One of our jurors is often late. Public transport is poor in her village, and she’s stuck with it because she can’t afford to park in the city. The court will pay for bus fares, but not parking. She just makes it for 10am and the jury is brought into court again a few minutes later. The judge summarises the evidence carefully, taking each witness in turn and reminding us to read the agreed facts. We may return to the courtroom as many times as we wish to see the CCTV footage again, but it must not be removed from the court. The judge points out that, although Lloyd Wick answered police questions, he did not give an alibi. He just said he wasn’t there. “That is not an alibi,” the judge says. “It is an assertion.”
He is dismissive of George Drummond’s alibi, saying we are entitled to wonder why it was not forthcoming earlier. DC Hampson should not be criticised for failing to contact the alibi witnesses. After all, we know one of the telephone numbers given by Drummond didn’t work. Even if we decide Drummond’s alibi is false, however, we should be aware that individuals falsify alibis for a number of reasons. For example, they may have been somewhere else that they wouldn’t want others to know about. If we choose to ignore the alibi, we must still convict Drummond only if the prosecution has proved his guilt otherwise.
The CCTV evidence is of insufficient quality to identify anyone by itself, but it may be used to support Daniel Hart’s identifications. We may similarly use it to exclude suspects, bearing in mind its poor quality, the judge says.
The jury should now retire to the jury room, where we will stay until we can reach a unanimous verdict on all charges.
The law does not allow me to say anything about the jury’s discussions, but suffice to say that we reach unanimous verdicts on all charges. We agree that Drummond is innocent, whilst Goodman and Wick are guilty of the charges of violence.
As soon as we are seated on the benches again, the judge directs the defendants to stand. He then asks the foreman of the jury to stand too. Our elected foreman rises to his feet.
“Have you reached verdicts on all counts put before you?” The judge asks.
“We have,” he replies.
“And are you all agreed on them?”
The clerk to the court, a young blonde, stand and speaks for the first time. She begins with the drugs-related offence. “Do you find the defendant, Mr Jacob Goodman, guilty or not guilty of offering to supply a Class A drug to Mr Daniel Hart?”
“Is that not guilty?”
She reads out the other charges, one by one, dealing with each defendant separately on each count. Whenever the foreman says “Not guilty”, she asks him to confirm that.
“Thank you,” the judge says when the foreman has finished. He looks at the dock. “Mr Drummond, you are free to go.”
Young Drummond looks stunned. He does not smile. For a second, he glances sympathetically at another defendant – not his friend, Goodman, but his acquaintance, Wick. I suppose Goodman’s case was dead in the water as soon as he admitted he was in the bar that night. Then Drummond walks from the dock a free man, clutching a large plastic carrier bag. “Thank you,” he says to the judge and jury.
A man who has sat in the public gallery for most of the proceedings leaves the court with him. He is perhaps in his thirties. Who is he? Drummond’s brother or father? Drummond is lucky to have supporters, but most precious of all, he has his freedom.
That evening, I walk through the city, looking at the Friday night revellers with a lump in my throat. I give thanks to God that I have my life and my liberty.
But all that is several hours away. Right now, Smith anxiously asks the judge to sentence Goodman quickly, as he has been on remand for a long time. The judge agrees speed is desirable, and offers a slot next week.
That puts Miss Barry under pressure, as the judge wants to sentence Goodman and Wick together, and she needs to get pre-sentencing reports for Wick. “I’m not sure I can do it in time,” she says.
He gives her short shrift, but at least allows Wick to walk free on bail, as his record is nothing like as serious as Goodman’s. The hapless Goodman is returned to prison. “And now, members of the jury, let me thank you,” he says. “It’s not easy to make those kind of decisions. Between you and me, and this is just a personal view, even if you discounted Mr Drummond’s alibi, your decision to acquit him was correct based on the evidence presented to you.” He says we can come back to view the sentencing from the public gallery, but back in the lounge, cheery old Andy tells us we’ll almost certainly be fully occupied on new juries next week.
So we head out into the sunshine. I walk away from the drama of the week, past the bar where several young men had that fateful argument, and back to my beautiful quiet life.
My jury service took place a month ago. Read more about it here – I posted a blog every day this week:
Note – all names have been changed