18 January 2015

Jury Duty

My jury duty is complete. I really enjoyed seeing the legal system in process. It was a privilege. The case (now that I am allowed to discuss it) was a DWI one involving a young lady of 28. What was odd about it was that it happened almost four years ago. We were never allowed to know why so much time had passed between arrest and trial, but an earlier trial was alluded to.

I almost didn't make the jury. I was in the pool and 12 jurors were interviewed before five were dismissed. Of the five replacements, one was dismissed, then.....lucky me. While being interviewed, I made it clear (in response to a question) that I was extremely skeptical of field sobriety tests (e.g. walk a straight line), given that I would be hard pressed to pass one when sober (which got a nice laugh from the assembled). The State accepted me nonetheless, leading me to believe they had more evidence.

The state put on two witnesses, the two arresting officers. The first officer was a train wreck of apathy and incompetence. She quite nearly destroyed the State's case single-handedly. The second officer did a far better job. The defense attorney was amazing, quite talented. He went after credibility, threw up many distractions/outright red herrings, questioned every shred of evidence. I was very impressed. But at the end of the day, it was clear to me that these were just distractions and that the young lady was quite guilty.

Seeing that the tricks of the defense counsel were pretty well played, I was concerned about their effect on the other jurors, so I volunteered to be foreman. Another fellow, an attorney as it happens, also volunteered. Not having any reason for either of us to be voted in or out, we (believe it or not) did rock-paper-scissors for it. He won. It soon became evident why he, too, had been interested: he was convinced she was innocent and wanted to sell this to the jury. So the deliberations boiled down to a debate between him and me. Fortunately, though spirited in his arguments, he was a reasonable man and eventually came round to the problems inherent in the defense's strategy. After an hour, we were all on the same page and voted to convict. I was quite grateful to him: without his objections, I don't think any of us would have felt 100% about our decision; the debate his doubts required allowed us to air everything out and feel comfortable about our conclusions.

After the trial, I ran into both the ADA and the defense attorney in the lobby. Free to discuss the case now, I had some some questions for the ADA; he gave non-answers in a very politic way. For my part, I admonished him that the sloppy performance of the police had nearly cost him the case and that he should do a better job of preparing his witnesses. The defense counselor was very interested to know where he had fallen short. I complimented him on his work and told him that at the end of the day, he just couldn't overcome the facts of the case. But I also told him that should I ever run into legal problems, he would be on my speed dial.

All in all, an excellent education in how our legal system works! I was quite honored to participate.

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