Thursday, November 03, 2011

Out of court

Jury duty ended for me yesterday. Case submitted to jury at about 4:30 pm. I was designated as an alternate, and none of the regular jurors had been absent, so I was not to be included in deliberations unless one of them had some emergency and couldn't finish participation in the deliberations. They decided to go home and start fresh in the morning.

I just got a call from the court telling me that the case is over, I won't be called back in, and I'm released from admonition not to discuss it. To my great surprise, the jury was deadlocked, and it's a mistrial--after what couldn't have been more than about four hours of deliberation! I don't think I've ever heard of a jury being declared hopelessly deadlocked that quickly. Usually the judge lectures and pressures them to give it another try a time or two before throwing in the towel.

I'm even more surprised because by the conclusion of the case, I could see no way to acquit. I stood ready to be convinced by my fellow jurors that there was some plausible, innocent explanation for the mountain of incriminating evidence, but I thought it unlikely that that would happen. I would admit that there was some theoretical way that one might connect the dots other than in the straight line they seemed to make, but no reasonable or plausible way to do so, unless there was something I was overlooking. I really thought that when we did the initial poll, results would range only from "leaning guilty" to "throw away the key."

Now I will spend the rest of my life wondering how many and which of them thought the prosecution had not proven the case, and how they reached that conclusion, when it seemed to me to be about as close to open-and-shut as it could be. My hunch, after watching them for three days, is that a few of them just weren't paying close enough attention to the myriad details. It was a lot of dry presentation of documentary evidence, and I suspect that some of them tuned out, failing to grasp the truly damning implications of the numbers and signatures on the mountain of paperwork. (It was a case of defrauding the federal government, so naturally the case turned on what the papers contained.)

Once again I'm faced with plain evidence that I just don't see things the same way that the rest of the world does.


Anonymous said...

Once you get to review the morons that debate one's future in a court room, it is easy to understand how cretins like Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson get acquitted.

So sad that a "jury of your peers" can be so stupid nearly every single time.

Anonymous said...

Today I came home to find my check from the county for jury duty---spent five days on a child molestation trial a little over a month ago. My county pays $50 per day after two days, so 150 bucks.

We deliberated from 3 pm until 10 pm Thursday. We were exhausted, but hunkering down for an all nighter, if need be. Judge came and asked if wanted to break for the night, and resume at 9 am. Oh yes.

Reached the verdict at noon Friday. Guilty on 2 counts, not guilty on 1.

As difficult and draining as the experience was, it actually restored a little bit of my faith in juries. It was a good group of smart, thoughtful folks, determined to do our damndest to reach a verdict and not deadlock. When it was all over, the judge came to the jury room to talk with us, and spent about half an hour. It was the longest deliberation he'd had in years, and thanked us for sticking with it and not throwing in the towel. He recently had a jury try to declare itself gridlocked after an hour.

After that, we got to meet and talk with the lawyers, both of whom were very good.

So, good juries and fair trials do still happen, despite some mediocre to bad panels that have been seated in some heavily publicized cases.

DLK said...

The jury I served with was nothing if not attentive, and got it right. Even you'd have agreed with us, Rakewell.

MisterFred said...

Don't leave out the possibility that someone on the jury was an anti-government nut that just didn't want to convict a guy for defrauding the bad guy.

Throw the baby out with the bathwater syndrome.