I am a Juror

I have been asked by my community to sit in judgement of a neighbor. Neighbor in this usage is a broad term; the plaintiff is accused of crimes that happened in Santa Clara County, and that is where I live. But Neighbor here is not geographical. Neighbor in this case means someone who shares values similar to mine. If the dude down the street sacrifices virgins to the Great Lord of Darkness, he is not my neighbor, proximity notwithstanding.

When I sent notice to the folks who work around me that I would be out of circulation for a while, one response I got was “High five for doing your civic duty.”

I wrote back, “I actually feel strongly about that; juries are in fact a bulwark against tyranny.”

And I believe that. I believe that jury duty is a sacred trust, a bond between citizens, the last line of the law in a society governed by law. I am proud to be selected as a juror, vetted by both the people and the defense, and each has entrusted me with keeping an open mind.

Maybe this case is not one that defines our democracy. But maybe every decision by every jury does define who we are. I want to explore this more, but out of respect for the process, I’ll shut up now.


3 thoughts on “I am a Juror

  1. Having done my civic duty (in this sense) several times, there was once when an actual judge came out and chatted with “the pool”. I left with high regard for the judicial branch.

    Wish I could find a way to feel the same about the other two ;).

  2. I’ve sat on juries twice – once for our local rural county, and once one a federal jury that required a 70-minute drive to Detroit daily. Both were very serious items, and both left me coming away with a huge amount of respect for the judicial system. Unfortunately both also confirmed my opinion that people are often their own worst enemy, especially when they get on the stand and try to explain why they or their circumstances are exceptional. Epic fail in both cases, including one lawyer doing a headdesk (ok, a near headdesk) and another attempting to signal his client to just shut up while not letting the judge see.

    I’d heard from various sources that federal judges don’t take a lot of crap. When the defendant tried to explain why he was legally correct to the judge, the judge asked if he went to law school. “Yes, .” Judge (cutting him off): “Did you graduate?” Defendant: “.” Judge (cutting him off): “Then you should know how to answer a yes or not question.” Defendant: “”. Judge (cutting him off): “That’s ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘I don’t know’, or ‘I cannot answer the question as asked.'” Defendant: “”. Judge (cutting him off after two seconds): “That’s “y”, “e”, “s”, . . ..” Shortly thereafter we were sent out of the room while the judge, defendant, and defendant’s lawyer hashed stuff out. When we came back, the defendant was remarkably more specific.

    • I think there were two witnesses who really would have benefitted from knowing that “I cannot answer the question as asked” was an option. They both tried to articulate that idea, but without stating it so clearly they allowed the questioning lawyer to really push them to say things they didn’t want to say.

      “It’s a yes or no question” was pushed on witnesses several times, for questions that I, sitting outside the pressure bubble in the jury box, could tell were based on unfair characterizations of previous statements.

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