To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-Steve Prefontaine
Make it simple, but significant.
- Don Draper

Friday, September 30, 2011

Am I the Next Nancy Grace?

#577. Every time I heard #577 my heart jumped a little bit, my pulse raced, I started to sweat. Why? I spent all of yesterday in the Justice Building "doing my civic duty" as juror number 577. The very last day that jurors were called this month, and my time finally came. **I'd be telling you about my 5 mile run, but I went out for drinks and therefore the run never happen. Instead I'll share the events of my day!**

I checked in at work to ditch my phone and grab my jacket. I work right across a parking lot from the Justice Building. At 8:20 I walked over and waited in the security line. I was the fastest one through - which I attribute to being a frequent flier. Heck, I almost took off my shoes and jacket while going through the metal detector! I immediately checked in with the jury coordinator, whom I have already met in the past at my Jimmy Buffett parties, and then saw a friend waving at me. Yay! Friends! She was #615 - and for the rest of the day I only called us by our numbers. Our mom's actually work together upstairs (I work with my mom), so we laughed how the mother/daughter combos were together for the day. And it was her mom that I was also drinking with last night (oy, I can still feel it). Anyway, a quick welcome and we started watching a video about jury duty and how lucky we are to be part of the process. Mm hmm. Next up they took attendance, then shuffled the cards and split all of us up in half. The first half went to one trial, and the half I was in to another. Walking down the hall I saw one of my close friends (prepping for his first marathon next Sunday!) and hoped he was going to be the DA and maybe he'd dismiss me. No such luck. We sat in the audience section and then 18 of us were called to sit in the jury box. My friend was spared, I wasn't so lucky.

This is what I was ready to fight for. Poor thing.
One in my seat for the next few hours, I started shaking and was in a cold sweat. One by one the judge asked us to tell them all a little bit about ourselves. I was one of only 2 that mentioned any school at all - and the only one to say I went to a university. Interesting. More questions and we had to raise our hands if it applied to us. I probably had my first strike against me when I said I worked for the District Attorney for 3 years at the Felony desk. The other "simple" answer I got to give was that I adopted my dog from the local animal shelter. Sadly this case was about neglect/abuse - 2 women, and seriously they looked guilty as hell. The animal love that I am, I wanted to be on the jury just so I could stick up for the poor horse that is no longer living. All that was rather mild -- but I DID channel my inner Nancy Grace.

I felt like the defense attorneys were talking down to us. Telling us how to think. Making assumption. Treating us like we are morons. Maybe some of those people are? I don't know. But juror #577 is NOT an idiot and had to speak up. During question/answer time with the second defense attorney, who requested us to be more informal and just "converse" I pretty much assured I wouldn't be a juror. I did not do any of it on purpose. I was just saying what I thought, answering questions and sticking up for the 18 of us as a whole. (They only needed 6 jurors for what may be a 3 day trial.) Here are some of my highlights:
I have something to say... I'm just not sure what exactly, so I'll talk it out. I understand that the State bears the Burden of Proof in this case. The way you are talking, theoretically, you (motioning toward the 4 people at the defense table) don't really have to do a single thing at all. To me that just doesn't feel right. I mean if you don't say anything to help prove their innocence, it is kind of a cop out and doesn't sit well with me.

I understand that the defendants are legally innocent until proven guilty. But at the same time, something has happened and that is why we are all here. There had to be an event of some sort with some bit of evidence or the case wouldn't have gone to Grand Jury and had an indictment. [At this point the rookie defense lawyer girl tries to be sassy and correct me - apparently this whole freaking 3 day trial is over a misdemeanor?? And then really? You can abuse animals and it is still just a misdemeanor??] Ok, fine [and I had to bite my tongue here because I had major attitude ready to come back at here - I'm sure it came out a bit], obviously there is some evidence if the Prosecution is going to spend time building a case and moving forward, bringing all of us here today to this trial. We wouldn't all be here in this room if something bad hadn't happened.
Basically they were almost trying to act like they are innocent, don't have any responsibility to prove the innocence of their clients and that as far as we know they have nothing to do with the crime. As I see it, I want them to prove me they didn't help this innocent animal end up in the terrible state it was in. And hello? We know there are going to be photos, they didn't just randomly arrest people - so don't tell me they have zero involvement. Obviously they do. 

Yeah, so that would be strikes 2 and 3 against me! We had a lunch break, so my friend and I went out and didn't discuss anything really - except talk about other jurors and the process and how nervous I was. After lunch it was more questions/answers (this time with the Prosecution - and she was so pretty and polished - much better than the disasters at the other table. Seriously the one woman had Aileen Wuornos eyes and the other looked like a transient. The attorneys seemed very new and inexperienced with shaky voices.)

Once it was done it was time to pick the 6. Very slowly they would write one little slips of paper and give them to the judge. He'd then tell jurors they were dismissed. I realized he was only dismissing from the front row of 6. As one would leave one of us would fill in the hole. Once I had to fill in a hole I sat there petrified. Then I was immediately dismissed! I tried to hide my smirk until I was out of view of the attorneys. I was so happy to be free. I didn't want to be in the jury room and be the one juror that feels different from the other 5. And I wanted to go get my own work done. And 3 days of monster eyes looking at me?

In the end #577 and $615 were thanked and free to go! It was a really interesting process to be a part of. I have at least a 2 year break before I am able to be called in again as a juror. I'm antsy to see newspaper reports and learn what the verdict is, whenever one is decided. I have swim class with a judge and so I told her about my day. She laughed and pointed out all the times I essentially was guaranteed I wouldn't be a juror. She told me the defense wants stupid people on the jury that will just do as they tell them. They don't want someone intelligent that will speak up and have a voice and influence other people. So basically, I am too smart to be a juror. BAM!

7 comments:

  1. Yeah, you pretty much knocked yourself out of it. I had the same thoughts that you did, about how we wouldn't be here if something bad hadn't had happened and the State thinks they've got a case BUT the defendant is innocent until they are proven guilty and the burden is on the State to do so. 99% of the time, the defendant wouldn't be there if they didn't think the State could not fully prove its case. That is our right as a citizen, to be innocent UNTIL proven guilty. That you are going to listen with an open mind to the evidence presented is what each juror is obligated to do. If you can't, then if the attorney are ethical neither side wants you. One of the first things you have to accept in law school is that there is what is right and what is legal are not always the same thing.

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  2. I would never want to serve on a jury. So glad you got out of it.

    I agree with Rose... that poor horse!

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  3. I've always thought it would be fun to sit on a jury..... but I'd want a good case.

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  4. Forgot to mention....... people that abuse animals should have to endure the same abuse that they doled out......... even though it's a horrible thought, I sometimes think they should be beaten to an inch of their lives.

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  5. I'd be torn about debating whether I wanted to be on the case or not. Being a huge horse person, I'd want the defendants to be starved to death in a 2'x2' box. If they ended up going free though, I would be livid. Nice job saying your piece of mind! :)

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  6. That poor horse. I am a horse owner and how someone could do that is beyond me.
    Glad you didnt have to sit on the jury.

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