Thursday, March 01, 2007

And the winner is..

From all of the thousands, hundreds, tens... three comments on this post: Take your bets
No one won. The answer was, predictably B. I spent most of yesterday in the courthouse reading. And a reasonable minority of the time watching jury selection for a DUI case without being called up to the jury box.

Here are some reflections about the experience.
1. I felt singled out when the Jury Clerk said to the crowd of two hundred potential jurors "everyone put your hand on a bible, raise your right hand and repeat after me."
I just raised my right hand and swore the oath. No one made an issue of my not using a bible and we were not asked to "so help me Jeebus" or anything. But as near as I could tell I was the only one not touching a bible. Every table, and desk in the jury lounge had a bible ostensibly for this purpose, but it was creepy. No sign of a single Koran, Torah, or plate of Spaghetti any where.
2. Most people in the lounge seemed reasonably conscience about the situation, and there was only minimal griping about the task. That was good to see. People seemed genuinely interested in doing the right thing.
3. During the Selection Process it was interesting to see which jurors got booted quickly: Anyone who seemed overly casual or familiar with drinking, anyone who was a self-professed non-drinker (for any reason), anyone who knew someone injured in an car accident.
4. The most interesting question was one of the last ones, it would have been interesting if it had been asked earlier in the session. The defense attorney asked one older man if he thought an innocent person should take the stand to refute the charges. And the man sort of agreed, that he should. It took a little while to get this out of the man, he didn't seem to understand the question. But watching the rest of the jury I noted that several people seemed to be nodding in agreement (this was after a dozen jurors had already been dismissed). The judge noticed as well, because he stopped the questions for a moment and explained again to the jury that not testifying was not evidence of guilt, and that the burden of the case was on the prosecution to prove guilt, not the defense to prove innocence. It was interesting, because throughout the earlier questions, everyone seemed to understand that quite well. But the idea that a person might not testify on his own behalf was clearly thought to be suspicious if not condemning to the defense.
It is a sort of catch 22. Be a witness and give the prosecutor the chance to make you look inconsistent, nervous, and guilty. Don't testify and give the jury that sense without any help.


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