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I was cutting mushrooms the other day, and my mind started to wander and the next thing you know, I was musing about jury duty. So how did this happen? Stick with me over the entwined orange mushrooms to see what happened.

I have always regarded jury duty as a citizen's duty, even though the arrival of the envelope containing the summons has not usually been greeted by a "Whoopee, I got jury duty!" When I was teaching, I used to postpone the service until classes were out, and I admit to having postponed once to the week between Christmas and New Year's, figuring people wouldn't be interested in starting up a big trial then.

It used to be a lot more difficult to do jury duty, because back in the "old days" you had to go down there and sit around to see if you'd be called, and if you weren't called, well, at least you got some reading in. Then they started a system in which you were given a color code, and you could call the night before and see if your color had been called to report. Nowadays, they've lowered the time you have to serve while on call to one week from a previous two weeks, and you can check by phone or online the night before to see whether, when, and where you should report. I must admit this makes it much easier than it was in the past.

I have often thought I would be unable to serve on a criminal jury, but luckily I've only been called to civil jury courts. A couple of times I've been in the jury pool, but not chosen. Once, relatively recently, they deselected me at the last minute, which made a lot of sense as I recall, because it was a case where someone had bought an eight-unit apartment building but hadn't read the fine print, and although I would have done my best, I really didn't care so much about  big landlord 1 vs. big landlord 2.

By now you are probably thinking, "What about the mushrooms?" Well, I did serve on one jury, quite some time ago. In fact, a lot of the details have faded into the mist because it was back in the early 80s as I recall. I figured I wouldn't be seated on the jury because I was very active in my teacher's union at the time--it might have even been when I was Union President. I didn't think they'd want me on a business case, but I was wrong.

It was a civil case where a mushroom farmer (Yes, at the time I believe he was the only mushroom farmer in San Francisco.) was suing the supplier of the spawn he was using to grow the mushrooms. "Spores must be collected in the nearly sterile environment of a laboratory and then used to inoculate grains or seeds to produce a product called spawn, (the mushroom farmer’s equivalent of seed)." In addition, the compost that is used to grow the mushrooms has to be sterilized.

The issue was whether the crop had failed because the supplier gave faulty spores, or whether the method of sterilizing that the farmer used was inappropriate. The trial lasted at least a week as I recall, and we the jurors were very good about not saying anything to each other or anyone else while the trial was ongoing. I tried to keep an open mind while listening to the evidence. One of the items of evidence was a bag of spores. The problem was that bag stayed with us over the course of the trial, and it got more and more moldy. It wasn't very appetizing during deliberations to see the moldy bag of spawn sitting there.

When the trial finally finished and we retired to the jury room, the firefighter we had selected as our foreman asked us to take a preliminary vote as to whether the farmer had made his case. I was in favor of the farmer, but I figured I would be the only one, and that the witnesses brought by the company would have won over the rest of the jurors. It turned out that the preliminary vote was 10 to 2 in favor of the farmer. The rest of the people had felt the same as I did, so we were pretty surprised.

We wanted to do a good job, so we went over all of the evidence and testimony again. Then it came time to decide on the amount of money that would be a penalty. The group decided to go along with the actual money lost, but they only made a token amount as a penalty. I argued for more, but I was overruled.

After the trial was over, I spoke to the farmer's attorney. I explained that having been dealing with my school district budgets, I was used to thinking in millions of dollars, and was able to remove that from my own monetary situation, which certainly didn't contain millions. I felt that the other people on the jury, not being of the wealthier class, had a hard time understanding how much the business made and what an appropriate penalty would be. The attorney told me he had thought about presenting that evidence, but had decided against it. I seem to recollect that the jury award, even just for damages, was unusual, and it was going to be appealed.

I never heard anything else about it, and I have no idea if the farmer ever got paid. The situation did, however, give me some hope in the jury system. My fellow jurors were regular people, all doing their best to understand the issues, follow instructions, and come to a fair decision. You can't really ask for more.

Originally posted to Lorikeet's Landing on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


Have you ever served on a jury?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I voted "No" (20+ / 0-)

    but I do have some experience of Juries :)

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:13:56 PM PDT

  •  Back in 2008, the third time... (25+ / 0-)

    ...I was called for a jury was a charm. It was a civil case, involving a traffic accident at a signalized intersection in Chicago.

    Did I mention at the the time I was a traffic engineer employed by the City of Chicago? Oh, and the judge was a former City attorney, who quizzed me during my interview about former coworkers. Seems he did a lot of traffic law work, and knew my old bureau back when it was part of Streets and Sanitation.

    The plantiff's attorney didn't say boo, and I was empaneled late on a Friday afternoon. I had to call my supervisor and tell him I was on a jury, but couldn't tell him it was a case he would be testifying in the following Tuesday morning! He did a double-take when he entered the courtroom and saw me in the jury box.

    The plantiff didn't get the $2 million her attorney asked for, but did get something for her troubles. I haven't received any summons for jury duty since then.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 10:21:44 PM PDT

  •  I Thought It Was Going To Be About (13+ / 0-)

    serving on a jury while tripping on mushrooms. Very interesting diary but I am kind of disappointed.

  •  All the mushrooms in my front yard (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petesmom, Avila, Smoh, Lorikeet

    one morning.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:47:44 AM PDT

  •  I was on a jury (15+ / 0-)

    for a murder trial. Two of the jurors made their decision based on speculation, completely ignoring evidence brought into the courtroom. There were racial elements to the crime and I am sure that was the basis for at least one persons decision to vote not guilty. I was frustrated and angry after 2 1/2 weeks in the courtroom and 2 days deliberating. We ended up hung and the guy pleaded guilty 2 weeks before his retrial.
    It was an interesting experience and extremely intense and I think if I was in the situation again I would put myself out there to be the foreperson - to at least try to direct the deliberations according to the jury instructions.

  •  My jury pool was asked if we had any prejudices (10+ / 0-)

    I was the ONLY one who raised my hand! I said I assumed that most have some kind of prejudice but that our job was to objectively listen to the evidence presented and render a decision. I was being honest. I was the first one excused. That was disappointing to me because I was was excited and hoping to be selected.

    Keeping a firm grip on my gratitude list

    by Up to here on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:04:59 AM PDT

    •  Up to here, I was on a jury panel once when there (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lorikeet, i love san fran, ladybug53

      was a lot of crime in in-town neighborhoods. The defense attorney asked all jurors who had been robbed within the last few months to raise their hands.  He was surprised! A huge majority of all races raised their hands. We were all excused.

      Didn't meant we couldn't be objective, but, whatever.

      "'s difficult to imagine what else Republicans can do to drive women away in 2012, unless they decide to bring back witch-hanging. And I wouldn't put it past them." James Wolcott

      by Mayfly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:42:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  as an ex-USAF Law Enforcement specialist, (11+ / 0-)

    I've been one of those "automatic objections" oftener than not. I did get put on a jury once, but the judge told us to go eat lunch before the trial started, and as we were assembling in the upstairs courtroom after our courthouse coffee-shop sandwiches, lawyers came in and announced a settlement in the case.

    But I got a bus ticket home, AND six bucks for a day's jury duty!

    LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:05:03 AM PDT

  •  I agree with you (8+ / 0-)

    That jury duty is a positive thing. I sometimes figure that my one in twelve vote is more significant than my one in twelve million in the fall. I have never been on a jury, however, being interviewed maybe twice.

  •  I've been on 2 criminal case juries. (13+ / 0-)

    I seem to get called every 2-3 years. My funniest jury duty-related experience, however, was a time I was excused during voir dire.  The defendant was charged with running a red light, resisting arrest, and "rogue and vagabond."  Rogue and vagabond??? My immediate reaction was, "In other words, he's charged with pissing off a cop."  I probably wouldn't have been the most objective juror on that one, but I was willing to do my best.  Then the attorneys were introduced, and the names of the defendant and the witnesses were read and we were asked if we knew any of them to please raise our hands.  No one did, so we were ushered into the jury box.  Almost immediately, the judge called my name and asked me to approach the bench.  It was a little like being called over the intercom to come to the principal's office on the first day of high school - embarrassing and intimidating.  When I got there, I was asked if the fact that one of the attorneys had dated my sister in high school would affect my opinion of guilt or innocence. What a strange question! Who, and which sister, I asked.  Turns out the defense attorney had dated my younger sister for quite awhile, and I hung out with them a lot. I was thrown off because 1) he was introduced as Joseph and I knew him as Joe, and 2) 20 years had passed and he no longer looked like a long-haired hippie stoner.  

    So anyway, I was dismissed from that jury.  As I was walking back to pick up my things and go home, it occurred to me that my 3 sisters were very attractive and socially active in high school. The chances are good that 1 of the 4 of us had dated half the male attorneys in the county!  Yoo hoo! No more jury duty for me!  

    Two years later I started getting called for state jury duty.

  •  I was hoping that this diary would be about (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Lorikeet, JeffW

    the time you ate magic mushrooms before going to jury duty.

    Faby-o, downrec me again. You know I love it!

    by Cheez Whiz on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:05:38 AM PDT

  •  I was called for jury duty and had to sit (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, Lorikeet, JeffW, i love san fran

    in a waiting room all day until they dismissed me. It was a very boring day. Glad to do my civic duty and all that, don't want to do it again.

    "How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelette?" - George Carlin

    by yg17 on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:05:53 AM PDT

  •  The case of the deadly pie! (9+ / 0-)

    I was on a jury once.  When you're being interviewed by the lawyers, you often have no idea what the trial is about.  I was chosen for the jury and sat in the jury box.

    The case turned out be a university student who was being charged with assault.  In a protest of the University policies, she walked up to the chancellor of the University, while he was making a speech, and threw a PIE in his face!

    If you've ever heard Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, you understand what this trial was like.  There were documents, and the chancellor testified, and the arresting office testified, and other witnesses, and worst of all, THEY HAD IT ON FILM!

    Can you imagine sitting on a jury and watching, in slow motion, someone throwing a pie in the face of a University Chancellor?!  It was torture!  Absolute torture!  The jurors were turning their heads away from the judge, they were coughing and tearing up as they desperately tried not to burst out laughing!

    Unfortunately, there were several Tea Baggers on the jury who wanted to convict this girl of assault and send her to jail.  Their attitude was, how dare that smart ass college kid throw a pie at a person of authority!

    There were only 2 of us who initially voted not to convict.  I then asked for a copy of the law, and quickly pointed out that the intent had to be to do harm.  The protesting group had practiced throwing pies so as not to injure the pie recipient.  There was absolutely no way I was going to send someone to jail for throwing a pie at someone, and the Tea Baggers wanted to get out of there, so they finally came around.

    When we left the court house, the protest group was outside handing out slices of pie to us as we left.  

    I lost all confidence in the Jury system after that experience.

  •  I've served on a jury twice (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    salmo, BachFan, cv lurking gf, Avila, Lorikeet

    One was a criminal case and the other was civil. Both were more than 20 years ago, and the details are foggy. The criminal case was more important in my mind, and it involved young man who shot and killed another during deer season. He was charged with manslaughter. The defendant had gone out in the woods early in the morning alone and may have fired the shot before daylight when the official season begins. His biggest problem was that he didn't report it immediately, but went back to join a hunting party and spent the rest of the morning with the group. He was found guilty of a lesser charge, something like "reckless endangerment," rather than 2nd degree manslaughter.  
    What I remember most about the defendant was his body language while he was on the stand. He posture was defensive and he was scared and remorseful. I think the jury felt that he had acted stupidly and recklessly, but there hadn't been any intention to kill another person.  

  •  My jury duty was a murder trial (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, wilderness voice, JeffW, dwayne

    The jury was composed almost exclusively of those in the jury pool who told the judge that we had things to do and places to be that really, really needed us to not devote a week or so to jury duty.  The murderer was a Vietnam era MASH doctor, who was suffering significant PTSD, and shot his father in one of his fits of rage.  The doc's mother was at the trial every day, wrenched with the emotions the testimony brought forth.  Needless to say, there were a lot of conflicting emotions among the jurors too.  

    The police screwed up the chain of evidence.  Some evidence suggested the fatal attack was premeditated, but the record was muddled enough that we could not connect the killing to the storage space for the gun in a timeline that was not mostly conjecture.  We ended up convicting him of manslaughter because whatever else may have been going on there was no doubt about the killing.  The trial went to a second phase before a judge only on the question of insanity, where the doc was found to have been sane within the meaning of the law.  

    The jurors were serious, intelligent people, which I suppose was the judge's idea behind selecting for people who were busy, engaged citizens.  It was also incredibly wasteful of all of our time.  The judge's time was obviously considered to be valuable.  The attorneys were accorded deference, their time was worth less, but still valuable.  Nobody seemed to think it mattered how long the jury was placed in limbo.  When I have talked about this with others who served on juries, their judgements were similar: the people on juries were doing their best to render justice amid a system in which we may ultimately have power, but in which our time is assigned a zero value.  I guess I am still unhappy to have two afternoons wasted because the defense attorney had something else he wanted to do, unrelated to the trial.  I had to put my life through contortions to keep things together, but lah-de-dah, the very prominent defense attorney could get continuances apparently on a whim.

    •  What's interesting is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lorikeet, salmo

      I was called three times (two federal, one state) and the two federal jury weeks were cancelled at the last minute.  I actually went to the courthouse for a few days on the state call, but never actually sat in a courtroom to hear, then deliberate, a case.  Evidently it was a criminal week (there was even a murder case on the docket)  but all of the cases were settled and we were sent home after Day 2.

      But the judge kept insisting our roles even as unassigned jurors were important, and that our being there and ready to hear cases, was an important "factor" (read: leverage) in settling some of the cases.

      When you celebrate ignorance and boo education you don't get to cry when I call you a moron.--MinistryofTruth

      by dwayne on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:06:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Plea Bargains, not Trials, for Too Crowded Courts (0+ / 0-)

        I know the courts are over-burdened and under-funded, and I know that all this is made far worse at the federal level by a deliberate partisan strategy to make the federal judiciary under-staffed, except for right wing judges.  So, the system uses conscription of jurors as a resource for which it need not budget to help bridge the gap.  I could see no effective way to push back when it was me they were using.

        Without stretching this comment unacceptably, I must add that I had a lot of contact with the Assistant District Attorney for this part of my county for years.  Almost without exception, I found his work ethics unacceptable and his judgement poor.  Defense counsel could manipulate him in every case, even where the record gave him a slam dunk.  When I would go to court as a witness, I would see the same people month after month, plea bargaining their charges down to misdemeanors and literally laughing on their way out the door.  The ADA may have been disposing of the cases, but he was keeping the same cadre of criminals around to fill the docket on the court's next session, to say nothing of recruitment.  My business partner actually wrote to the Attorney General to try to remove our prosecutor for persistent failure to do his job, which was a bad idea only because when it predictably failed, the situation got even worse.  I am not arguing that my experience is generally the case, but I believe that an enterprising reporter could get one hell of a story tracking how that public servant avoids doing his job, and what consequences flow directly from that failure.  Our courts need a lot of work.

  •  I thought you'd say, "jurors are like mushrooms... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, twigg, Calamity Jean, JeffW, dwayne

    because lawyers on both sides keep them in the dark and fed a diet of bullshit."

    The rules of evidence are so artificial that the story the jurors get often bears no relationship to the story as it might be told by an objective researcher.

    There was once a great article in the New Yorker written by a journalist who was called to jury duty in a criminal trial.  When the whole thing was over he investigated the case as a reporter and showed the reader that the story the lawyers told from the two sides had almost no relationship to the story he was able to tell as a reporter.

    It's just an artificial construct designed to fit into the cause of action.

    Hence, jurors are like mushrooms, they are kept in the dark and fed a steady diet of horseshit.



    "...fed a steady diet of bullshit."



    •  ORDER IN THE COURT!!! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lorikeet, HamdenRice, JeffW

      ha ha, your are absolutely right HamdenRice. I know a thing or two about sitting in a trial, as a defendant.

      Old men tell same old stories

      by Ole Texan on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:02:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually .... :) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HamdenRice, Lorikeet

      I said that in the Editors Note when I Rescued the Diary.

      Go look in the Blog View of the Community Spotlight:

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:56:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Like looking down a soda straw (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lorikeet, HamdenRice

      As noted elsewhere, I've been on three juries, and every time I've felt as if I'm looking at the overall picture through a soda straw. The lawyers for both sides are fighting to show you only what benefits their case, and so much is eliminated as a result that you only get a tiny piece of the picture.

      At my murder trial, one witness was sworn in and took the stand. The prosecution started with a few general questions, then as soon as he started to get specific the defense attorney objected. Both attorneys went up to the judge where we couldn't hear him, and the defense attorney was pitching a fit, angry and red-faced. After a few minutes of this, we were dismissed for the day. When we came in the next morning, the prosecution called a new witness, and we never saw the previous one again. To this day I have no idea what was going on with that.

  •  Hmm Mushrooms, and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, JeffW

    what a nice diary Lorikeet. Thanks for sharing what you went through during jury service call. I have been summoned once that I can recall. After sitting around for two days, I was not selected. Bummer.

    Glad that you wrote the diary. I really think you got everything just right to see the whole picture of your story of mushrooms..Nice writing

    Old men tell same old stories

    by Ole Texan on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:58:09 AM PDT

  •  My only jury service was drunk driving (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, Lorikeet, JeffW

    this was in Berkeley in the late 1970s. Basically, the guy had a little too much to drink and was in a bad mood, so he went for a drive (!) to cool down and was pulled over. As a jury experience, it was a good one. The ADA was hot, and the judge let the jurors ask the police witness questions (we passed them in on slips of paper & the judge actually did the asking). Better than Disneyland.

  •  I've never.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, JeffW

    I wonder how one gets on the list to be called for jury duty.  As an adult, I've always had a driver's license, always been a registered voter, often been a home owner, and have no legal issues, not even parking tickets.  

    I'm retired now and would enjoy being called.  I wonder why I've never been.

    "The diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty." James Madison

    by mslat27 on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:46:47 AM PDT

  •  If a civil case goes to a jury, at least one side (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, JeffW

    is probably being unreasonable.  Unless there's some new unexplored aspect to the case, experienced lawyers have a pretty good idea what the 'settlement value' of a case would be.  Years ago a local newspaper columnist asked three uninvolved personal injury lawyers what the settlement value would be on a case in the news.  The three estimates were between $500,000 and $600,000 if I remember correctly.  

    I seriously think a lot of civil cases that go to a jury are there because one side (or both) thinks they can create enough confusion to come out a lot better than a reasonable settlement.

    In the case of a mushroom farmer suing his spawn supplier, there may not be enough precedent and experience to figure what would be a reasonable settlement.  But I think most cases are on much better-tread legal ground.

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:52:25 AM PDT

  •  I am a progressive (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, Calamity Jean, JeffW

    with Occupy camping experience.

    I wonder how long I will last in a case involving the interests of the one percent.  I'm sure their lawyers have some standard questions to weed me out.  

    I may get the chance to find out.
    Next week I'm to report by phone.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:22:02 AM PDT

  •  I've done jury duty many times (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, JeffW

    mostly in NYC when I was living there. as a matter of fact, my first ever stint resulted in being named foreman of the jury in a criminal case that included charges of kidnapping, rape and sodomy. It was all over the news and in the papers, so it was hard to stay away from hearing anything about the case while I was serving (but I did stay away - told friends and co-workers not to talk about the case in my presence or leave papers around.
    We ended up with a unanimous guilty verdict.
    Then the case was made into a made-for-TV movie starring Armand Asante and Beverly DeAngelo!
    On top of that, I was outside one day having lunch or coffee during a break and a guy came up to me and proposed marriage - he'd pay me $10,000 to marry him and allow him to stay in the country. I could have used the $$, but I turned him down. LOL!
    Quite an experience and one that has never been replicated. Both in NYC and here in MA, all I've ever gotten since are civil cases.

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

    by MA Liberal on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:38:31 AM PDT

  •  Just got my summons. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lorikeet, JeffW

    I've served once before, in another state. Assault with a deadly weapon.

    I've had the opportunity to testify in a lot of civil and criminal cases from my days in medicine; I'm told that this may get me disqualified here.

    First time I've been called here.  Happy to serve.

    I'll be serving during irrigation season, but I'm pretty sure I can get my irrigation equipment moved after court, unless I wind up getting on a sequestered jury.

    "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

    by CitizenJoe on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:02:24 AM PDT

  •  I've gotten called about 3 times for regular (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    jury duty, never chosen, at least one case dismissed for settling before we even got to voir dire.

    but then I got called for grand jury a couple years ago. that was interesting in a number of ways; my county does a general grand jury that does all the stuff you'd expect, but they do a subset to deal with juvenile cases. I got put on the juvie, and appointed (or elected?) fore-person. and then we met once a week for a month, and mostly didn't do anything! (during this period the main GJ was run off it's feet!)

    the DA's guy who was our liaison said he'd never seen a session with so little activity, 2 cases. One was easy, one was not. in the "good" case there was evidence and history all over the place and a vic who was of normal intelligence and COULD and WOULD talk to us. the "hard" one was so unclear that we couldn't settle that anything HAD happened. poor kid, younger and much less articulate, possibly less IQ, from a real mess of dim AND oblivious parents, at the very least.

    I went for YEARS also being un-called, no idea why they suddenly started.

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:43:40 PM PDT

  •  I've served on five juries (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and been empaneled on a few more that were settled during testimony and so didn't go to deliberation.

    My name gets pulled, seemingly, every year, and a good half the time, I am seated on the jury.

    This despite working in law enforcement for over 20 years.

    The cases that I served on were Drunk Driving (3) and Burglary (2)

  •  Three juries, once a foreman... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've served on three juries so far.

    1. The first one was a civil case where a woman slipped in her apartment building on a floor of tiles that were being repolished. There were three defendants: the owner, the company that did the work, and one guy who was hired for the day by the company.

    The plaintiff's lawyers built a strong enough case that the first two parties settled during the trial, whereupon the only defendant left was the day hire. We were supposed to ignore this fact and treat the claim as if the owners and company weren't involved, but we didn't and awarded the woman only her medical expenses and a token amount for pain and suffering. (It didn't help that she complained that her injury made it impossible for her to bond with her grandchild, which had all of the older women on the jury rolling their eyes.)

    2. The second trail was for first degree murder, where a guy took his girlfriend to a local park, had sex with her one last time, and then shot her. At least that's what we decided - sperm with his DNA was found in her vagina (since this was 1990 this was a very early DNA case, something the defense lawyer made a lot of), and he made some incriminating remarks to an FBI agent he encountered in an unrelated incident.

    3. The third trial was for assault and attempted murder. The claim was that the defendant and a friend of his broke this couple's door down and tried to shoot them with a shotgun that didn't go off.

    The prosecution's case was hindered by the fact that the only witnesses were the man of the house, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend's friend, each of whom had their own versions of the incident, and whose stories changed from the initial police report to pretrial interviews to what they said on the witness stand in front of us.

    My favorite part, though,  was the photo they showed us of the door that was supposedly broken in - because it showed all of the door except the part that was broken. Witness after witness pointed off the right-hand edge of the photograph to indicate where the damage had occurred.

    Anyhow, despite there being about a dozen charges against this guy (the prosecution hoping that something just might stick?), we found him not guilty on all counts. I was foreman for that jury and felt very satisfied afterwards that we'd come down on the side of justice against the system. (I still brood occasionally over the other two cases.)

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