By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Becoming a U.S. citizen in 2004 was a significant milestone in my life, granting me the opportunity to participate in the democratic process. Now, almost 20 years later and after multiple summonses that ended without selection, I was finally chosen to serve on a jury in the Kent Municipal Court. I didn’t know what to expect—would it be like the shows I love to watch on TV? I was curious and found the experience to be eye-opening and thought-provoking, as I found myself navigating a case involving assault and grappling with issues of diversity and reasonable doubt.
As the six-person jury assembled, I quickly noticed that I was the only person of color—the other jurors were four white men and one other woman, who was also white. I wondered if there would be different enough perspectives and voices to contribute to the decision-making process. Then I reasoned that our varied life experiences would be enough to provide a unique lens to examine the evidence presented. And the initial jury pool was successful, in my opinion, in gathering a diverse group of individuals to ensure fair judgment.
The defense attorney (who I Googled after the trial) was Taiwanese American.
As the trial progressed, the burden of proof became increasingly evident. The prosecutor presented his case with evidence, but it was our responsibility as jurors to examine the facts critically. We scrutinized witness testimonies and the credibility of the evidence, and thoroughly evaluated the arguments presented by both sides.
During our deliberations, it became clear that the testimony from the alleged victim left a lot of room for doubt. We discussed the importance of reasonable doubt, recognizing that the burden of proof had not been met beyond a reasonable doubt. We decided very quickly to find the accused woman not guilty. She burst out in tears after the verdict was read—I wanted to console her but didn’t think that was allowed or appropriate, so I simply left the courtroom when the judge dismissed us.
As a citizen, I feel privileged for the opportunity to contribute to the justice system, ensuring that fair judgments are made. Serving on a jury for the first time was a profound experience that reinforced my belief in the power of a “jury of your fellow citizens” offering diverse voices and perspectives in the legal system.