News has emerged within the last week of a judge in Maryland being forced to toss out a manslaughter trial after a Witness juror declared she could no longer participate due to her religious beliefs.
Officer Adrian Morris (pictured) was killed on August 20, 2012, after his cruiser crashed while chasing the defendant, 24-year-old Kevon Neal, following an attempted break-in at a gas station.
The court had already heard three days of testimony when the juror sent a note to Circuit Court Judge Michael R. Pearson at about 1am declaring that her religious beliefs did not allow her to “sit in judgment of another human being.”
According to the Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, the juror told the judge that “she didn’t have a dog in this fight,” that she wasn’t sure whether there was enough evidence, and she didn’t want to be involved. She is also said to have explained that she didn’t alert the court sooner because she needed to “do research about her beliefs to discover what her beliefs are.”
“I think this was disgraceful on the part of this juror,” Alsobrooks told the Washington Post. “We expended tremendous resources presenting this case.”
The case will now have to be retried, with fresh dates yet to be set. The unnamed juror will also need to appear before the judge at a hearing on February 24, and will be found in contempt of court unless she can prove there was no deliberate attempt to be uncooperative.
In addition to the waste of resources, the mistrial will also prolong the anguish of Officer Morris’ family, who were in attendance throughout the proceedings.
“It’s been a painful three days, not only for the police department but also for Adrian’s family,” Police Chief Mark Magaw commented, before adding that if a retrial “is what we need to do to uphold his memory and honor him, that’s what we’ll do.”
Unable to think for herself
Three alternative jurors are said to have been released before the proceedings began, and yet the Witness juror’s note suggests she was unable to let any one of these stand in for her. Why? Because she was uncertain at that stage of precisely what her beliefs were.
Only after days of research, presumably in Watchtower publications, was this woman able to figure out her own beliefs, and conclude that these required her to sabotage a manslaughter trial at considerable public expense, causing added trauma to the family of the young man who was killed.
This should tell us everything we need to know about what it means to be a Jehovah’s Witness. The Governing Body now micromanages the lives of Witnesses to such an extent that even a call to jury duty prompts individuals such as this woman to do “research” – in other words, to seek the permission of Watchtower as to whether they can get involved or not.
It cannot be known for sure, but likely the woman will have consulted the 1997 Questions From Readers article, entitled “What should a Christian do when called for jury duty?” It reads, in part…
“What if a Christian does not feel that his conscience permits him to serve on a particular jury? The Bible does not mention jury duty, so he cannot say, ‘It is against my religion to serve on any jury.’ Depending on the case, he might state that serving on the jury for a particular case is against his personal conscience. That might be so if a case involves sexual immorality, abortion, manslaughter, or another issue on which his thinking is shaped by Bible knowledge, not by mere secular law. In reality, though, it is quite possible that the trial he is selected for does not involve such issues.
A mature Christian would also reflect on whether he would share any responsibility for the sentence rendered by judges. (Compare Genesis 39:17-20; 1 Timothy 5:22.) If a guilty verdict is in error and the death penalty is imposed, would a Christian on the jury share bloodguilt? (Exodus 22:2; Deuteronomy 21:8; 22:8; Jeremiah 2:34; Matthew 23:35; Acts 18:6) At Jesus’ trial Pilate wanted to be ‘innocent of the blood of this man.’ The Jews readily said: ‘His blood come upon us and upon our children.’—Matthew 27:24, 25.” (w97 4/1 p.27)
Considering Watchtower’s admission that “the Bible does not mention jury duty,” the writers of the above article nevertheless find an impressive number of scriptures with which to bombard the reader.
It would come as no surprise to me if certain more weak-minded Witnesses decided to take the easy option by bailing out of jury duty just to be on the safe side, especially if it is absurdly suggested that a juror might “share any responsibility for the sentence rendered by judges.”
And so we find that the Governing Body’s constant tinkering not only robs Witnesses of the ability to think for themselves. In this case, it also impacts on a grieving family of non-Witnesses who must suffer the anguish of a retrial that should never have been necessary.
- Washington post article “Pr. George’s trial in fatal police chase tossed because of juror’s religious beliefs“
- Washington post article “Prince George’s officer killed in I-95 crash“
- Washington post article “Trial begins for suspect in fatal Pr. George’s police chase; Off. Adrian Morris died“
- NBC news report
- Freethinker magazine article