by Constance Daley
The American Reporter
St. Simons Island, Ga.
May 4, 2005
A SUMMONS TO DUTY
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- For the first time in my life I was responding to a summons to appear before the Superior Court of Glynn County, Ga., for jury duty.
I've always wanted to participate but never had the call. Today was a big day for me and yet most others in the jury assembly room had magazines or books, looked bored, checked their watches, mumbled about having tried to "get out of it," but here we all were - about 350 in the large, bench-filled room newly designed and comfortable.
The roll call took exactly an hour as Lola Jamsky, the Clerk of Superior Court, spoke each name, enunciating carefully with no difficulty pronouncing names of those potential jurors whose origins spanned the globe.
Jamsky announced with an amused smile that if our name had not been called, and if she didn't hear a "present" from us, we wouldn't get a check. Oh, a check. That's right, we get paid for jury duty. The amount was said to be anywhere from $20 to $50 but I won't really know until the check arrives.
However, there was a glitch. Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett came into the room fully robed, as if ready to begin the proceedings, but instead made an announcement. First, he thanked us for our appearance and for our willingness to serve on the jury. The administration of justice in the United States is based on the jury system and our participating in the process was of paramount importance.
Judge Scarlett then told us the case we were to be selected for had to be delayed because the primary attorney for the defendant fell ill and was hospitalized in Atlanta. Therefore, we were to be excused. Our names would be returned to the docket, we would be called again, but not in the next rotation.
We would be paid, and then he paused, wanting to speak further about the case we were not going to hear. In this case, the grand jury indicted a man accused of a double homicide and armed robbery.
Scarlett further explained this is a capital case. In a capital case, the jury determines the guilt or innocence of the defendant and, if the verdict is guilty, approximately two weeks later, the jury fixes the punishment at death by lethal injection or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He advised that if anyone had religious or moral convictions precluding his being able to vote for the death penalty, he should not serve.
Well, now. Where do I stand? I am totally against abortion. It's not even debatable. I am against euthanasia, any mercy killing at all. And, I'm against capital punishment for just any homicide, for instance, against executing all three men robbing a 7-Eleven when only one has a gun. Sure, the others are just as guilty of the holdup, they knew that going in to the convenience store, but did they know the hothead in their threesome would shoot when they said there would be no shooting? Punishment, yes. Death sentence, no.
In the case I was being excused from, the alleged killer and an accomplice (to be tried separately) lured his uncle and his uncle's employee (also his friend) to a railroad track and shot them - one in the head, the other multiple times in the back. All this happened in the year 2000 and it's finally coming to trial.
We know what happened and we know who has been indicted for perpetrating the crime. But we won't know beyond the shadow of a doubt if the nephew is the murderer. We would have to see the evidence and base our opinion - nay, our judgment - on what it tells us.
If what is suggested is confirmed, absolutely confirmed, and if all the evidence proves these men did indeed lure the two men to the railroad tracks with the express purpose of killing them, then I would have no problem casting my vote for the death penalty. The key word is "lure." Prove that to me and you've told me the murder was pre-meditated.
With the penalty of death by lethal injection we show our humanity. We're not the dregs of society putting a bullet into someone's head and then firing multiple bullets into the back. But we can give those who would a taste of what it must have been like to look death in the face.
By the way, it doesn't matter if the victims in this case happen to be scoundrels themselves; why would they meet someone on a railroad track that dark night? They might have been carrying a lot of cash for a supposed "buy." They might have been no strangers to the prison system. But, that's irrelevant.
This story has been running in local papers for almost five years. The accused will finally have their days in court. Their lawyers will defend them against the state's prosecutor, who will present the evidence to try to convict them. No stone will be left unturned as both sides zealously commit themselves to legal maneuvers to exonerate or convict.
I won't be on that jury, but if I were, I am confident I would do the right thing. So help me God.