As promised last week I went to jury duty with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I vowed to go with the flow but, little did I know, the flow was preceded by a flushing sound. As is often the case, I was picked for a trial which is always an odd feeling since I don’t consider anyone my peer but I swore I wasn’t going to lie or make up silly excuses like having babies at home or having a non-refundable return ticket to my home planet. I was in the second panel called in the morning and I know from experience that’s the one that doesn’t let you out for lunch until later so I walked up to the courtroom already a little biased…and hungry.
After entering the courtroom I glanced around and was immediately depressed when I saw those the state considered my peers and I began to understand why suicide rates spike this time of year. The case was a simple DUI, simple because he was just allegedly drunk and driving. He didn’t hit any cars, he didn’t run over a baby, he was just weaving like a downhill skier with a nervous tic. DUIs are now the trial du jour so it’s just some guy with a public defender, using the system to roll the dice trying to get lucky and it happened in April so that whole ‘speedy trial’ thing is apparently now an abstract point. Both attorneys were present and female and while I have no gender bias, they both looking to these aging eyes like they should be wearing ‘Hello Kitty’ backpacks. Seriously, I was surprised the jury instructions weren’t written in crayon. When the defense attorney began her voir dire I was shocked that Kermit the Frog didn’t pop up to explain it like an episode of Sesame Street. If you don’t know, voir dire is a French term meaning ‘to speak the truth’ and that is certainly not something typically associated with the French but I like to keep an open mind about the country that gave us the Statue of Liberty yet surrenders when they hear a car backfire.
My problem with the defense attorney was that she didn’t ask the right questions and she took all afternoon asking the wrong ones so we all had to come back Monday. Like an overtime period from hell. She was more concerned with my knowing what reasonable doubt was and when an attorney spends that much time explaining reasonable doubt, I begin to lose all reasonable doubt. She wanted to ensure I knew probably wasn’t enough for a guilty verdict (although I thought it probably was) and what my definition of probably was. While I was thinking, ‘You’re probably getting paid for this and I’m probably getting mad,’ what I said was, “It’s probably different than yours.” She also made a big deal about speculating and how we weren’t allowed to do that, we just had to rule on the evidence presented and then she turned around and asked me if I’d be able to do that. My response, “You just told me I’m not allowed to speculate and now you’re asking me to speculate” may have caused her to spit out her binky. C’mon, I’m trying to take her seriously but I’ve been in the real world for 45 years and until about 20 minutes ago, everything she’s ever known has come from a book so…it’s hard.
Now it’s the prosecution’s turn and she is a blonde version of the red-headed 12-year old defense attorney but she asks the right questions when she starts inquiring about our feelings about driving and drinking and any combination of the two. The turning point was “probably” when I mentioned that if you are under 40 I quit drinking before you were born and I think that, in general, people who drink are killing brain cells they can’t afford to lose…but I might be just speculating.
Suffice to say I was dismissed faster than a bad odor and the defendant is probably still breathing alcohol-filled sighs of relief.
On this Christmas Eve IMC would like to wish all of you the happiest of holidays this season and please accept our best wishes for 2016. Please stay safe at home or during your travels and we hope your holidays are filled with family, fun and feasts.