Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jury Duty

After about 7 weeks of being on jury call and not even having to make a trip to the courthouse, Tuesday not only did I sit in the jury pool but my name got called.

I've never been on jury duty. Ever. And I figured, heck, if I ever was called for jury duty, I'd be struck from the jury right away. But they didn't ask those questions. They asked if I knew the defendant or if I'd ever been the victim of a theft and not much more. They asked if I thought I could render an unbiased judgment in the case . . . not whether I thought they would think I could if they knew my details.

It was interesting. I mean, it is molasses in January but that's court, that's justice, it just is the way it is, get over yourselves already for being impatient with it. It ain't Law & Order or Perry Mason or even the radio reader.

The first thing in the courtroom I noticed, after getting over my shock at not being struck, was how there wasn't a character there who couldn't be a cartoon. His Honor, his clerk, and his something else (she marked the exhibits) . . . the three people sitting at the front on high, they didn’t have a single lip among them. Lip-less. Lines not lips. The bailiffs all reminded me of my buddy Harold -- easygoing, overweight, jolly, competent, vigilant. The prosecution table was staffed with failed football coaches, and that is saying I’m not sure they had three brain cells between them. The defense attorney was oily . . . and yet other than the judge obviously the smartest man at work, although that isn’t actually saying that much. He might well have been a good lawyer but his life has put him to just making a living being adequate. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The prosecutor was not adequate, not even close.

And yet at the end of two days, the verdict was guilty. The evidence, you know, hard to get around that. Hard to make much of an alibi who doesn’t remember when he was himself convicted of double vehicular manslaughter.

I don’t know quite what to say of the deliberation process. I am not a patient person with idiots and I’m sure my friend Winfred would not recognize “what I hear you saying is that you aren’t considering the evidence because you just don’t like it” as me attending to the process. And they say my face turned red. But in the end 11 (well, maybe 10, one person was wobbly jello to the other person’s turkey jerky) people took their duty seriously, read/re-read/quoted the judge’s instructions, threw out (again and again) the interesting but superfluous tangents, considered and weighed the evidence, and rendered a really solemn and sober verdict. And took seriously our responsibility toward our fellow citizens and toward ourselves.

I am glad to have played my part.

Next I think I will be a poll worker. I have long threatened to work my way up to county commissioner on a platform of “no, no, no; I vote no.”

8 comments:

H. Stallard said...

Never been on regular jury duty but got tapped once for Grand Jury Duty. This was way before I got into the Auxiliary program. There were 5 of us and only one, the foreman(he got the job because he had been on Grand Jury Duty once before)had any clue as to what we were supposed to be doing. What really scared me was that all of those people and cases that came before us were in the hands of 5 people who had good intentions but really didn't have a clue about what we were doing. We mostly listened to the police officers who testified and went by what we "THOUGHT" was the right thing to do. What was really interesting was the cases where the accused presented their side of the story. In one case a 250 pound man was hit in the head in a bar by another man with a beer bottle. By his account the othet guy really worked him over. We were going to find a true bill against the dude with the beer bottle until he walked in to tell his side of the story. At 115 pounds, we actually laughed when we saw him and found in his favor. I decided right then that if I were ever to be indited by a Grand Jury, I was definitely going to tell them my side of the story. Like in CG's experience we often went off on interesting but superfluous tangents too. It was a real eye opening experience for me both as to just how much crime was going on and how the "system" handled it.

the Contrary Goddess said...

and how the system doesn't handle it.

This morning, though, I woke up hoping the guy we found guilty really did do it. The level is beyond reasonable doubt, and I do not have a reasonable doubt, but it is not beyond the shadow of a doubt. And there are things that I hope the judge takes in to account on sentencing -- like if he's actually been working a regular job steady in the last year, or not, something in his mid-twenties that he doesn't ever seem to have done.

BTW, a grand jury's job is to determine if there is enough evidence to to indict, or not. No evidence, no indictment. How do people not know this? (just kidding with you)

Connie Peterson said...

Been on jury duty myself and it's really been crazy!

Don't want to do it AGAIN.

Madcap said...

You're lucky it only went two days. My friend spent every day in court for three solid weeks on an injury trial in B.C. Good thing she didn't have a farm to tend!

Mushy said...

Served several weeks back in July and only had to go to Kingston twice...once for the preliminary stuff, and the last time the case was dismissed. Eleven dollars for 2 trips and 8 phone calls is low pay!

the Contrary Goddess said...

mc, the judge said it was unusual for a trial to last more than one day . . . although at their pace I can't see where it could take less than two. And mush, we're supposed to be "paid" $10/day, plus mileage. I went in a total of three days and it is 60 mile round trip for me.

Teri said...

I was on jury duty in our county. Defendant was a local kid foolish enough to give some mushrooms for two other kids looking to get high. Their dad called the cops. The prosecutor did not have enough of a sample to test to see if these were truly illegal mushrooms. He didn't seem to think that would matter. As it happens, two of us on the jury knew that this was pretty typical behavior for local kids and thought the least they could do was prove that these really were illegal mushrooms. We managed to convince the rest of the jury that this was critical. They had to prove he had broken the law. We didn't convict.

When I left, I happened to notice the kid sitting in the car with his mom. I walked over and he rolled down the window. I told him he was very lucky and to never do anything that stupid again. Sometimes, you can make a difference on a jury.

Teri said...

I was on jury duty in our county. Defendant was a local kid foolish enough to give some mushrooms for two other kids looking to get high. Their dad called the cops. The prosecutor did not have enough of a sample to test to see if these were truly illegal mushrooms. He didn't seem to think that would matter. As it happens, two of us on the jury knew that this was pretty typical behavior for local kids and thought the least they could do was prove that these really were illegal mushrooms. We managed to convince the rest of the jury that this was critical. They had to prove he had broken the law. We didn't convict.

When I left, I happened to notice the kid sitting in the car with his mom. I walked over and he rolled down the window. I told him he was very lucky and to never do anything that stupid again. Sometimes, you can make a difference on a jury.