Bryan Grossman Mug

Bryan Grossman, Editor-in-Chief

Wow, what a week for the justice system… As of this writing the jury was still deliberating in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial while the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial is about to begin its 10th day.

On the Rittenhouse side, the National Guard has been called to Wisconsin as there will likely be some unrest, one would think, no matter which way the jury swings. We’ll probably be in the same spot in Georgia once the jury is handed the Arbery case. The weight of both trials (along with brazen behavior by Judge Bruce Schroeder in the Rittenhouse case) has much of the nation enthralled.

Slight detour: A few years ago, I had the opportunity to serve as a juror during a murder trial here in Colorado Springs. I figured, since I was a journalist (which I disclosed), I would be asked to leave the selection process in the first round. But I wasn’t. The next thing I know, I’m in voir dire, and public defenders are asking me philosophical and hypothetical questions.

Then I’m told to hang out as other potential jurors are dismissed. And then I’m one of a few who remain, returning to that courthouse for a week to hear about a shooting that took a young man’s life. The prosecution claimed it happened in a jealous rage; the defense said it was an accident.

We heard from a half-dozen witnesses and they all had the same story. The shooting was deliberate. The accident defense didn’t fool anyone.

Once testimony wrapped up, I was told I was one of two alternate jurors, meaning I wouldn’t be allowed to deliberate unless I was selected because another juror couldn’t continue. We weren’t allowed to discuss the trial with anyone, to include other jurors, while the trial was in progress. That gag order is still in effect as an alternate once deliberations have ended, so the two alternates had to wait even longer to share the details of the trial with another human.

I received a phone call early the second day of deliberation. It was a fellow juror who’d been in deliberations, calling to share the verdict. He told me it was unanimous: The accused was convicted of 2nd degree murder.

Another slight detour: I’ve given our justice system quite a lot of thought over the years, and this last part is relevant to this line above: The accident defense didn’t fool anyone.

I look at the way our courts operate, the adversarial construct of prosecution versus defense — how trials big and small play out like deadly serious Super Bowl Sundays. Is this the best way to seek Truth? After all, that’s what the system should be about.

The reason nobody bought the accident story in the trial I witnessed is because we all knew it wasn’t true. Even the public defenders knew it wasn’t true. But they had to give it a shot anyway. It’s their job. It’s how the system we’ve built works. It’s why Johnnie Cochran was paid like a Super Bowl quarterback and was just as famous.

What if courtrooms weren’t adversarial? What if both sides (which would only be one side) sought the actual Truth and handed down justice fairly in all cases? What if our justice system were actually blind? What if it were just?

I suppose that’s all for today. I’m going to see if the Rittenhouse verdict is in…

— Staff notes originally run in our daily email newsletter, Indy Now, along with news updates, photos of the day, a weekly poll and more. Sign up below.


Bryan Grossman is a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has been editor-in-chief of the Colorado Springs Indy since 2019.