Jonathan Tells the First Story

Here it is: the first story I heard from holding up the sign in Holland Park! So, as you read in the post about “The Sign”, this was the first story that any stranger had ever told me for my blog. As I was sitting there awkwardly with my sign, two guys walked past and did a double take. One of them nudged the other and told him to tell us a story! This was so exciting for me I nearly peed. The two of them walked over and we gave a quick introduction and an explanation of the goals of the blog. The storyteller’s name was Jonathan and he is from the United Kingdom. Although this story does not have much to do about traveling, I find it interesting because it delves into the judicial system of the United Kingdom. I learned a lot of new and interesting facts about England (like the judges wear wigs!). This story also reminded me of one very important lesson of life: everyone reacts differently. Keep that in mind as I share what Jonathan experienced.

The story starts with Jonathan explaining how he had been called on for jury duty a few weeks earlier. Now, if you know me, you know this would have sparked my interest because I am a huge true crime fan! I was so ready to hear this insane story of how he witnessed a murder trial and how the jury all came together unanimously in ten minutes and told the judge in the white curly wig that they declared the man guilty. That’s definitely not how it went, but the end result was still guilty, so it’s just as intriguing.

Sadly, his jury duty experience had to do with a sexual assault trial. At a recent christening (“yikes” was my exact though as well), there was a family hosting friends and relatives at their house for the weekend. Two women, who were not friends before this weekend, were sleeping in an upstairs bedroom the first night. In the morning, one of the women claimed that the man sleeping downstairs came up to the bedroom in the middle of the night, kissed her on the cheek, and touched her bum. The main witness in this trial was the second woman in the room, who confirmed that this did indeed occur.

Jonathan explained how this was his first time being in a jury. He described his experience of the jury selection and went into detail of the process. I’ve only ever heard about jury duty in the United States (because that’s where I’m from, duh), so it was interesting for me to compare and contrast the two countries’ processes. In the United Kingdom, the jury selection is chosen at complete random. In the United States, jurors are selected from similar backgrounds of the defendant, which is where they get the phrase “a jury of your peers.” Also, the attorney’s in the UK do not cross-examine the jurors like they do in the US, which means the jurors are only released from jury duty if there are “extraordinary circumstances” that will lead them to make a biased opinion.

At this point of the story telling, Jonathan’s mate sat next to Simon and me on the bench. “I’ve never heard this story either,” he explained. We were like three little school children sitting down while Jonathan stood in front of us and told the story. He spoke about how, as a jury, their job was to decide if they believed the woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted. They heard from the wife of the defendant, the second woman in the room, and the woman herself. There was speculation that the man could have been sleepwalking, or any number of different possibilities. But remember, their job was only to decide if the event did or did not occur, not why.

After they heard from all the parties, the jurors’ job was to sit together and come up with a unanimous decision of if the defendant was guilty or not guilty. This was the part where my ears perked up! I’ve always watched crime shows and seen the jurors trapped in rooms for hours on end debating every point of a trial. I really wanted to know if this was how it went in real life. Jonathan explained that it took them about three hours to come to a conclusion. Unfortunately, I did some research after hearing this story and found out we are not legally allowed to discuss what happened in the deliberation room. But, yes, we can discuss what happened during the trial.

In the short time that I spoke with Jonathan, I could tell he was the type of person that knows his decisions and sticks with them. He explained that as the jurors continued to discuss the trial and the witnesses, he kept remembering that it wasn’t their decision to come up with a reason as to why the defendant came to the women’s bedroom that night. It was their decision to decide if it did or did not happen. A point that was brought up during the discussion was that the women reacted in a very “chill” way. She did not cause a scene that night and freak out over what happened. But that does not mean it didn’t happen. This is the part of the story that I will remember.

I will admit this was not what I expected for my first story with The Sign. After three hours, the jurors declared the defendant guilty. They believed that he did come up into the bedroom, kiss the woman on the cheek, and touch her bum. The man who was found guilty did not start yelling and defending himself. Jonathan described that he had a neutral expression and did not say a word. We talked to one another about how if we were declared guilty and we truly weren’t, we would be completely outraged! But remember, everyone reacts differently.

This lesson is not meant to be only in sexual assault cases, or if a jury decides that you are guilty (I hope neither of these happen to you). I will remember this message throughout all of my travels. Everyone does react differently to situations.  I think it is especially important to remember this while traveling. Not everyone is going to experience a country or a culture the same way, and that’s completely alright. To have this understanding about people gives you an open mind about others around the world, and I believe that’s what traveling is meant for. I love that this story reminded me to be accepting of other’s and not be judgmental. You never know what someone is experiencing on the inside based on their outside reactions.

So, thank you Jonathan! You were my first successful stranger story. Are you all ready to hear the second story from Holland Park?

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