A probably underappreciated act of courage.

James Holmes, who shot up an Aurora, Colorado movie theater a couple of years ago, escaped the death penalty this week. The jury could not unanimously agree that he should be executed.

The jury hung because of one juror. One juror.

Almost like a Hollywood movie, wouldn’t you say? Except this juror didn’t sway the others; on the other hand, she didn’t need to. The other jurors were presumably not happy with Juror 17; one of them had requested earlier in the day that the videos of the carnage at the movie theater be shown to the jury. Juror 17 believes it was an attempt to sway the holdout (i.e., her). It didn’t work.

Juror 17 held her ground because she thought Holmes mentally ill.  Not so mentally ill as to not be guilty of the crime, but ill enough that he should not be sentenced to death. The prosecutor disagreed, as well as at least some of the families, who burst into tears upon hearing the sentence.

For some perspective, consider that this woman clearly does believe that the death penalty is warranted sometimes — people who believe otherwise don’t serve on juries in capital cases. She also had to know that she was facing a storm of crap coming her way. If it had split any other way, that might not be so, but a lone holdout is going to get grief from a lot of different quarters.

It would have been so very easy for her to slip her conscience in her back pocket. I mean, after all, his appeals are going to take years, and there is always the  chance an appellate court will reduce his sentence, isn’t there? She refused to do that, refused to take what might have been the easier road. Acting in the finest tradition of American law, she did what we want all jurors to do: she examined the facts laid before her, and the law as given her by the judge, and she did what she believed to be right, regardless of what her fellow jurors thought.

Good for her. She’s going to need that strength of character in the upcoming weeks, I’ll wager.

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