BY KATHY KANE
I have been called for jury duty a few times but have never made it past the waiting area. This time when the summons arrived, I started to think about the possible case. If it involved anything to do with child sex abuse, could I be an impartial juror?
In the Sandusky trial there was overwhelming evidence of guilt, but that is not always the case. Child sex abuse cases rarely have eyewitnesses, multiple victims taking the stand, and a trail of odd behavior and past police calls in reference to the perpetrator. I have read that most cases are hard to prosecute. In those instances, it must be hard to be a juror.
When you hear of a person being arrested for sexually abusing a child, do you automatically assume guilt? What if it’s a priest? Does the emotional response outweigh the understanding that the case needs to be proven in court and the defendant is assumed innocent until proven guilty?
If the victim testifying seems believable but the evidence is weak, could you vote to acquit? Does the juror have the added burden of feeling that if they acquit and are wrong, they just helped release a person back into society who could harm more children? Would the possibility of that make a juror more willing to vote guilty?
I imagine the jury deliberations are very emotional and heated concerning child sex abuse cases. I wonder if a juror feels less at ease playing a devil’s advocate role in these cases for fear they would appear as someone sympathetic to a possible child predator.
The one take away I felt after attending the Lynn and Brennan trial last year was that I was thankful to not be on that jury. I imagine I would have felt the same about the Shero/Englehardt jury.
It is important to be honest and raise the question. I don’t have the answer.
Editor’s note: Kathy and I want to highlight that the percentage of false claims for child sex abuse is quite low according to most recent studies. It’s also important to note the majority of false claims are in relation to divorce and child custody disputes. This essay intends to raise a philosophical question in regard to juror prejudice – not to cast doubt on victims.