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Lessons From Jury Service

September 10, 2015
Attorney at Law Magazine - Twin Cities Edition
Author: Vincent D. Louwagie

“We may be trying to let a guilty man go free, I don’t know. Nobody really can. But we have a reasonable doubt, and that’s something that’s very valuable in our system. No jury can declare a man guilty unless it’s sure.”

–Twelve Angry Men, William Shakespeare

Jury service is one of the most important civic duties a citizen is called upon to perform. Juries help protect our rights and liberties in a fundamental way; through the jury system members of the public decide civil and criminal disputes.

I recently had the privilege of serving on a jury. OK, to be honest, when I received my third summons to jury duty (I was able to get out of serving twice before because of unavoidable conflicts), I didn’t really think of it as a privilege. I considered it an unavoidable annoyance that would take time and billable hours out of my schedule. I didn’t think I would ever actually get on a jury. In any event I had no choice, so I appeared on a Monday morning, as ordered, at the Ramsey County Courthouse.

Lo and behold, soon I was selected to be on a jury. Our case was a criminal prosecution for violation of a no-contact order. After voir dire, very short opening statements, testimony from four witnesses, closing arguments, and instructions from the judge, we deliberated for about two hours before reaching our verdict.

What follows are my random observations as someone who has tried and prepared many cases for trial, but who was not involved in any aspect of this case before trial. I was not involved in developing the strategy. There may be good reasons things happened as they did. I have not talked to either lawyer about their reasoning or strategy. Read more.