By now, you may have heard of the news that the two families who did not settle with Virginia Tech, after the 04-16-07 Massacre that ended the physical lives of 33 souls and won a trial judgment against the commonwealth of Virginia of $4 million for each family. The jury cited that “Virginia Tech was negligent for failing to warn students about a possible gunman on campus” after two students had been shot in a dorm earlier that morning. While this monetary trial judgment may be capped at $100,000 each, due to Virginia State Tort Law, the two families maintain that they “were simply looking for a bit of accountability that we couldn’t get anywhere except in a courtroom.” This highly watched national and international trial by jury, corresponding with my own trials indirectly and directly related to this Virginia Tech Tragedy, as well as thinking of another pending military trial from yet another tragic shooting massacre–this time in Afghanistan, brings me to writing this Trial By Jury article today!
While this shooting by a rogue military officer (now known to be Staff Sergeant Robert Bales) of 16 civilians (including 9 children) is likely to be an ongoing news story and not come to a trial by jury, the jury of public opinion in Afghanistan will certainly lead to further problems in the middle east and even the deaths of more Americans and other soldiers. In fact, a jury is nothing more than a group of people who are appointed to render a verdict of judgment in a given situation. Juries make judgments by and after objectively studying the particulars of evidence in a trial. The jurors work together until they come to a united group decision. Their judgment is considered more authoritative, as it involves the agreement of multiple people, when individual opinions tend to be more swayed by personal bias. Thus, a trial by jury is usually a better judgment. This is also illustrated and taught as a biblical principle in such phrases as “there is safety in a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6) and the statement of the Jewish law that many others, including Jesus Christ, even used: “that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (note the corresponding history and biblical references such as Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; and 2 Corinthians 13:1). A trial by jury is important!
Problems come when public opinion or any juried group is ruled more by the feelings than actual facts. Respected individuals or those individuals (such as a Judge) in positions of authority can also sway the opinions of any group. This is why American law (as with most law in other countries) insists upon the isolation (or sequester [setting apart] ) of any juried group, when the decision involves deep feelings or has greater implications in the society. In a courtroom, the judge is not even allowed to privately meet with the jury when they deliberate over the facts to make a decision. It should be obvious as to why! Uncertainty leads us to seek the opinions of those who are respected or considered to know what is best and true. If any group or jury is not forced to interact with the facts alone, the judgment is likely to be inaccurate. It would be more of the opinion or feelings of the one who is the better educated or a better communicator. Truth has a better chance of winning out and dispelling the errors when the objective facts are emphasized over the subjective feelings. Can you see the importance of a trial by jury?
Now, so far as this recent Virginia Tech Trial, it is quite possible that the jury (of 7 in this case) did look at the facts, but was swayed more by the feelings. How could anyone not have deep feelings about that 04-16-07 massacre that ended the physical lives of 33 souls, wounded 17 more and injured 6 others as they sought to escape, jumping out of second story windows? How could anyone not be swayed by the sorrow of multiple thousands of students, staff and faculty that experienced this event that day? Ripples of impact quickly penetrated through this Town of Blacksburg, across this New River Valley community, throughout the State of Virginia and reverberated around the world! Any human jury dealing with these deep seated feelings would have great difficulty not judging somehow for the victims and their families. Hindsight and time to verify facts certainly reveals things that could have happened differently or been decided in better ways, lessening the harm. We can’t change history or the facts of reality. We can learn through our own trials in life and we can learn through trials by jury! A day is coming when we all will learn and acknowledge all the Truth in our trial by The Jury of the Godhead!