Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'll be the judge of that

I received a notice in the mail last week summoning me to jury duty the end of this month. I've always wanted to serve, fulfill my civic duty. This is the fourth time I've received the notice. Twice the case was settled before it went to court; the other time I had to show up for a drunk driving case, but I was too far down the list to be chosen. They gave me $10 for childcare and sent me home before noon. Pretty disappointing.

If it's a duty, that means I should do it at least once, right? I want to experience justice from the jury box just to see what it's like. Or at least ..... I think I do. When I really think about it, I realize being a juror could be awfully stressful, or traumatic, or even dangerous.

12 Angry Men

My mom was a juror once for a Hell's Angels trial. They had beaten somebody with a chain, and maybe he died -- I admit I'm fuzzy on the details. Because people where the crime allegedly happened were so afraid of the gang, the venue was changed to our little courthouse. I was so young I only vaguely remember lots of motorcycles roaring around town. I don't remember my mom talking about being afraid or anything. Then again, she's not really afraid of anything except feathers, bird feet, and spiders. Other people are more scared of her than she is of them.

I would not have wanted to be on a jury that convicted the Son's of Anarchy Hell's Angels. I'd be terrified they'd come back and rape and murder my entire family, especially back then.  I wonder if my mom thought about that as she sat in the courtroom. Could make a person a little jumpy for a while, convicting members of an outlaw biker gang.

Kim Coates (Tig) --  I love me a bad boy.

Then again, what if one of them looked like my SoA crush, Tig? How sexy would that be? I'd have to persuade my fellow jurors to let the love of my life go free, so I could hop on the back of his hog and ride off into the sunset with my arms and legs wrapped around him. Probably not the best life plan, but it could happen. ...... I'm just going to fantasize about that for a while.....

Oh, yeah, I'm ready to be on a jury now.
The first time I was ever in a courtroom, I was about 12 and my dad was on the jury. The driver of a rock truck had been driving on the wrong side of the road coming over a hill and crashed into a woman and her teenage daughter. The mother died in her daughter's arms. The truck driver had been at a bar where he consumed several drinks. It was an obvious verdict.

I went and watched the trial with my best friend. It was awful to hear the daughter's testimony, to watch her cry as she described the crash and her mom's death, but it wasn't unbearable. I thought about how many times I had ridden in cars with adults who had been drinking for hours. People didn't make a big deal about drunk driving then .... until a mother died in her daughter's arms.

From the testimony I heard, I wouldn't have had any problem convicting that guy of vehicular homicide. My dad didn't either, although he probably knew everybody involved in the accident. He probably knew if the truck driver's family would be left without a bread-winner. He surely knew the hole the mother's death left in her family. He wouldn't have talked about such things with me though.

Being on that jury did not change my dad's drinking and driving behaviors a bit.
LtColEx was on a jury once too, only it was for a court martial. In this case, three officers heard the case and decided whether a sergeant who had murdered his stepfather should be convicted in a military court.

The guy was as big a bad-ass as any Hell's Angel. He'd waited for his stepfather and murdered him with a shotgun. I think there was a stand-off after that. I don't remember all the details, but it was a shocking crime.

LtColEx had no doubt the guy had done it. None at all. He wanted to convict and get it over with. The other two officers believed he'd done it too .... but they didn't want to convict him. They were afraid of him, afraid he was crazy enough to come back and get revenge if he ever got out. It took a while for LtColEx to persuade them to do the right thing. I was shocked they didn't have more courage. Air Force officers.

So far, the guy hasn't come gunning for LtColEx. I have to admit though, I was kind of worried for a while. If two Air Force officers were afraid to convict the guy, he was probably pretty scary.
When I told Alex I might be on a jury, he told me about the time he served. It was a baby death, and he had a hard time convicting because the evidence was circumstantial, not strong enough to persuade him without a doubt of the man's guilt. He still isn't happy with the outcome.

This is my biggest fear about being on a jury -- no, not that the outcome will be ambiguous. I really hope it's not a case in which a child was hurt or killed. A defense attorney would be batshit crazy to sit me on a jury for a case like that. As I've written before, I'd have no trouble treating someone who hurt a child like a Thanksgiving turkey.

But I don't want to see the evidence. I'd have nightmares. I'd probably break down in the courtroom and cry. I wouldn't be able to tolerate the details, not if it involved a child.

In most cases, I'm not bothered by blood or wounds or anything medical. I could do open heart surgery right here in my parlor with a popsicle stick and my spaghetti tongs, but I can't see a child being hurt or the evidence of a child having been hurt. It would haunt me for the rest of my life. I couldn't be objective.
A lawyer friend posted this story about the Drew Peterson jury showing up every day in court wearing coordinated clothing. It's bizarre. What could convince 12 people to behave that way?

Smooth Jazz and I chewed on this one for quite a while tonight, and we just couldn't make sense of it. First, there's no way I would wear either yellow or a football jersey in public. Not happening.

Yet something or someone persuaded the entire jury for this case to come dressed alike every day. Did the gruesome photos make them insane? Or are they being threatened in some way? Or has this entire fucking country decided life is one big reality TV show?

At the bottom of my summons I'm told to "Please use good judgment and report for jury duty properly dressed. Shorts, tee shirts and tank tops are INAPPROPRIATE ATTIRE."

I'm not sure how my clothing affects my ability to render a fair decision, but apparently there are rules.
I do want to sit on a jury ..... and I don't. I've known people who've been on juries for horrible crimes, and they were traumatized, damaged; they have nightmares. It might make for great writing fodder .... in between appointments with a crisis counselor. I can guarantee it wouldn't make me wear yellow though. That's a fucking deal-breaker.

Do you have a jury story? If you're called, are you eager to do it? Or do you try to get out of it?

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