When I was 18 years old I served on a jury in Boston. The person on trial was a young black kid who was being tried for accessory to a crime. The kid who actually committed the crime had already been tried and sentenced. He mugged an old lady and stole her purse. The kid on my trial was being accused of driving the getaway car. Even as I write this, 20 years later, I think to myself, What mugger plans that well, to have a getaway car?
Anyway, before the trial started, the judge looked me in the eye and asked if would be able to make a decision that was beyond a reasonable doubt if I found him guilty and if not, I had to acquit. I answered, "Yes" and I meant it. I am a big believer in the value of my word.
As the trial started, I sat there listening and watching. The DA didn't seem trustworthy (but that wasn't a fact). They brought the old lady in and I felt bad for her (but that wasn't a fact, and the guy who mugged her had already been tried and I wasn't supposed to consider that into my decision). "Beyond a reasonable doubt," I kept telling myself. The cop that took the stand came across as aggressive and racist (but that was not a fact.)
The kid took the stand and his alibi was that he was helping his sister move to Boston College when his friend flagged him down. I thought, His sister goes to college, he's a nice brother (but that was emotional, not a fact). And I'll even go as far as to say I'm a sucker for people — I always see the good (but again, not a fact).
It was up to the DA to prove that this kid was only in that spot to pick up the mugger and he needed to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
He did not do that.
We sat in the deliberating room and it was 11 to 1: 11 guilty and 1 not guilty. I was the not guilty. They were going to sequester us. The last thing in the world I wanted to do at 18 was get stuck in a hotel with a bunch of old people, especially old people who would be pissed at me because I was the reason that they didn't get to go home to see their families. But I was willing to do it because I gave the judge my word.
They argued with me. They brought up the old lady and I had compassion. Some of them were racist, and it pulled on my own racism, but, again, I kept going back to the facts. It was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. All the rest was just noise.
They said, "Sue, what if he does it again?" And I argued back, “What if you charge an innocent boy with a crime that he didn't commit? A black kid growing up in Boston who was helping his sister move to Boston College? What if one of your family members were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time? Wouldn't you want the jury to know they were right beyond a reasonable doubt before sentencing?” I argued emotions because I believed the facts.
I also believe in humanity and the consequence that quick judgement can have on a human life which, in turn, affects our society.
I turned that jury around by the end of the day: the vote was 12 to 0.
I was thinking the other day, How did I do that? And it hit me — because there was no doubt in my mind about what was right. All the other chatter was emotions but the facts were the facts.
I have no attachment to the Boston Fire Department. I don't even live in Boston but I am moved to speak up for what I believe and that what's right is right.
The Boston Fire Department and the City of Boston could not reach a labor agreement and both parties agreed to go to arbitration. The arbitrator voted in favor of the fire fighters. In any legal matter this judgement would be binding. Boston needs the legislative branch to approve the budget so the city is using emotions to turn the people against the BFD and in turn the people are calling the city council men in a rage. The city councilmen want to be re-elected.
All I'm saying is what's fair is fair. It has nothing to do with anything but the facts and I still believe that someone’s word is everything. Both sides agreed to accept the arbitrator’s decision. The city can appeal, they can play ball on the up and up. All this lowball oppressive stuff is only going to hurt everyone.
I also believe that the damage that not respecting the word or the arbitrator will affect society as a whole. If those firemen feel like nothing is right and fair then they will become more and more angry and disheartened. This will cause more drug and alcohol problems and eventually more lives will be lost. The most important being the hope of those guys who climb the ladders to save people will be crushed. This is both emotional and fact. I'm not afraid to say what I believe. You know why? Because I believe it beyond a reasonable doubt.