One of my students had Jury Duty in April. He agreed to a sit-down with me at a nearby Starbucks to go over his adventure, which he credits his studies in Anatomy in helping him make a decision and be a leader in the jury room.
Now if I can just read my notes…
I’ll call him John. Quite generic, isn’t it?
John was chosen to be a juror for a criminal trial. Don’t think you can’t be chosen. He’s just a college-aged student like most of you are. The jurors were chosen on Wednesday, and the trial started on Thursday, and they spent most of Monday with the deliberation.
The guy on trial
Some guy punched another guy in the face 2 years ago, in 2010. The attacker was charged with aggravated assault with great bodily injury. Defendant said it was self-defense. Prosecutor said it was revenge. The two knew each other. One called the other names, the attacker felt disrespected.
Jurors saw the damage in the victim’s face: broken nasal bone, and broken zygomatic bone. A doctor said something about a 4th degree Type I fracture of the maxilla. The doctor didn’t dumb the information down. He kept it technical. It was important to know your stuff to understand what he’s talking about.
John remembered these small bones when he studied the opened-up skull (some labs have an “exploded” skull too where you see these bones). These bones were hard to reach through all the muscle, and they are not brittle.
The most influential witness was the doctor, who said the attacker must punch with 150-250 pounds of force to damage those bones. The prosecutor asked if it could be caused by a fist or a hand; the doctor said it was possible, but a slim chance. It’s likely that the damage was done by brass knuckes – possession of which is illegal in California.
Police never found any brass knuckles and the defendant said he didn’t have it. It’s likely he tossed it after the attack. But by using it, the “great bodily injury” charge was added that gives more time in jail.
In the Jury Deliberation Room …
There was a Paramedic and Radiology Tech in the jury. But questions always came back to John, even though he was among the youngest on the jury. They turn to him and say, you’re in anatomy, what do you think?
It was pretty easy that the Defendant would be guilty of the assault, but what about the added charge of great bodily injury? That’s what most of the deliberation centered on. Could the damage be caused by the fist alone? Could he punch in a way to damage those bones the way he did without brass knuckles? Not for that depth, or that concentrated damage.
They analyzed physiology and physics too – how you would punch to increase energy force: a backhand vs. a straight punch … using the pectoral muscles to increase the energy force.
In the end he was convicted on the aggravated assault with great bodily energy.
John says: Anatomy is important, even if not going into the medical field. It’ll help out in life, like when you’re sick. It’s important in helping you stand on your own and making your own thoughts and conclusions, and not relying on others.
Many people lack critical thinking skills and just follow what other people say. Imagine a jury room controlled by a couple people. It could swing on a whim! Or a person who believes differently because he/she understood anatomy wrong – could cause a stall in the deliberation room – how frustrating! It might even cause the jury to be hopelessly deadlocked!
John realized he was able to draw on his experiences in class and lab to come to his own conclusion, then answer others questions to help them come to a similar decision.
Most people don’t believe in need to understand anatomy. I’ll just look up on WebMD. But in the jury room, you’re not allowed to use the PC, or go on your own research or experience.
The judge said, they’ve got to rely on their 500 years’ combined life experience by itself to reach a judgment. What do you have in your life experience? Do you have enough anatomy knowledge?