses, about the defendant, and the inner turmoil of having someone’s future in your hands.

And I would absolutely love to discuss the Marine Corps-wide implications on what was dubbed one of the biggest trials in modern Marine Corps history that will serve as a case study for years to come.

But alas, I can’t. At least not is such a public forum.

So, now that that’s over, I can get on to the next thing. Not to downplay the importance of the trial because I took it very seriously and aspects of it will stay with me the rest of my life. Like so many other things, I won’t have much time to process it, examine how it affects me, and come to proper terms with it.

Because, like I said, here comes the next thing which, unfortunately, is flying to Kansas to bury my last and favorite grandparent.

Free Advice for Today: “Plant a tree on your birthday.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.