by Vince Cascone
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”
About 15 years ago, I received the often- dreaded summons for jury duty. I was a Catholic school principal and was not excited to fulfill this duty. However, I went to the courthouse on the designated day. With no option of skirting this duty, I offered a prayer to God to use me in whatever way he saw fit.
At 8 a.m. sharp, someone began reading off the names of those who were to report to Courtroom 1. About 70 people were sent to this courtroom out of a pool of about 300. As my name was called, I quickly went to Courtroom 1, repeating my previous prayer to be used in whatever way God saw fit.
After a brief delay, the judge and attorneys began the process of voir dire, which translated means “to speak the truth.” This is the examination of prospective jurors to determine who is qualified to serve in a particular case. As this process was being completed, I again prayed to be used in whatever way God saw fit.
As the last of 12 people to be called, I immediately went to the jury box. As I suspected from questions asked during voir dire, the case was focused on the alleged abuse of a young child.
Sparing the horrific case details, our jury was sent to deliberate after two days of testimony. The majority of the evidence the prosecution presented focused on the alleged victim’s forensic interview that was conducted when she was just 3 years old, as well as her testimony during the trial when she was just 5 years old.
Eleven jurors were convinced of the defendant’s guilt, with one saying he just could not take the word of such a young child.
As the foreman of the jury, I ultimately shared my thoughts. As a parent of six children and a principal of a school with 500 students, determining the truth or lies of young people was nearly a daily exercise. I shared why I felt the child was being honest and why I thought the man was guilty.
Eventually, our jury was unanimous: guilty.
In my series of articles during this 2022-23 school year, I will be focusing on the topic of truth. In a society that often preaches that there is no universal truth and, in fact, that each person has his or her own truth, our Catholic schools have an important role in working with parents to teach children to recognize, acknowledge and embrace the truth.
My next article on this topic will be in the Nov. 4 edition of The Leaven.