Former President Donald Trump, far left, watches watches as jury...

Former President Donald Trump, far left, watches watches as jury foreperson, far right, delivers the guilty verdicts against Trump as judge Juan Merchan listens in Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday. Credit: AP/Elizabeth Williams

Back in the mid-1980s, I was summoned to Bronx Criminal Court to serve as a juror. I drew a gun possession case in which two young men riding in a taxi were accused of stashing a gun in one of those backseat compartments for magazines and newspapers.

The prosecutor played to the jury box as he presented the evidence, which amounted to the facts that the two men had ridden in the taxi, they had made some sort of furtive movements while in the taxi, and a gun was later found in the taxi.

When testimony was complete, we jurors were led to a room to deliberate and the 12 of us — who superficially seemed representative of the glorious mosaic that is the Bronx — eventually found ourselves in agreement that for all of his showiness, the prosecutor had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the gun belonged to the two men.

I was struck then, and still am today, by the solemnity of our discussion. Crime was raging in the city in those days, we were being asked in effect to play a role in controlling it, but the oath we took to impartially consider the evidence and follow the law was sacrosanct. Two people's freedom was in our hands and that is serious business.

That experience came back to me this past week when another jury delivered its verdict in Donald Trump's hush money trial. That was a far more complicated case with far more extensive reverberations but the chassis on which our national angst has been hung was the same. An anonymous jury swore to fairly evaluate evidence and render judgment, and that appears to be exactly what they did.

Again, at least superficially, this group of 12 appeared to be a representative cross-section, whether one measured that by gender, age, occupation, or primary source of news — the latter of which included The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Fox News, MSNBC, Google, Facebook, TikTok, and X, among others, though five jurors reportedly said they don't closely follow the news.

But they knew enough to know their service might be fraught. There were nerves on display and visible tears during jury selection, and one juror was dismissed when she said she was worried about serving after enough details about her were made public that people started asking her whether she had been empaneled. As it turns out, any fears harbored were not unreasonable. In the hours after the verdict, supporters of the former president posted numerous online threats of attacks on jurors.

As the prospect of violence swirls, one wonders what these 12 citizens are thinking. Our criminal justice system is part of what has made America great for more than 240 years, and they simply were playing their part as we all are asked to do from time to time. They were manifestly not part of any alleged rigging of the trial. They did what jurors do every day in every courtroom in America. They made a promise, and followed through.

It is a duty both mundane and remarkable. Remarkable, especially, that in this fractured nation of ours, these 12 men and women were asked to speak with one voice, and did. Statistically speaking, especially given the defendant and the charges, that ought to be near-impossible.

After the verdict, Trump, his supporters, and his opponents, started singing in unlikely harmony. The “real” verdict, they all said, will come on Nov. 5.

In what sense will that verdict be “real” while the one delivered on Thursday was not?

The Election Day verdict will be real politically; Trump will either win or lose. But the verdict delivered by those 12 jurors is no less real or important — for the historic record, for our system of justice, for the measure of a man.

They honored their oath. So should we.

Columnist Michael Dobie's opinions are his own.


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