I have lived quite a few years on this planet, but I experienced something last week for the very first time… I got the opportunity to serve on a jury.
If it is something you have never done, I hope that you get to serve at least once in your lifetime. In many ways, it is a real eye-opener… as you experience our criminal justice system up-close and personal.
Of course, because of my inquisitive nature, I do not just serve… I have to observe and learn. Our court system has never been, nor will ever be, a perfect system. But it does give those who are charged with a crime a decent chance to tell their side of the story – even if it is told through someone else’s voice (the defense attorney!).
This particular case was a drug possession crime. The officer involved stopped a truck for a minor infraction… which turned into a major incident – as the passenger in the vehicle quickly became the focus (and the suspect) in a criminal action.
The members of the jury were able to view the whole incident through the lens of the police officer’s body camera – as he recorded every detail of the 30 minutes in question. Here’s what I learned…
First, details matter. Both the prosecution lawyer and the defense lawyer spent most of the four-hour trial hammering away at the tiniest of things. From details in the police report, to issues of timing, to the bits of trash that were strewn on the vehicle floor and seats – everything had an implication or an inference or a meaning that was used to try and sway the view of all twelve jurors. In the end, it was just one significant insignificance that led to the defendant’s conviction.
The whole case depended upon the ownership of a bag, found in the vehicle, that contained some items commonly used in illegal drug use… and a curiously-bent spoon that showed traces of an “off-white residue.” The officer’s field test revealed another detail… the spoon contained a “controlled substance” of which, possession was a crime.
The state’s contention was… the bag belonged to the passenger in the vehicle. The defense claimed… the bag belonged to someone else.
In all honesty, the defense made the better case… but they could not overcome one glaring detail that eventually doomed their case. Inside the bag, containing the drug paraphernalia and the spoon, was an empty glasses case. The case was so insignificant that it neither made it into the seized evidence or the officer’s crime report. It was so trivial that the prosecutor never even mentioned it.
But on the officer’s video, there it was… and the one piece of condemning evidence that tied the defendant to the bag in question.
In the video, the defendant was holding the glasses in his hand.
All the time, all the talk, all the evidence, all the questions and cross-examination all came down to a 5-second portion of a video – that condemned a man to prison for several years.
I said all that to say this… The details of all our lives matter. Sometimes it is the most insignificant things that can have the greatest impact on the people around us.
As a father of five children, I am constantly reminded that my children have been watching me (even if I thought they weren’t). They are looking to see if the details of my life line up with the things I claim are important to me. They are looking for consistency. Integrity. In what I say and what I do. Most of all, they are looking to see if my commitment to Jesus is just words and ideals… or a real dedication that produces the genuine love of Christ within me.
The same is true for you. If you are a believer in Jesus, the Bible tells us that we are “a city on a hill… that cannot be hidden.” (Mt. 5:14)
Our lives are the focus of all the real life “body cameras” out there who are observing the details of our lives – seeking to see if the evidence of our lives condemns us as phony… or confirms that we, and our faith, are true.