Olga Koroleva

Guilty

I found the experience harrowing. The people there were ordinary. They had ordinary values. They believed without question, most of them, that a crime is a crime, that a person who has committed a crime is a danger and should be punished – or at least, that the law is the law. And after a couple of days I did the same as them, in a way. I judged people on the basis of the evidence that they have committed the crime and should be called guilty and left at the hands of the Judge.

Only the people who are caught get into trouble. I once trespassed inside a hospital administration building and went through some medical records. This event, compounded by my jury service experience, scares me still – if I ever go before a court, they will surely find me guilty, in the jury, because they will only see things from their perspective and the perspective of the media, the widely circulated perspective. I was guilty of selfishness and of disregard for other people.

I believe that the woman, a devoted and kind woman by all accounts, was foolish, misguided and perhaps as a result caused a danger to her patient’s dignity but not one as severe as being removed from her profession and perhaps from the country. I don’t want to forget the fact that, coming from a different culture, she may well have gone through some major changes and was perhaps in a confused state of mind, like I was in the hospital building. It is hard being a foreigner, especially a lonely one.

I still feel today that the judgment was wrong in that the nurse showed genuine remorse and that if anything her crime seemed to be stupidity, nothing malicious. I could just about excuse myself for trusting in the judge and for admitting that the defendant was perhaps unfit to work with people of diminished responsibility for a while.

For me, doubts piled up and it was for a long time simply impossible for me to find the woman guilty. And this is what I maintained for several hours, to the restrained annoyance of the other jurors. The role of a jury is of an ordinary citizen, a bystander, with the specific viewpoint of any human being plucked out of a crowd, except that this human being has 12 separate personalities. The job of a jury is to decide based on ‘reasonable’ opinion. And reasonable is a key word here. My job was to find the defendant guilty or innocent beyond reasonable doubt. And this is probably what stumps many juries and delays many trials – what is reasonable for one is not reasonable for another.

I personally didn’t want to see this woman sent back to her country or to jail. I wanted to scare her into being more thoughtful but nothing more. I was opinionated at the end of the day; I didn’t want to listen to some of the court’s specifications. And yet, to me, the other jurors made their decisions alarmingly quickly. It didn’t feel as though they had any doubt at all that this woman was guilty. Their self-satisfaction, their eagerness to follow the rules, made me feel frightened and ill. This was an ordinary band of Britons. We didn’t talk to each other easily; when we did we made awkward jokes, which built into fragile bonds. We laughed nervously. We discussed thoroughly and were unbendingly civil and fair. And we didn’t worry about what was to happen to our defendant once punished – she was out of our hands. That was the law. The role of the jury is to represent the average citizen. I feel that my jury took up this challenge too readily. I feel that they had watched too many TV shows. They were actors passively playing their part.

written by S, edited by Olga Koroleva

Olga Koroleva www.olgakoroleva.com was born in 1987 in Tula, Russia and lives and works in London. Her practice is informed by film and theatre theory. Through writing, video and sound installation she explores the finite border between the real and the fictional, theatrical and mundane, spontaneous and directed.

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