Subtle jury tampering is still effective and is still a felony. I won’t do it. Jail?

jury-notice

The letter is wrong. It’s Wednesday, not Monday. And it’s 8:00 AM, not 9:00 AM.

You might think that my reasons for not wanting to sit on a jury are tantamount to criminal contempt of court. I disagree. I want to serve society in whatever capacities I am able to do this; sitting on a jury is not one of those capacities. But “a judge” is forcing the issue after I’ve been granted a reprieve for the same reason. This is the third time.

All are aware that I’m a Catholic priest who hears confessions also behind a screen, not only in my parish, but all over this region and more. Indeed, I’m Pope Francis’ own Missionary of Mercy to do just this, having special faculties other priests don’t have, you know, for the big sins. Both Catholics and non-Catholics can come and bare their souls in a voluntary manner, at ease, with no external consequences, so as to at least start to get themselves going in the right direction before they die. I always hold the confessions of those who are not Catholic to be under the seal of confession as they may be working their way up to that, and are trusting in the seal of confession (which is also the beginnings of the faith as a catechumen, right?). I cannot mess with that. Anyway, all such confessions are more than just under oath because of the circumstances; they are serene and truthful. Sure, prosecutors and police would want to hear such confessions repeated by me say, in a murder case, so that they can interrogate the person about prior knowledge, accomplices, other circumstances, future plans, etc. But I cannot break the seal, and I might not know who it is, even after decades of his or her coming to confession to me even from around the region, the country, the world, but always behind a screen. It is what it is.

But say a judge insists I sit on a jury. Am I not then at risk of breaking the seal of confession by sitting through the process. The very first question of the Clerk of Court is whether we know any of the plaintiffs or defendants. I then respond that I  will not say, one way or the other, for truly, even if I don’t recognize them by looking at them, they could have come to confession to me behind a screen so that I’ll only recognize them after the unrepeatable details come out in court. The fact of the matter is that pretty much everything comes to the priest by way of confession regardless of the religion of the people involved. Around here, tiny towns, back mountain ridges, pretty much everyone is related to everyone a thousand times over. And I hear confessions all over the region, the USA, the world.

Anyway, for having said that I will not say, I will be told that I risk criminal contempt of court. The defendant will recognize what’s going on and start howling that he never came to confession to me (even if he did so, multiple times). Even if he doesn’t scream and howl, the jury pool will have to think that I am being obstinate and risking jail because of having heard his confession on this very matter. They will know that, you know, I’m one of those strange Catholic priests who hears confessions and respects the seal of confession. Not answering is a felony on my part for contempt of court.

Not answering is also another felony called jury tampering. The entire jury will think, rightly or wrongly, that the defendant confessed to me and will hold him to be guilty regardless of their being instructed to ignore me while I’m cuffed and led off to jail. And then the judge will have to listen to the objections of the defense attorney, who will say that this is not even to be judged a mistrial, but that the case is to be dismissed in such manner that the defendant can never be tried for this crime again, for, as it is, he could never get a fair trial again anywhere. But if the trial continues, and the fellow is innocent (innocent until proven guilty, right?), then basically I myself have just murdered him. There is capital punishment in North Carolina. I cannot participate in the murder of anyone.

After signing in for the selection, I’m guessing that I’ll skip going into the court room and ask what the penalty is for not participating, still not knowing the people involved or the charges brought against the defendant. I will then be brought before the judge who will then pass sentence. Of course, I will appeal with the Becket Fund to help. That would be the Supreme Court of the United States vs. North Carolina. Not what I wanted.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff has already told me that I should just go through the entire selection process and then answer the final question to me as to whether any of the objections to knowledge that I may or may not have would prejudice my decision in any way. Of course there would be a prejudice in favor of the defendant if I did hear his confession. So, what they are doing is stacking the jury, which is also a crime, is it not? I’m not going to say that I heard the person’s confession on this matter. That would make me all of a sudden a witness, even though it seems that this was just a cleverly phrased way of doing a bit of jury tampering. Of course, I don’t think for a second he or anyone else involved sees it that way. Baptists (the Sheriff was a Baptist minister until his election) just don’t see the point of Catholic ways even though what we do is commanded by our Lord and written about in the Sacred Scriptures and one can in fact reason about it. Again, the question as to whether I would be prejudiced in possibly having heard the person’s confession (which is unknown even to me as the person may have come to confession behind a screen) is very close to my saying that I did hear the person’s confession. That’s really the impression the rest of the jury pool will receive. Regardless of the guilt or innocence of the defendant, I will have just sent him to death row.

I cannot break the seal of confession or imply that I heard a confession when I did not, as that would have, as I say, murderous consequences. What is it that Law Enforcement wants of me? What is it that the Court wants of me?

What’s happening when Catholic priests are not given an exemption (now almost nowhere in the United States; this is something new in most places), is that grave injury is done to the free exercise of religion and grave injustice is done to the defendant, who may well be innocent. There is no more Constitution in these United States it seems. No one gives a damn about due process any more it seems.

In the end, having a Catholic priest assigned to jury is an act of hatred for God and neighbor, an act of hatred very specifically of the faith, the Sacred Heart of the Faith.

What I fear is my own weakness. The only priests who will object to my objections are weak and politically correct and always looking for the easy way out, never the cross. Am I not like that kind of priest? I am, surely, without a doubt. Perhaps because I think I’m “somebody.” Only those who have the grace to know that they are “nobody” and who therefore don’t have anything whatsoever to lose will go ahead and risk everything.

What I’m afraid of is that I would have a reaction to the pepper spray not infrequently used in jails, a reaction because of a medical condition. My throat would immediately swell tight shut and I would suffocate much faster than they could bring me to the hospital. I guess I shouldn’t care, right? I should be “nobody”, right? But I’m just me. God help me.

 

13 Comments

Filed under Jury Duty

13 responses to “Subtle jury tampering is still effective and is still a felony. I won’t do it. Jail?

  1. Father George.

    I am so sorry for your great and legitimate concern, herein. I’m praying for you and have, also, placed you on the world-wide prayer line, begging God’s great mercy for you. Thank God that He IS Mercy Itself and will hear us.

    (http://virtualrosary.org/viewprayers.php).

    You surely have reason for upset. You are bound to the seal of the confession. However, I am impressed with you faithfulness to it. We are seeing such loyalty less and less these days.

    God bless and relieve you from this duty.

    Helen

  2. Janine

    Wow. I actually haven’t ever thought how being on a jury would affect a priest. Thank you for this post
    I am praying for you.

  3. pelerin

    Father, you mention your medical condition here and you have mentioned it before in previous posts.
    In Britain if a potential juror has a medical condition which could result in him being taken ill during a trial, a possibility that would lead to having to start all over again, then that person is excused. I am very surprised if this does not apply in the US?

  4. Mary, untier of knots, pray for us. Untie this knot for Fr. George as we hold him up to you. Amen

  5. Stephen.Round.

    I Get your point and I concur.I will be following developments and praying for you.Confession is not to be messed with.I am 71 years old but I still have heroes.You and Father Gordon Macrae.May the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.Your just near the top of people I would like to meet.I truly admire you

  6. Nancyv

    So with all that’s been said before (in previous posts) no one has been able to offer a legitimate way out of this? Would the diocese have legal folk to help you? I do not want you to risk the pepper spray!

  7. James Anderson

    Hi Fr. George, You have said that your Bishop is a good shepherd. You have taken an oath to obey him. Have you discussed this with him? You can’t be the first priest in the state to have been called for jury duty.

  8. I am going to pray to Our Lady Un-doer of Knots about this because you certainly have a knot here, Father.

  9. monicaharris58

    I can mail you an Epi-pen? That is, if you are allowed to keep it on your person? ( probably big IF)

  10. sanfelipe007

    Father, listen to your Guardian Angel.

  11. Father George David Byers

    Zero chance

  12. As a former criminal defense lawyer, I would say show up in clericals and honestly answer the questions. You’ll get bounced by the prosecutor. Usually, they do want you to show up for selection, although it depends on the judge. Good luck.

  13. A woman in Ohio

    I think you should do as Tim Capps advises. You will certainly be removed during selection by one side or the other. I think you are worrying prematurely, anticipating a situation that will not happen and losing your peace over it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s