About four members of a recent Hardin County jury reached for tissues to wipe tears away from their eyes during about an hour of often emotional sentencing testimony recently given following a murder conviction.
A few other jury members put their heads down as a handful of people, including Timothy Hargroves Jr., a Radcliff man they had found guilty one day earlier, provided memories and regret for deadly actions. Hargroves was convicted of shooting and killing Bernard Williams, a father of twos.
Jurors, in most cases, have an extremely difficult task before them as their lives are disrupted for a day or so — or in the case of the jury that found Hargroves guilty of murder — eight days in the courtroom for arguments and testimony.
For nearly two weeks, they were 12 people who essentially lived within the case and would decide the rest of Hargroves’ life.
At 38 years of age and now facing a jury recommended 45-year sentence that needs only approval from Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard, the earliest Hargroves could be released from prison is when he is 58 or 59 years of age. It likely will be even later given he currently is serving a sentence for a previous conviction.
Jurors sit and listen to hours and hours of testimony in a trial and see videos and photographs — things you may see on crime shows on television, yet never expecting to live out.
And in the end, the life of a man with a troubled past rested with them in deciding if he deserved to be found guilty of killing an unarmed man in November 2017. Hargroves shot Williams four times inside his apartment.
Jurors heard from a daughter of Williams as well as a workmate, about how this large man had a heart for people and helping. Those who knew him say Williams was as a comforter, as fine a man as you could find.
They also heard from Hargroves’ father as well as the defendant himself, who had displayed little to no emotion throughout the trial and for about half of his time testifying at his sentencing hearing.
While talking, he broke down and he sobbed and sobbed. His father also had to wipe tears away from his eyes on the stand, and Tim Clark, who worked with Williams, frequently broke down in talking about the loss of his friend.
Jurors heard the words and saw the hurt.
Serving on a jury certainly is not to be taken lightly, given their responsibility.
Jurors should be respected for their service and for their decisions. In a life we now lead of social media where there are knee-jerk, emotional reactions based on a decision while knowing only the obvious facts of a case, jurors are among a handful of experts for each case.
Hardin County residents called to serve on a jury — like the 10 women and two men who found Hargroves guilty of murder — serve at times in high-profile cases, but often are asked to adjudicate much smaller issues. The responsibility is no less daunting.
Being a juror isn’t easy and takes you away from other vital aspects of life. But no civic duty is more critical to civilization than providing an accused his day in court before a jury of his peers.
More importantly, they are the last people who possibly can provide justice for victims.
The tears of these jurors were real, as is the importance of a jury to the legal process.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.