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My schedule was interrupted for a few days last week while I was on jury duty. It was an interesting experience, although it was quite disturbing at times. The man on trial had been accused of statutory rape. We found him guilty on all charges, so I suppose the term "accused" is no longer proper. He was a foster father who was having sex with his under aged foster daughters. The first girl was in his home for seven months, during which she had a birthday. This meant that there were two charges concerning his relationship with her, one when she was fourteen and one when she was fifteen. The second girl was only in the home for two weeks. She was fifteen. There was one charge concerning his relationship with her.
The second girl reported this man's activities to her guidance counselor, which is how law enforcement became involved. Her case was easy for us. There was DNA evidence and she was examined by a S.A.N.E. nurse (Sexual Abuse Nurse Examiner). The nurse testified in court that the recent tear in the girl's vagina was from a blunt force that was consistent with a sexual attack.
The first girl's case had us debating for some time. It was more of a "he said/she said" situation. The judge had instructed us to use our common sense and to determine who was telling the truth using the same skills we use in daily life. He also said that circumstantial evidence could be as important as direct evidence. We listened to witnesses, none of whom had seen anything first hand, and we weighed the pattern of behavior this man demonstrated. We each tried to determine our own threshold for "reasonable doubt" and, in the end, we all decided that the girl was the one telling the truth.
The man knew the backgrounds of the two girls and the fact that neither of them had anyplace to go if they lost their home with him and his wife. He seemed to be taking advantage of their desperate situation. The assistant district attorney referred to him as a predator and that was clearly accurate.
It is always difficult to look back on a situation like this one. I'm certain we did the right thing, but it is still hard to know how our decision impacted this man's life. I must admit I'm very happy to be back to writing and to the fictional problems of my characters.