The sixth chapter of Homicide opens in a courtroom where a man is on trial for shooting a police officer in the head. The injuries left the officer completely blind, but alive. This particular case had been open for months until the shooters girlfriend came forward to the detectives. The evidence and the compelling case against the shooter mean that the trial should be a walk in the park.
The jury spends eight hours deliberating before finally delivering the verdict. Terry McLarney, the case’s lead detective, is perplexed.
“I’m losing this jury because I didn’t give them enough. An eyewitness. Corroboration. A jail-house confession. Somehow, it wasn’t enough.” (301)
In the end the jurors decides that the shooter is guilty.
Trial by jury has always confused me. Is it possible to get twelve people to agree on the same verdict? Why do we leave such a serious decision up to a group of civilians? More importantly, how can the jurors leave all of their prejudices at the court room door? Truth is they can’t.
McLarney later finds out that his case involving a white police officer and a black gunman was nearly thrown because of the jury’s competing cultural perceptions of race and police work.
This part of the chapter reminded me of Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film “12 Angry Men,” which looks at the ins and outs of a hung jury in a murder case. Each juror comes from a different background and they all apply their own bias to the case in front of them. The result is a 50/50 split and several long hours confined to the deliberation room.
I’ve never been on a jury or even inside a court room, but isn’t there a better way of declaring someones guilt or innocence?
If you have an hour and a half to spare I recommend watching this, it’s really interesting.