A fast verdict 1

Verdict returned on Aurora gunman, guilty on all 165 counts. I don’t really have any commentary on the case itself, other than profound sadness at the senselessness of it all, anger about gun control issues; the standard feeling I have about mass shootings.

What I did want to comment on is the “speed” of the verdict. 165 counts decided in about 12-13 hours, depending on the article you read. I’ve seen multiple people mention that this is fast or speedy in a sort of wondering way. With that kind of time, it averages out to about 4-5 minutes spent per count.

I actually don’t think it’s that fast, all told. I’m not the world’s greatest expert on juries, but I’ve now actually gotten to serve on one, which is an experience I know isn’t universal, so I thought I’d share a little. It is so not like TV.

The case I served on was civil rather than criminal, but I get the impression the process is fairly similar. (I just haven’t blogged about it before now because, while I’m allowed to talk about it if I want, I’m uncomfortable with the notion of getting in to details.) Anyway, the trial I served on lasted about three and a half days. We had seven questions to consider at the end; I was foreman for the jury. And it basically went like this: I’d read the question out loud, poll the other jurors, and if the answer was unanimous, move on. It took us about 25 minutes to cover 7 questions (averaging <4 minutes per question). And the only reason it actually took that long was because there was one question where we disagreed about a monetary amount and decided to discuss in order to regain our unanimity (which was unnecessary, technically, since I was the hold out, but we wanted to be unanimous if we could), and then a pause when we wrote a question to the judge for clarification just to be sure about something. Had neither of those things happened, we would have finished all seven questions in well under 10 minutes.

So I’m not claiming to know what exactly went on in deliberations, but I’m not necessarily surprised. You don’t really discuss if everyone agrees already. So to me, it doesn’t sound like they rushed, it sounded like the jurors probably agreed on nearly everything and maybe just had a issues they had to talk about. I just wanted to point this out in case there’s an impression that maybe things weren’t given enough gravity just due to speed; if everyone has been attentive and serious about the issues, they probably already know how they will vote on the various charges as they sit down. And if everyone agrees? It’s going to be quick.

I’m guessing the prosecution did a really good job, though obviously I don’t know one way or another. But that’s immediately what it sounded like to me.

One comment on “A fast verdict

  1. Reply Schnauzermom Jul 16,2015 21:38

    I don’t think there was really any question that he committed the acts for which he was accused, so I don’t think much discussion was required.I think if there had been any real discussion it would have had to center on whether he was actually sane or insane. I read an article the other day that pointed out if you support the death penalty (and all the jurors, in order to serve, had state that they would be able to support that if that’s where a guilty verdict took things) you would be unlikely to be convinced that he could be found innocent by reason of insanity. Most people think that to be insane you have to be a gibbering drooling incompetent who wouldn’t even be able to recognize a gun as a weapon. Which is not the case at all. The M’naughten Rule, conceived in the mid 1800’s and still used, I think, boils down to this — does the defendant know the difference between right and wrong? Now we know a lot more about mental illness in its many forms, and it is quite possible for someone to know an act is illegal or considered wrong and still be compelled by their illness/delusion to do it. But jurisprudence has not caught up with the science.

    Holmes said that by killing the people in the theater, he would somehow “take” the sum of their lives and add it to his own, increasing his power, for starters. Sounds batty to me, but what do I know?

    I understand people think if you’re found insane that somehow you’ve “gotten away with it” or “gotten off.” But if someone could be remanded to an institution for the criminally insane for the rest of their lives, I don’t think that would be exactly a walk in the park. Or if they were sentenced to life in prison — our new mental institutions for the criminally insane and the emotionally disturbed — that wouldn’t exactly be a picnic either. The important thing is that they would never be released, never threaten society again, but at least we would not be a country that executed crazy people. Holmes’ lawyers offered to plead him guilty in return for a sentence of life without parole. But the prosecutor chose to go the expense of this trial, putting the families through more hell, and if Holmes is sentenced to death there will be appeal after appeal that will reopen the wounds every time. Why? Well, I guess the prosecutor wants to add “put the Aurora theater shooter on death row” to his resume.

    No, I don’t feel any special compassion for James Holmes, before someone accuses me of caring about him more than his victims. I want to live in a country that has decent mental health services. I want to live in a country where it’s harder to get a gun than a driver’s license. And I want to live in a country that is not in the same club as Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, and China.

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