Yea, I was snagged for Jury Duty for the first time and spent the majority of my day yesterday siting around waiting to be called. The cool thing is that they provide you with TV, Internet, Newspapers, etc. to keep you busy while you wait. Other than the fact that you probably have something more important to you that you could be doing, it’s really not that bad.
So I finally got called for a panel, which is the group that they pick a jury from. So we all lined up and headed up to the court room. The first time this happened the case settled before we were called in, and we were sent back down to wait. The second time, we were called in and the jury selection began.
It was pretty cool, the Judge told us how long the trial was expected to last through the next day, then asked a bunch of questions. Then the Prosecuter questioned us which was not so bad. His main concern is that he want’s to make sure that the people picked for the jury are going to be fair. This is because he has no personal or professional opinion about the case, he just has facts to present and needs to know that the decision will be balanced. No suprises here.
Then the Defence Attorney had his turn. This was fun… See, he does have a personal interest in the outcome of the case even though his client is presumed inocent. In fact, if he hadn’t asked a single question I would have honestly had no problem being fair and objective, but of course his tone and his choice of questions were as if he was trying to conduct the trial ahead of time and it really polarized me.
What I found was that the more questions he asked me the more I began to pick apart his questions and give him more detailed answers. “Would you believe the testamony of a Law Enforcement Officer above the testamony of another witness?” Well of course I would. The Law Enforcement Officer is a swarn Officer of the court and it is not only his job, but his duty to convey the facts of a case to the court in and out of the courtroom. Sure, there are cops that everyone can say are abusive to their prevledges, but overall you would have to say that because of their training and experience, they would be more trustworthy as a source of information than an ordinary citizen walking down the sidewalk.
Then the question I wish I had answered differently, “Do you think someone should be convicted on an opinion?” Now let’s think about this one for a minute. (By the way: this question was given a long lead in and it was honestly a full set of leading questions that began to direct your answer to continue to agree with the line of questions because you were afraid of contradicting yourself.) So should someone be convicted on an opinion alone? Well if you have ever read a decision of any court in the US the decision begins with something like, “It is the opinion of this court…” or “It is the opinion of the jury that…” which leads us to believe that an opinion is in fact exactly what someone should be convicted on.
But is this fair, is having an opinion an unfair way to make a decision on how to judge someone? Of course not, here’s why. Laws are written very specifically by the Legislative branch of the government. Then it is up to the Judicial branch of the government to interperate the meaning of the law based on how it was written. You can’t go back and ask your congress how your case should be treated every time an issue comes up. So every time a case goes to trial it is up to the Judicial branch of the government to form an opinion based on the facts presented and the law as it is written. Makes sense, right?
Well, with these two questions I believe I promptly was black listed for this jury. Not just because I over analized every question that I was asked, but because I made sure that my opinions were explained for each question. I did my best to prove that I would not be fooled by a fancy line of questioning, I was going to read between the lines and form an opinion based on not just the facts presented but the way that questions were asked. I’m a pretty technical person, and if you ask me to focus my attention on something, I’m going to pick it apart and find out how it works.
So what happened? Well I was sent home. No jury for me. It’s too bad, I would have loved to see how this Lawyer danced around the issue of his client being a DUI offender. He was already trying to convince us that a Law Enforcement Officer was just as reliable as any other witness, that someone that you never met before could not judge if you were impared or that is how you behave normally, and that someone’s opinion was not enough to convict a person of a crime.
In my opinion here’s what has happened so far: the guy was drunk, wrecked his car, may have hurt someone. He refused the breathalizer, blood test and anything else the cops tried to prove he was intoxicated. The cops brought him in for a DUI and the lawyer is trying to say that there is no way for the cop to tell that without knowing the guy, and that they guy was just a bad driver. …… Riiiiiight…
No, I didn’t make the Jury. (That’s good for the defendant.) I am a bit disapointed though, I would think that the Justice system would want to get to the truth, not what some lawyer could convince you of. I’m so glad that I was able to express my opinions.
If you ever get called for Jury Duty, be sure to be honest about your opinion as well. It’s fun to take on the twisted logic of a well spoken lawyer. Give it a try, it’s well worth dealing with the whole jury duty experience!