What Jury Duty Teaches Us About Evidence

Jury duty taught me an important lesson about evidence recently. If you’ve been following me on social media, you know I have been serving on a jury for the better part of the last two weeks.  

I have heard some horror stories about serving on a jury.  My experience was just the opposite.  I met some truly amazing people.  What I witnessed was people presenting  their arguments passionately, but never in anger or disrespectfully.  We were a diverse group that came together and worked well to arrive at a verdict.

The Case Before Us

The case I wound up serving was a criminal trial for attempted murder. As it turned out, the entire crime was captured on video.    You would think that having that clear of a view of what happened would have made for a quick and easy decision.  That turned out not to be the case.

Day 1 Of Deliberation

What we can learn about evidence from jury duty.

Our deliberations took almost as long as the trial itself.  When we took an initial pole of the jurors, most were leaning towards a guilty verdict. We all felt that we owed it to the defendant to review the evidence and be sure of our decision.  As the first day progressed, we still had a few people that were withholding judgement, and one stuck squarely on an innocent verdict. 

Day 2 Of Deliberation

By day two, 11 of us had arrived at decision to vote guilty.  One person was still staunchly holding to an innocent verdict however. As hard as we all tried, the rest of us were unable to convince the hold out to swing their vote to guilty.  I finally asked if there was any way that the person could see themselves changing their vote, and they replied “No”.

At that point we decided we needed to tell the judge we were at an impasse. Our foreperson called for the deputy, and informed the judge we were hung.  The judge had us return to the courtroom.  As he began questioning us on our deliberations, a strange thing happened. The hold out asked that we be given further instructions and return to deliberations. I was a bit shocked by this development.  Hadn’t they just told me that there was no way they could change their vote?

Day 3 Of Deliberation

This development happened at the end of day 2, and we were ordered to return for a 3rd day of deliberation.   Both the prosecution and the defense were allowed to restate their closing arguments.  We all filed back into our room to continue deliberating.  I think we were all prepared to engage in more persuasion, but something unexpected happened.

How does our emotional state change the way we view evidence in a jury trial?

The lone holdout announced that they were changing their vote to guilty.  I think we were all a bit shocked by the sudden change of heart. The person explained tearfully that they had always been taught to see the best in people and they were just having a difficult time with the decision to convict someone.  With that, we were able to quickly end our deliberations and return a guilty verdict.

Reflections

There’s an important conclusion we can draw from this experience. Our case had overwhelming evidence to show that the defendant was guilty.  The lesson here is that sometimes it’s not the evidence that is at issue when we discuss Jesus with other people.

This blog, website and podcast deal mainly with the evidence for Jesus.  The claim is often made that there is no evidence for God.  This is nonsense.  We all see the same evidence, but evidence requires interpretation. It’s like the claim that science tells us everything.  Science tells us nothing.  Scientists are the ones that tells us what the data says. Those same scientists draw their conclusions from that same data. 

Is Evidence Really The Problems?

For the one juror on our panel, it turned out that evidence wasn’t the issue in making their decision.  There was overwhelming evidence to draw a conclusion.  The issue that caused the person to withhold judgement was not evidential, but emotional.  As Tent Making Christians, we can run into the same issue when presenting the case for Jesus and Christianity.  When we present our case, no matter how strong it may be, our message will sometimes be rejected for purely emotional reasons.

Is the problem really a lack of evidence?

There are many who simply don’t WANT God to exist.  We live in a culture that values personal autonomy above all else.  People demand the freedom to have no other person, or even fact of nature, interfere with their personal choices. The ideas of submitting to some authority outside of ourselves is anathema.  We simply won’t stand for it.

So keep this in mind when you are sharing the evidence for Jesus or God with someone.  If my experience at jury duty teaches us anything, it’s that sometimes evidence simply isn’t the problem. 

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