My jury service is ended. After four hours of waiting in the hallway outside the courtroom yesterday, and 45 minutes of it this morning, the panel was released with thanks from the presiding judge. Since it was a felony murder, attempted murder and armed robbery case, I assume there was some manner of plea bargain arranged.
I’m glad for that, because I was really bothered yesterday about the potential for sitting on this jury—not because of the aggravation or the time lost from work or any of that. I was agonizing because of the way the Florida system works as regards the death penalty.
Felony murder is a capital offense in Florida, but as I understand it, the jury only adjudicates the guilt or innocence of the defendant—it isn’t involved in the penalty phase of the process. The judge hinted at that in her early remarks to the panel yesterday, that the jury would not be concerned with the death penalty.
What bothered me was the uncertainty in that statement. Did she mean that the death penalty wouldn’t be on the table, or was she simply describing the Florida statute? If it was the former, then I would have no objections to serving on the jury, but if it was the latter, then I couldn’t do it.
That’s the level of my objection to the death penalty; I couldn’t be a party to it, even if I believed the defendant was guilty. I would refuse to convict a person if it meant that person might face execution. I spent a lot of time last night working up my argument for the judge, in case it came up during selection this morning.
It didn’t, and I’m relieved. Now back to regular life.