My first case as a juror was a civil suit in federal court. The central question was whether police applied excessive force in using a stun gun to remove a noisy drunk from an icy rooftop after the neighbors complained.
Two lessons stay with me decades later. First, thinking you’re unbiased doesn’t make you so. I hope we all meant it when we promised we could judge impartially based on the evidence. As foreman, I wanted to throttle a juror who insisted whatever a cop said must be true, and another who said the same of any complaint against a cop. We took as many days to agree on a verdict as to hear the evidence.
Second, it’s not always as simple as yes or no. Could the police have restored neighborhood peace without the stun gun? Of the four who testified, we thought one had the skills to talk the guy off the roof. Unfortunately, that cop was down on the street. The less articulate cop on the roof, if he hadn't had the stun gun, might have gotten into a tussle in which he and the noisy drunk would have slid off the roof and broken both their necks.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.