Thursday, 1 May 2014

Performing a Civic Duty

Residents need to do their duty to help mete out justice in Hong Kong
A colleague of mine was called for jury duty and she was terrified of what would happen. She didn't want to be called, but our human resources department said she had to show up.

She told me some 60 people were present and sent to a court room. Then their names were placed in a box and then drawn one by one. The first three people picked were men who tried to avoid their civic duty.

One claimed he had to undergo surgery; another said he didn't understand much English, as the trial would be conducted in English even though it would be translated from Cantonese. The judge asked him several questions in English, but he had a dumbfounded look on his face and let go. The third claimed he had to go on a trip and the judge asked if it was for work or pleasure. He said pleasure and the judge added it the trial would be over before his holiday started.

However the defendant's lawyer said he didn't want that person to be a jury member and so he was asked to leave.

Then my colleague's name was read out and she was shocked -- of all people, me? She tried to give an excuse, but the judge, probably tired of hearing three already, ordered her to go to the jury box.

At first she was terrified they would have to preside over a murder case, but it ended up being a man who was appealing his sentence for drug trafficking.

The judge advised the jury they had to decide if the man knew he was trafficking drugs or not. He vehemently claimed that he didn't know what he was transporting was drugs.

During the three-day trial, my colleague said there was no information about the defendant's background. The police testified and one or two other people before the defendant went on the stand.

However, after the prosecutor asked him questions, the defendant started having a fit on the stand. His barrister just sat there completely unfazed as well as the judge, while the members of the jury were shocked by the man's outburst. He began giving bits of personal information when his lawyer stopped him, saying this would affect the case.

The jury was asked to leave the room and after they came back, there was no mention of the man's outburst on the record.

During the trial, my colleague tried very hard not to look at the defendant's family members. If jury members even so much as glanced at them, the family would stare at them for a while. It was unnerving to say the least.

Finally after all the testimony and evidence was heard and seen (a small bag of raw drug materials), the jury members retired to the room to figure out their verdict.

Of the seven jury members, six including my colleague decided he was guilty. The lone woman who didn't agree couldn't decide that he was completely guilty.

Lucky for my colleague, the judge accepted their verdict. If the jury members were divided to say three and four, they would be sent back until they could decide a five to two outcome.

Only then did the judge explain to the jury that the man only had an elementary school education, that he started committing crimes when he was 13 years old and as an adult had gone in and out of jail. It was only then the jury was told that this trial was his appeal to a higher court.

In the end my colleague actually enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. She was allowed to go home everyday and giving a stipend of a few hundred dollars each day. However the only tedious part was the translation that was done sentence by sentence which was tiring for someone who knew both languages.

Nevertheless she seemed pleased to do her civic duty and relieved it wasn't a murder case after all!

1 comment:

  1. good for her , she has done her civic duty.