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Jen Keane @zenbuffy
, 19 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Seeing a lot of "they're innocent til proven guilty" and "this means they are innocent" tweets about #Belfast today, so I thought I'd share what it was like being on a jury for rape and sexual assault.
I was the foreperson on a trial a short time ago, for a rape and sexual assault that happened approx. 2 years prior to the trial. As part of the process, the burden of proof was explained in detail to the jury members, as was our duty in relation to this.
In many cases, balance of probabilities is good enough - i.e. if it seems more likely that scenario A happened than scenario B, you can return in favour of scenario A.

This is not the case for serious crimes, such as rape and sexual assault.
These cases must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, which means that if a lawyer can introduce some reasonable doubt, you are instructed to afford the benefit of this doubt to the accused.
This is how, sometimes, you can end up feeling like you are obliged to vote for Not Guilty, even if you personally feel like the defendant is actually guilty, because of issues with evidence and reasonable doubt.
I don't know if this is what happened in that jury room. Only the jury themselves know that.

But I also want to particularly highlight that it's not a verdict of "innocent".

Innocent is not the opposite of guilty in the context of the courtroom.
And just because a lawyer somewhere managed to introduce some reasonable doubt does not mean that a defendant is innocent. It merely means that "beyond reasonable doubt" couldn't be fulfilled.

This does not mean a thing didn't happen.
In the trial I sat on, I had to be recused right before deliberations due to travel, and the trial running longer than scheduled (I had warned the judge in advance, but was sworn in anyway). I did find out the result though, in the media, some months later.
The jury couldn't reach a verdict on the rape charges. I sometimes wonder how that might have been different if I had been in the room.
And I often think to myself about my feelings during that case. About how I felt quite sure that the defendant had done the things he was accused of, but that I knew I would have had to return Not Guilty for at least one of the rape charges because of the reasonable doubt.
I do not think he was innocent. I still don't think he was innocent.

That's why Not Guilty doesn't always mean innocent.

That's why "beyond reasonable doubt" means that women sometimes go through all this, and end up without a conviction, but can still be telling the truth.
Being on a jury for a rape trial, I saw first hand how difficult it was for the victim to recount her experiences. It was difficult to hear, difficult to watch some pieces of video evidence, etc. But I was aware that my discomfort was nothing to what she experienced.
I watched her break down on the stand. I watched the emotion pour out of her. I watched her hide her face as we were shown videos and photos.
With everything that we saw and heard, with everything that this man showed us about his character, I can't believe that she would, for any reason, have taken this action frivolously.
He seemed controlling, abusive, manipulative. He lied, deleted texts, likely drugged her, etc. I firmly believe he did these things.

But that tricky "reasonable doubt" provision means that it's not really about what I felt or believed, it's about the evidence and the case.
It was an incredibly difficult time, a lesson in attempting to separate my feelings and my obligation as a member of the jury to do the thing right.

It was nothing compared to what she went through. Nothing.
I believe that the DPP, at the time of sentencing, indicated they would try to prosecute again for the rape charges (as he was found guilty on some sexual assault charges related).

I shudder to think of that woman, having to do it all over again.
And as ever, I can't help but loop right back to "why would she put herself through this frivolously".

She had nothing to gain here. They spent days tearing her apart on the stand. Tearing apart everything she said, did, etc. What for, if not because she needed justice?
I asked myself this more than once. In the several weeks I spent on that jury, I never could come up with a single satisfactory reason why she would have gone to court, subjected herself to this, had her life picked through with a fine tooth comb, other than that he did it.
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