I must say I was surprised. I had been called for jury duty and had actually been selected as a juror. Every time before this, the lawyers had determined I was not their ideal candidate. But here I was in the courtroom, sitting in the jury box, and the trial was starting.
In the overall scheme of things, this crime of assault was minor. It's unlikely that it had been reported in any of the local papers. A young man had been beaten up. Three other young men were accused.
The evidence of the crime was clear. Pictures showed that the man had received a severe beating. The men had been caught fleeing the scene. So the issue was motive. Why had this happened? Who started it all? Here the waters were murky, and it seemed as though testifiers for the prosecution and the defense were straying from the truth.
After two days, the lawyers finished. But before the jury went to deliberate, two numbers were taken out of a box; suddenly I was an alternate juror. The others went into a room to decide the case, and I and another juror went into a room by ourselves.
That's when I asked myself, Why am I here? I spend most of my time praying with people who are in need of help. And there had been times during the trial when I prayed: When the lawyers became unusually nasty toward each other or when it appeared to me that someone was straying from the truth, I had prayed quietly and acknowledged that God governed the hearts and minds of everyone in that courtroom.
But had all this been a waste of my time? After the other juror and I talked a bit, I asked myself again, why am I here? That's when it finally sank in that I wasn't there to decide the case; I was there to pray about justice. I needed to think more about the divine law and how it operates.
As I started to do this in earnest, I was reminded of a statement in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Science and Health is a book that delves deeply into the nature of divine law and how we can turn to it for justice and healing. Mary Baker Eddy, the author, writes: "Divine Love corrects and governs man" (pg. 6). She also explains, "A selfish and limited mind may be unjust, but the unlimited and divine Mind is the immortal law of justice as well as of mercy" (pg. 36).
Before this, I'd been thinking only about right and wrong. Now I was thinking more about justice and mercy. I could feel deep inside that both of these qualities were needed. Justice and mercy. I had no idea how that would work out, but I knew that I could depend on God to bring evidence of both into this case. As the Bible counsels, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. 3:5, 6).
It took the jury two days to reach a verdict, so I had a lot of time to pray. The defendants were found not guilty. We met with the judge afterward, and while we talked with the judge it came out that the three men had been in jail for a couple of months awaiting trial for this crime. Several members of the jury said out loud, "that's good."
Why? They knew the men had beaten up the other man, and that that was wrong. But they didn't believe the victim's story about why it all happened. Because of this, they had reluctantly decided to vote not guilty, and they hadn't been happy with their decision. But now they saw that the men had done their time, and now was the time for mercy. As we walked out chatting, it was clear that we all felt that justice had been done.
Thou hast a mighty arm:
strong is thy hand, and high
is thy right hand. Justice and judgment are the habitation of
thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face. Blessed is
the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord,
in the light of thy countenance.