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Function of Juries & Jurors Doing Justice | 14 Apr 2014

-Jury Acquits Former Firefighter of Weapons-Related Charges


Jury BoxFormer South Jersey firefighter Sam McGraw faced a 5-year prison sentence for victimless offenses related to defensively carrying a shotgun as he went outside to investigate suspicious activity that led him to fear for his family’s safety. Rather than burglars, the intruders turned out to be police

Former Firefighter Acquitted After Mistaking Police for Burglars

I thought people were breaking into my house,” McGraw said. “So I got a gun thinking it would keep everyone safe.”

Fearing for his parent’s safety, McGraw says he grabbed his Benelli 12-gauge shotgun, which he legally owns, and stepped outside to confront who he initially believed were intruders.

It turns out they weren’t burglars however. Instead, they were Pennsville Police officers.

The officers were searching the area with a flashlight for a suspect who ran from a fight at a local bar. McGraw was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm with an unlawful purpose and aggravated assault by pointing a firearm.

McGraw was charged with possession of a firearm with an unlawful purpose and aggravated assault by pointing a firearm. He denied pointing the weapon at anyone. He owned the firearm legally, he never discharged it, and nobody was harmed.

Despite being acquitted of all charges, McGraw says that he had to put his life on hold to deal with the trial and his reputation in the community has been negatively impacted.

Pennsville man cleared of charges after ‘racking’ shotgun to scare away intruders

After a year of waiting and a five-day jury trial in Superior Court in which he was found not guilty of both charges on March 11, McGraw said he is still having trouble getting his life back to normal.

“My employer at the auto parts store where I work has been supportive,” he said. “But a lot of other people think that just being charged means you must have done something wrong.”

Even if they can’t get a conviction, prosecutors have the easily-abused power to punish defendants through charging them with offenses that can eat up a huge chunk of their life as they pay to defend themselves not only with their hard-earned dollars that will not be reimbursed, but with their time, their energy, their reputations, and otherwise. Jurors should recognize that when defendants appear before them, they are already being punished by the legal system even though they haven’t yet had a chance to plead their cases.