Home > Uncategorized > Jury Duty – day 2

Jury Duty – day 2

Once again I missed out on a trial….this time an arson case. But I’ve fulfilled my civic duty and cannot be called again for 3 more years. At least that’s what they tell me. I’ll believe that bit in….well…3 more years.

Most of the experience was of the hurry up and wait variety…..but there’s a part of me that really wanted to see, from the inside, how these things work. I wanted to be a good juror……or perhaps fulfill some sort of liberal Henry Fonda 12 Angry Men fantasy. Dammit anyway.

I won’t name names, but yesterday’s jury selection was for a sexual abuse case……a prominent older man and a (then) 15-year-old girl. Nothing about the case is not ghastly. Rumors and innuendos have been rampant since even before the charges were filed (jurors, of course, instructed to pay such things no mind. Easier said than done). Lots of people who should know better have behaved badly….and now there’s a big mess with future’s at stake. It promises to get uglier still. The case opened this morning. Before the day ended I slipped in the back of the courtroom to listen, I don’t know what I was expecting. But here are some random observations on what I saw…

  1. A lawyer should not chew gum. You are trying a criminal case before a distinguished County judge. You look pretty young to be doing so already…..but don’t accentuate that fact by chomping on a piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint like you’re a junior varsity cheerleader. It was distracting to me, and I was sitting in the back row of a crowded room. Instead of me thinking, “wow, what an excellent cross that was”….I kept saying….”is she really chewing gum?” Memo to the Lackawanna County DA’s office…..re “gum”. Nothing screams “this is the B team” louder.
  2. Trying to poke holes in the story of a young woman who is alleging sexual abuse is a no-win for a lawyer. A male is going to look like a sexist dick….and a female is going to look like an unfeeling shrew. Intellectually as an observer you know they are merely doing their job. But sometimes your gut trumps such distinctions and you just feel awful about the entire charade.
  3. I always thought lawyers were way smarter than me because…..well…..they’re lawyers and stuff. But in little over an hour of observation I heard mangled English, inane questions, basic misunderstandings of the rule of law, and enough long pauses (of the “what do I do now” variety) to totally change my mind. They’re as dumb as the rest of us. Even the judge seemed annoyed at what he (and I) clearly took to be a lack of basic preparation. At one point the defense wanted to admit a photo as evidence, but had to abandon the request because they couldn’t find it. This sort of thing never happens on Law and Order. You owe it to yourself to visit an actual criminal courtroom and listen in at least once. The awe factor goes away. Quickly.
  4. If you are the defendant and you or your lawyers think it’s a good idea to have your wife in the courtroom with you, make sure she doesn’t perpetually look like she wants to drive a hatchet into your head. Based on the charges people are not going to think you are very likable to being with. Don’t reinforce this perception.
  5. I always wonder how somebody in a public position (in other words….one in which your low salary is printed in the paper) can afford high-priced legal teams. Can’t be cheap. Where’s the money coming from?
  6. Is there really such a thing as a “jury of your peers”? I mean…..what if you’re an asshole?
  7. Local TV stations have to get the obligatory suspect/accuser walking into/out of court news footage come hell or high water. The TV trucks were literally waiting around all day long. Meanwhile, I’m guessing, actual news was happening somewhere.
  8. Why do all judges sorta look and sound the same? White-haired parochial statuesque figures with perpetual tans who look like they could be 50 or 75 depending on your viewing angle, all with deep confident voices and a no nonsense demeanor. Kinda central-casting gone haywire. It’s like one large Kenesaw Mountain Landis look-a-like contest.
  9. When both sides seem to be cherry-picking the truth, how can justice be parsed correctly?
  10. A courtroom is a regal place. I can’t really think of a more apt word. Even if justice gets perverted sometimes, I just think the locale sort of evens the dirt a little bit. Barriers that divide us don’t disappear, but they seem more to scalable.

So that’s it for now. Back to the real world, where justice is meted out in quite different ways. And perhaps more effective ones as well.

In a bit…

–tf

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. jimbob
    October 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Actually you have a right to a trial by jury , not a jury of your peers.
    Lesson over.
    I thought i had more to say but i am 50 or 75 and i forgot.

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