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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Adulthood (07/30/09)

TITLE: Juror Number Four
By Mona Purvis
08/04/09


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Twelve of us sat scrutinizing one another. Each of us bringing life experiences just as flawed and scarred as the dented and scratched up conference table around which we gathered.

This jury pool of one's peers included me, Jane Brown. Not Jayne Brown or Jane Browne or any other rendering. I am the epitome of plain Jane, a stay-at-home mother of two, married to my childhood sweetheart Tom Brown.

As arbitrator of daily conflicts between eight-year-old twins, I get the importance of an impartial verdict.

The court officer greeted us. “Follow me. There will be no talking as you enter the courtroom.”

Surprised to find the courtroom filled, I quickly slid into a well-worn cherry chair at the front of the jury box sealing my identity as juror number four. Seated to my left, number three was a multi-tattooed truck driver and to my right number five was a petite, impeccably dressed career woman.

“All rise for The Honorable Judge Martin Gentry.”

“You may be seated.” Judge Gentry said as he walked to the bench wasting no time. Already I knew he was a no-nonsense judicator.

Bailiff: “Your Honor, this is the case of Robert Hawkins vs. The State of Connecticut.”

All eyes turned to the Defense table to see the accused, Robert Hawkins. My heart skipped a beat as I realized he was but ...a boy, no bigger than my nephew Paul whom I often had to chide for standing with my refrigerator door open. This boy was being tried as an adult.

Still stunned, my attention went to the Prosecutor, a corpulent man who was offering his opening statements. Sifting through all the legalese and showmanship of the Prosecutor, I learned that Robert was accused of armed robbery of a convenience store. Police had apprehended him driving the get-away car. The Prosecution pointed out that his participation made him as guilty as the man who had held up the clerk at gunpoint.

My heart grew heavier as I sat listening to attorneys and witnesses. It was apparent the “tough on crime” laws were hard at work. The desire to see criminals behind bars had launched the controversial practice of trying juveniles as adults if the crime warrants. Adult court with adult sentences meant putting young offenders into prison with career criminals who are tougher, bigger and abusive.

Could I close prison doors on this small young boy who sat quietly while he was maligned? He looked so frightened. His court-appointed attorney said little to him and offered few objections to testimony. Robert glanced often at a woman who I took to be his mother.

The proceedings went rapidly, not at all the Perry Mason or Matlock trials of TV shows. By mid-afternoon the jury was dismissed to deliberate.

Walking back into the jury room I had a terrible sense of dread. I had many unanswered questions.

“What choice do we have? He was caught driving the car.” The jury foreman was a tall distinguished man who spoke with a quiet voice. I could tell he had doubts of Robert's collaboration in the robbery.

“ We can refuse to find him guilty.” The voice came from a little white-haired lady who could double for Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, sitting toward the back never missing a crochet stitch as she spoke.

Continuing on she said, “It's called jury nullification. We have the right to refuse to find the defendant guilty if we believe the verdict would be unjust. Regardless of the evidence. We can acquit for any reason that appeals to us and the courts must abide by the decision.”

“ I can't see sending a juvenile to an adult prison....sexual abuse...suicide.”

“He is just a boy. Not sure he even knew what was going on.”

“His attorney was lame.”

“ No evidence he had ever been in trouble.”

Murmurs went around the room. The first vote was nine to three to acquit. The second vote was unanimous to acquit.

Our verdict sent a message to the Connecticut legislation. Trying a juvenile as an adult is a very serious matter. In Robert Hawkins's case we could not judge him as an adult. We hope we made the right decision. Only God knows. I pray for him daily.


Author's Note: The majority of juveniles being tried and jailed in the adult system are not violent offenders.


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This article has been read 647 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dan Blankenship 08/06/09
WOW! I could not stop reading. And as someone who has never had the pleasure (but wants it) of serving on jury duty, I agree that I would have a hard time sending a juvenile to an adult prison unless the crime was extremely evil.


Writings like this is exactly why FaithWriters is the best writing site on the Internet, period!

Great work!
May God bless and keep you writing forever.
Sincerely,
Dan Blankenship


Robyn Burke08/06/09
This kept my attention throughout. What an excellent take on the topic! Very descriptive, good word pairings. enjoyed this very much.
Fiona Dorothy Stevenson08/08/09
Thank you. Having been a jury member I do appreciate the difficulties of this case. You have told your story well, believably, without undue emotional stress. Keep writing. God bless you.
Helen Dowd 08/10/09
What a decision was before the jury. I'm so glad that the little "adult" was not sent to prison to become a hardened ADULT....You told the story well. I read, spellbound, the whole way through, thinking all along, "I hope he is acquitted."...Thanks for your very true-to-life tale...Helen
Eliza Evans 08/10/09
What an excellent, excellent take on the topic, Mona! Yay You! Superb.
Edmond Ng 08/10/09
I was just reading about a teen being sentenced as an adult two weeks ago while writing on the topic of adolescence, without giving a thought about how the trial could have been unfair. Your writing has helped me visualized what other things could be involved in a case such as this. Thank you for sharing this story.
Mariane Holbrook08/10/09
What a superb entry! You can be proud of the way you hold your readers spell-bound all the way through it! Kudos!
Connie Dixon08/11/09
Great writing. Lots of insight and depth to this story. Really enjoyed it.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/11/09
This was just outstanding all the way through!
Ada Nett08/11/09
I could not stop reading till the end...
Catrina Bradley 08/11/09
What a great story for this topic! And what a tough decision to make, to let a guilty person go free. Why can't they simply treat juveniles as juveniles? He could have been punished for his crime in a place meant for juveniles. Wow, lots to think about. Good job.
Kathi Mizelle08/11/09
A touching story. I think it's terrible to have kids tried as adults. I'm glad you wrote this.
Sara Harricharan 08/12/09
I like Jane Brown. She is a very distinct character and the atmosphere you created around her is so very, very real! I cannot help but enjoy this piece, in spite of the suspense throughout. Great job!
Loren T. Lowery08/12/09
Very well presented. I had never heard the term, "jury nullification" - good thing your Christie lady was there to give the uncertain jurist a way out as their conscience was leading. This is a very well-written, thought provoking piece. And as such, I'm not certain how I would have voted had I been on the jury, but you've certainly presented a good case for cause and reason to acquit. Then again one can't help but wonder what the accused will do with his "2nd" chance.
Laury Hubrich 08/12/09
This is a very good entry. Wow. Excellent way to present the topic.
Patricia Turner08/12/09
You kept me wanting to know if this poor kid was going to get off or if the book was going to be thrown at him. A terrificly written treatment of a very tough topic.
Lisa Johnson 08/13/09
Congratulations on your third place win. I have served on a jury before, and actually got sequestered. It was very difficult...I can not imagine how much more difficult it would have been had the defendant been a juvenile being tried as an adult. Great writing about a very hard subject.
Lisa
Sara Harricharan 08/13/09
Yay!!! Congrats, Mona!!
Seema Bagai 08/13/09
Good story with a great message here. Congrats on the win.
Helen Dowd 08/14/09
Second comment, just to congratulate you on your third place win. I liked the story first time and like it the second time...Keep up the great work...Helen
Dan Blankenship 08/19/09
Congrats on the win! You deserved it...

May God bless!

Pat Sipperly08/27/09
Excellent story!

I also wanted to ask you, you made a comment on my story "Winter Kill" that I should "show" more, "tell" less. Would you please help me to understand where I could do that more in the story? I seem to learn better by examples. Thanks!