Patterico's Pontifications

8/30/2006

Let’s Hear Your Jury Experiences

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:55 am

I am a prosecutor. I will never be on a criminal jury.

I want to hear from those you who have been.

Tell me about your criminal jury experience. What was the charge? What was the result? What was your vote? What did the jury talk about?

I may ask you questions. I’m on a Treo, so my questions will be appended to the end of your comments. Please watch for them.

I’ll be polite.

Even if you’re a lurker, please answer. I’ll learn a lot from the answers.

Thanks for participating.

P.S. I’m interested in stories about civil juries as well.

111 Responses to “Let’s Hear Your Jury Experiences”

  1. Civil case, an elderly couple who had been trying to sue the state for years because during a storm, they didn’t see the bridge out sign. We gave them a dollar so they’d technically win and shut up.

    rightwingprof (663991)

  2. “Civil case, an elderly couple who had been trying to sue the state for years because during a storm, they didn’t see the bridge out sign. We gave them a dollar so they’d technically win and shut up.”

    Why did you engineer a win to shut them up over rendering a just verdict? How did you justify bribing plaintiffs into silence? Would you have personally paid those damages to secure the same result (here, I mean out of your own pocket)? If you would not, how did you rationalize pillaging scarce tax resources for such frivolous reasons?

    Federal Dog (9afd6c)

  3. I was part of a jury in NC that heard a case of assault and robbery. The two parties had been aquianted for many years and were both potentially violent and dangerous. The plantiff had made a break from his past and was employed ad peacable; the defendant had accused him of stealing money and hiding it. A predictable confrontation ensued but the plantiff chose legal remedy rather than violence. Both parties were marginally appropriate for trial, but language and appearance were important first impressions and the defendant was not impressive.

    The trial progressed for a day and we met to discuss the evidence, but more importantly we met to discuss our impressions of the two parties and their stories. Our foreman cut right to the chase with a comment that he “didn’t know what we thought but his method was to get right to the point”. From there we talked very briefly about the case; things were said like “I don’t know who is lying, and there is more to the story than we’re hearing, but I think the guy did it”. We voted to convict.

    Had we considered the nuances of each party, and their backgrounds, divorces, childhood trauma, bad dreams, indigestion, and disadvantages we would still be there. The defendant was on trial for assault and robbery, nothing else. The prosecutor gave the impresssion that he didn’t care about details and that the defendant was guilty of “something”, even if the plantiff wasn’t innocent of past misdeeds. We agreed and were finished in 30 minutes or so.

    Dan Patterson

    Dan Patterson (9541a5)

  4. About 15 Years ago or so, I was on a jury for a hold-up. A man and woman were robbed. One facet of the case that made the situation difficult was that the accused robber was black and the couple was white. The evidence was mainly witness ID and circumstantial. I ended up wanting a guilty plea, but in the end it was a hung jury. The jury was mainly split along racial lines with white folks wanting a guilty verdict and black people wanting an innocent verdict. There was one exception: an educated black lady sided with me and wanted a guilty verdict too.

    After the trial, on the elevator leaving for the last time, I happened to be on the elevator with the couple who were robbed. They said that the accused man was also on trial for other crimes too (even murder if memory serves).

    Psyberian (bfe63c)

  5. I sat on a drunk driving trial in Ventura many years ago. The cops had bagged the defendant driving erratically as she was pulling out of a Mexican restaurant where she’d been knocking back margaritas. She failed field sobriety and Alcosensor, and then the breathalyzer once they booked her. I don’t understand why she didn’t plead out since she was clearly caught red handed.

    The thing I remember most was the prosecution’s expert witness who testified for hours in the most monotonous, droning voice you could imagine, and in detail you’d have to be in his field to appreciate. It was a Herculean challenge to stay awake through his testimony.

    Pablo (efa871)

  6. Civil case in Orange County, CA. Defendant was charged with having purchased a restaurant guide website from plaintiff to pump up value of his penny stock, not paying for it, then dumping his stock, thus eliminating assets to pay for it.

    Voire dire focused heavily on people’s experience with the stock market and Internet; I was frankly shocked the defense counsel left me on (they may have done so because co-defense counsel was a service academy graduate, as am I). I used to work for a dotcom that went bankrupt, and thought that that might give some pause. I also had extensive contract experience as a sourcing professional. Jury selection was made more interesting by one young lady (an IT professional) telling the judge outright she could not be impartial. He challenged her, but she stuck to her guns and earned a pass (must have had a hot project to get back to). Judge was not thrilled.

    The case obviously was an outgrowth of a criminal case. Defense tried to paint plaintiff as unreasonable and his website as worthless, and claimed that the plaintiff’s failure to produce a signed contract meant no agreement existed (not true, of course).

    I was elected foreman. When we got to the jury room, and after reading the instructions to the group, I took a quick poll as to where everyone was, giving each a few minutes to explain their current position. 9 of 12 were needed to find for the plaintiff; we had 10 on the first ballot.

    To make sure everyone had their say, and that we weren’t simply rushing to a result, I gave the 2 who didn’t agree time to make their case and discuss. We asked a couple of clarifying questions of the judge as a result.

    After some additional discussion, we were unanimous in finding for the plaintiff.

    In this case, there was a punitive damages round to follow.

    I never thought I’d be for punitive damages, but I found myself agreeing with the rest of the jurors that it was warranted in this case. There being no real guidelines for assigning them in California, we did so based on a multiple of actual damages, arriving at a 3x multiplier. Feeling was that the defendant intentionally defrauded the defendant, lied repeatedly about it, and would likely do so again given the opportunity.

    After the case, we met with the lawyers and discussed the outcome. Lead defense counsel received some ribbing for accepting payment in stock from the defendant. The plaintiff was in tears and called his wife, who had urged him to give up any hope of winning this. He said it had been going on for more than 3 years at this point. The lawyers hinted there was a separate SEC criminal case going on simultaneously.

    Net-net was the plaintiff will probably never see a dime of the damages, but he felt vindicated by the ruling, and had his faith in the system upheld.

    Teflon (c27f39)

  7. Before my ex went to law school, I participated in a (2nd degree?) murder trial. Prosecution only seeking life.
    THINGS GLEENED FROM TESTIMONY = 60+ yr old state worker tired of his 300+ 16yr old girlfriend who couldn’t take a hint. Shot her once with a newly purchased 22, botched cover-up with 2 accomp, lame attempt to alibi. Trial only couple days, deliberations began Thursday on what I believed would be slamdunk.
    After deliberations, several votes turned out 10-2. Two menzas (literally)apparently knew what was best for the perp and held out until the judge was going to sequester(?sp) us for the weekend. Fri pm vote for 150 yrs and guilty verdict.

    don (a13590)

  8. Fed case. Crossing state lines with the intent to engage in sex with a minor. Possession of child porn.
    An exec at some dot com was doing the IM thing and, while on a business trip to California, took an excursion to meet with his sweet young thing in Santa Monica. Yeah, it was a sting.
    I was an alternate and didn’t get to sit in deliberations. I get the feeling you’re more intested in the deliberations part. If not, here’s a link to give you background info and I’ll answer your questions about my jury experience if you have any.

    Arthur (0b5525)

  9. My experiences are probably more typical of the average person called for Jury duty. I have never served. Or, “I lucked out,” as the average potential Juror would say afterwards. I also, as a former bank and hotel security guard, have been a witness in several cases, or been prepared to be a witness.
    One night in 1972 I stood in the lobby of the then Provident Bank building in Boston and watched a guy in a RR cap break into Sarni’s cleaners across the alley. I called the police and he was arrestd. I spent the next morning in court at his arraignment. He was given bail. Officer Paliarulo and I both showed up for his trial — he did not, nor did Mr. Sarni. Officer Pagliarulo told me the guy was probably in California by then. “That was why the judge gave him bail.”
    As a hotel security guard I was a witness in both a criminal trial for breaking and entering and in a n Airlinecompany/Pilot’sunion hearing on a pilot who was caught running naked down the highway at Logan Intl Airport, after, allegedly, having been assaulted in his hotel room by seveal black men who for some reason left his wallet and credit cards and cash and change on the still running TV. In the criminal trial the defendant was found not guilty — there was insufficient evidence — and in the hearing I was chief ‘prosecution’ and ‘defense’ witness. The pilot was given six months in a drunk tank.
    In the three times I have been called as a juror, I was not chosen in two of them because they filled the jury box before they reached me, and the third time the hispanic guy looked at the pool of potential jurors (trial to be held in Newburyport, jurors from all over Essex county) and pled guilty for a reduced sentence. Both of the other cases would have been drunk driving. In one case the primary witnesses against the defendant were State Police officers. Now, I do not disrespect the MA state police, but I have known some. At the Logan Airport Hilton I watched one of them abuse and insult and slap a totally out of it and utterly defenseless and innofensive drunk Japanese businessman and could do nothing to stop it. The officer had been knifed in Chinatown by a Vietnamese or Cambodian gang earlier and nearly died. He hated asians.
    About ten years ago my car was rear-ended on the SE Expressway in Boston by another car. I got the man’s name and licence number. He was high on grass at the time and there was no cop around when we exchaned data in Boston’s Chinatown, and the guy in the car with him looked rather dangerous, or I would have turned him in for driving under the influence. I was later told by my insurance agency that he could not have hit me because his car had a state police report of being stolen a week before the incident. The agency agreed with me that it was a false report — perjury — committed by a state policeman who backdated the report for a friend. “That happens.” MA is a thoroughly corrupt state, in many ways like LA. Google on “Whitey Bulger” + “FBI” to get some hint of it. Based on personal experience, had I been a juror in the last, drunken driving, case, I would not necessarily have believed two state policeman and without physical evidence _and_ another witness would probably have voted to acquit.

    John H. Costello (ad5d8f)

  10. I was a juror for a first degree murder trial in 1996 out in Joshua Tree, CA – a 21 year old Marine had shot and killed a 25 year old cab driver in 29 Palms with a 12 gauge shotgun four times at close rage (torso and neck area). The local ADA was looking for special circumstances for the crime (lying in wait – the defendant has brought the gun into the cab in a athletic bag and assembled it while sitting behind the driver, then had the driver park behind City Hall – took $80.00 from him).

    ADA was not completely prepared to go to trial – case occurred 2 years earlier, and some of the areas that they looked at were on the Marine Base out here (barracks and near the PX). Ends up that the weapon was in the defendant’s room , and he “accidentally” discharged it into a wall, then hid it behind some cardboard and furniture (it showed up in a pic taken of the room, but nobody from the Sheriff’s Department or DA’s office picked it up.

    We were not sequestered during the trial, but there were issues with some of the evidence presented (DNA specifically). The experts brought in were very knowledgeable and broke everything down “Barney-style”. The weapon’s expert was especially good – he was asked to disassemble the murder weapon, place it in the bag, then reassemble it…when asked if the defendant could have “announced his intent” – he cycled the gun and said “if this isn’t telling someone that you’re going to do something, I don’t know anything else that could do it”

    The jury got along real well, we even went to lunch, brought stuff in and got to know each other pretty well. We deliberated for four days – originally 9 were for guilt, 1 innocent and 2 wanted to hear the evidence again (specifically create a timeline of events) – eventually it was 11 to 1 for guilt (the lone hold out insisted that the van would have been seen from the street when parked – behind some bushes and around a corner – he frustrated all of us).

    The case was retried in Victorville 6 months later – and after some of us told the ADA to get back on the base and look at the room again – the found pellets and wadding in the wall that matched the shells used in the weapon. Also the holdout juror – he testified for the defense as an “expert witness” about the location of the vehicle when it was found. The murder was found guitly, with special circumstances (lying in wait) and is sitting somewhere waiting for his time to go into the execution chamber.

    fmfnavydoc (e2bd42)

  11. Civil case several years ago. It was entirely bizarre in that none of us jurors could figure out how the plaintiff ever thought she could possibly win.

    Traffic accident – plaintiff coming out of a store parking lot shortly before an intersection. She wanted to get into the left turn lane. Cars waiting to go straight through the intersection opened up a space for her. As she went through the opening she broadsided another woman driver who was driving up the left turn lane.

    The police report clearly found the plaintiff to be at fault. Plaintiff was suing defendant for tens of thousands of dollars for medical bills and pain and suffering.

    Every juror selected was an experienced driver – both sides seemed to want that. Plaintiff’s attorney wanted us to believe that the defendant was really at fault for not paying enough attention and not seeing the plaintiff about to enter her lane from between the stopped cars in the other lane. Several jurors actually rolled their eyes at each other.

    Two interesting notes:
    Perception of the attorneys – plaintiff’s attorney was smarmy and condescending. I think most jurors formed an immediate dislike for him. Defendant’s attorney was a very polite young lady who I believe most of the jurors immediately liked. Didn’t have an impact in this case as the verdict was too clear, but I think it could have if things had been closer.

    Language – both parties were Korean with very little control of the English language. Jurors were a mix of races but all had English as their first language. Plaintiff spoke for herself, and terribly at that. Defendant brought along a translator, and it made a big difference. Again not really a factor because the verdict was too clear. We actually didn’t even need to hear from the defense because the plaintiff never came close to making her case.

    First poll was unanimous for the defendant. That took 5 minutes including electing a chair-person. We decided to hang out and chat for another 30 minutes because we didn’t want the judge to think we weren’t taking the case seriously. (We weren’t – most of us were just asking what on earth the plaintiff was thinking in pursuing the case.) We asked one question of the judge – could we impose some kind of penalty on plaintiff’s attorney for allowing her to pursue the case to trial. We felt the attorney had simply been milking the plaintiff for fees. Judge said no, alas.

    OCSteve (f8e2ad)

  12. I was on the Grand Jury in NYC twice. The one that stands out in my mind was right before the Bicentennial. One of the cases brought before us was a guy arrested for carrying an unlicensed and concealed pistol. As many of you know, NYC has always had strict gun-control laws (“strictest this side of the Berlin Wall,” I used to say, before the Wall came down), which made it the low-crime paradise that it was during the 1970s. The guy who was arrested was not a crook and had no previous criminal record; all indications is that he was “packing” simply to have a means of self-defense. Clearly, according to the law, he was guilty; but I voted to have him released. I guess I was following my own private jury-nullification theory. I was the lone dissenter. After the guy was indicted and hauled off for gang-sodomy at Riker’s Island, the Assitant D. A. who handled the case reminded us that we would have off the next day to celebrate the Fourth of July. I found that ironic.

    Bilwick (bd15da)

  13. I’ve been through voir dire six times in Los Angeles Superior Court: Three times in civil court in Koreatown, three times in criminal court downtown, and was selected once for a criminal jury in January, ’82.

    That case was a kidnap-armed robbery in South Central LA. Two kidnappers forced their way into the car of a guy who was parked in Watts trying to score some pot. They marched him to an alley, robbed him, put a gun to the victim’s head, pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. They left the guy in the alley and sped off in his car.
    The victim was the main witness.

    The prosecution was extremely inept. The two robbers tried separately. It soon became apparent, to me at least, the guy on trial in our court was not present at the crime, but was arrested while hanging with the alleged would-be shooter hours later.

    The victim indentified the robbers as two light-complected African American guys, both kind of short and stocky. The guy we had on trial was a tall, thin African-American guy with extremely dark complexion.

    During the trial, the prosecutor made just about no sense, and in deliberations, we found out that nobody on the jury could figure out what points she was trying to make.

    When we began deliberating, we took a vote to see where everyone stood. The first vote was 6-6. As we talked, the weaknesses of the case became apparent. We decided the guy was guilty of helping the perp spend the victims money, but was not guilty of the armed robbery and kidnap, certainly not deserving a life sentence. We found him not guilty after about 6 hours of deliberation.

    As we left the court room, the prosecutor and defense atty asked the jurors how we decided the case. We told them, and several jurors severely chastised the prosecutor for wasting everyone’s time on a worthless 8-day trial.

    I moved to LA from another big city where judges were generally believed to be corrupt political hacks, and had no idea what to expect from the judges in LA. I left the trial with much respect for the judge. The defense and prosecution fought bitterly over every bit of evidence and we were sent to the jury room several times a day while they clashed. I don’t know how she (the judge) could possibly have been more fair and patient.

    And after five more trips through the jury system,
    every judge I’ve seen has been like her. Each has shown just about infinite patience with jurors and worked extremely hard to be fair.

    Mike W (c936a0)

  14. Second degree murder trial in Detroit in the early 1970s. Two drunks were playing cards in the kitchen and when it was time to settle up the bets, the resident went into the bedroom and got a gun instead of the money that he promised. The victim was shot in the back several times as he was attempting to flee. Several neighbors testified that they heard the defendent was yelling, “I’ll kill you m****f***” and gunshots. Defendent testified that the victim had insulted and threatened him. There was no evidence or testimony that the victim was armed.

    The trial went on for several days. Each day, jurors gathered for lunch together at a nearby restaurant where everyone discussed the morning’s testimony, despite the judge’s admonition to not do so.

    I was 20 yrs old at the time and elected foreman. Deliberations quickly departed from the facts into theories about the defendent’s state of mind at the time of the killing. As I recall, if he was angered to the point that a reasonable person would be angered, the we were to convict of manslaughter and not second degree murder. The defendent was from the south as was one of the jurors. She wanted to convict of manslaughter reasoning that as a southern man, he would have been reasonably angry to have his manhood insulted, especially given his status as an out-of-work alcoholic. No one could persuade her otherwise. If we didn’t agree to manslaughter, she’d vote for acquittal. Finally, we voted to convict of manslaughter. A big part of the reason was that it was Friday afternoon and a nice day, and everyone wanted to get out for the weekend.

    Then there was an associated handgun charge- commission of a felony with a handgun- that carried a mandatory two year prison term. I thought that since we just convicted the guy of murder, there would be no question that we would convict on this charge on the first ballot, so I called for a vote before we began deliberations on this charge. When I counted the votes, two jurors had voted for acquittal! We began deliberation and those two spoke up immediately. They were opposed to the law in principle because they owned guns and didn’t want their 2nd amendment rights infringed!

    I talked for a bit about how their rights were more threatened by criminals having guns and no one was saying they couldn’t finally, we convicted him of that charge.

    There were no instructions from the judge on how we were to go about announcing the verdict. When we re-entered the jury box, he asked the foreman to rise, so I did. He said, “As to the charge of murder in the second degree, how do you find the defendent?”

    I was supposed to say that we found him guilty of manslaughter, but I thought he would ask about that separately, so I said, “Not guilty.” The prosecutor about fell over, the defendent hugged his attorney and I was stunned when the judge moved on to ask about the handgun charge. I said, “Your honor, I don’t think I understood how to reply to the last question.” He asked about the murder charge again and I said guilty. Now the defendent about fell over.

    All in all, this was one of the worst experiences in my life and not just because of my mistake. I saw that, on this jury at least, the facts of the matter did not have as much to do with the outcome as people’s preconcieved ideas about the players. A lot of confusion could have been avoided had there been clearer guidelines on how to deliberate and how to announce the verdict.

    Dave S. (e1964d)

  15. Third degree burglary, young kid early 20s broke into a car wash at night really did not get anything. Cut the fire out of himself. From the description of the events before the incident was ripped out of his mind probably did it in a blackout.

    We gave him 5 figured he would get out in 1 good behaviour, nonviolent crime etc. If we could have given him a solid 1 would have.

    THEN the Court came back with PFO. The Jury was TORE up, we bought the Have to Follow the Instructions of the Court but NONE of us figured he deserved 10 to 20 for that PATHETIC crime.

    His priors? 3rd degree burglaries of the same type.

    No history of violence to people just got drunk and broke into 3 non-occupied non-dweeling buildings.

    We thought PFO was to take DANGEROUS felons off the street not Stupid kids.

    But we followed the Courts instructions and felt sick to our stomachs.

    On the plus side in another case took a Down’s Syndrom girls Civil Rights away this was to set up custody and guardiansship the State was Happy her Family was Happy the Girl was Happy everything for the Best no Guilt in that case BUT actually taking away someone’s Civil Rights gives one an eery feeling even if it was the Right thing to do and in her best interest. The Jury took what we doing VERY seriously nothing pro forma about our atttitues

    Dan Kauffman (b494d1)

  16. I served on a jury in downtown L.A. on a Lewd and Lascivious charge against a Mexican guy. Guy had been drinking in a laundrymat and exposed himself to two 5 and 8 year old sisters while the mom was doing the laundry. Called them Mamasita and said some gross stuff to these girls.

    The prosecutor was a woman, Asian, made 40 years old, she did a pretty good job summarizing the case. Cops testified that upon their arrival, the kid’s mom was livid. The guy had started walking away when the cops nabbed him.

    The defense attorney was just terrible. Let his client testify to deny that he’d ever said these things to these little girls. So the prosecutor had the older sister testify, which pretty much sealed the deal on that count. He was charged with two counts, but the younger sister wouldn’t testify and the older sister didn’t hear the guy actually say nasty things to the younger girl, though the young one claimed he did.

    I ended up being the jury foreman. We deliberated for an hour, went to lunch, came back and voted. We convicted him of the charge against the older one, but not the second one against the younger.

    Not sure of the jail time.

    Wilson (2e6b16)

  17. Oh, I left out that the guy also exposed himself. Which the older girl testified to.

    Wilson (2e6b16)

  18. I came up for jury duty this spring but did,nt get selected

    krazy kagu (2f4b46)

  19. So they couldn’t bring the suit again.

    rightwingprof (663991)

  20. Correction, I didn’t leave that out. Sorry. Also, Our judge was great, very competent. Took an exceptional amount of time to make sure we got the instructions right. Was very patient as the defense attorney objected to just about everything the prosecutor said.

    (Which, obviously, annoyed the hell out of us jurors).

    Lastly, the judge sent us each a letter commending us for serving. I think he thought we got the verdict right, too.

    Wilson (2e6b16)

  21. Civil case, a renter was suing his former landlord. A pipe had burst in the apartment, and while investigating, the renter had slipped on the carpet in the water and banged his knee. He now had a condition wherein the spot he banged was extremely painful and sensitive to touch. There were no other symptoms or evidence besides the plaintiff’s say-so, and he really seemed like a weasel. They had a smarmy doctor give expert witness testimony about the “condition” via videotape.
    The jury obeyed the judge’s orders not to discuss the case before deliberation, but there were plenty of rolled eyes during our breaks over the 2 day trial. When deliberations came, we were unanimously in favor of the defendant, and pretty ticked off at the plaintiff’s bogus case. Reading the verdict as jury foreman is one of my proudest civic moments.
    We all (the jury) went out to lunch afterwards, and I still remember one older woman who got out a calculator and left exact change for her meal, tax, and tip when we split the bill.

    John (a2f5df)

  22. After being called eight times for jury duty, I finally got on a case (I also work for a prosecutor’s office and am quickly dismissed from most panels). Drunk driving case in East L.A court. CHP pulled over driver for not completely stopping when turning right on a red. Blew a .08. Given a whole battery of field sobriety tests. Two charges. DUI and being over (at) the minimum BAC.

    Driver passed all filed tests with the exception of missing his nose with his finger by about a quarter of an inch (one finger, the other nine were fine). CHP officer was terrible on the stand. Very vague and wishy, washy with his testimony…not what you usually see with a trained police officer.

    Jury could not find him guilty of DUI but had no choice with the BAC. The only real discussions came about because many jurors thought they had to either find him guilty or innocent of both counts together. Judge had to issue instruction that we could render separate verdicts on each count.

    Charge one, BAC – guilty
    Charge two, DUI – not guilty

    Darryl (cb5f32)

  23. Sat on a tort jury trial for over 25 days, and awarded about $2 million. After the trial, the judge invited the jury to his chamber for further discussion, and revealed to us, things that was kept from the trial by prior agreement between the plaintiff & defense. Things that would’ve really prejudiced against the plaintiff had we know, and would’ve drastically reduced the award amount. But alas, the decision was rendered, and that was that.

    BigFire (194640)

  24. Won the lottery to go and sit in the waiting room twice, never got further in the process.

    htom (412a17)

  25. My first was a civil case. A woman was suing the Boston Housing Authority on behalf of her deceased mother, who had lived in a BHA development and had allegedly burned herself on an exposed pipe. The woman had subsequently died from an unrelated illness, so I think both counsels in the case had agreed to treat her death as entirely unrelated to the burns. I hadn’t expected to be placed on the jury, since I had heard that college kids usually didn’t make the cut. The trial started the day after my 21st birthday so I showed up in court extremely hung over and spent the morning vomiting in the toilet next to the jury room. The inexperienced plantiff’s attorney (who appeared to be fresh out of law school) used the phrase “injuries from which she would never recover” in his opening statement, the BHA attorney immediately stood and objected, we were hustled back into the jury room where we waited for about a half hour (I kept throwing up), then we were called back into court, thanked for our service, and sent home. The case had been ruled a mistrial because of the plaintiff attorney’s mistake.

    My most recent service was a murder trial two summers ago at the Torrance court. I was an alternate. A 20-something Latino male was accused of shooting another 20-something Latino male. The two had had a history of bad blood, though they had not really had any interaction for at least a year. I thought the prosecuter was a much better attorney than the public defender, who resorted to spinning a wild theory about how one of the witnesses for the prosecution might have been the real shooter. The lesson I learned is that if I am ever facing a serious charge, I am not going to rely upon the public defender’s office. I did not end up in deliberations since I was only an alternate juror, but they returned a guilty verdict. I was not so sure I was convinced of the guy’s guilt, and I would have wanted to look over the transcript of the testimony to check on a few questions that I had.

    [What questions? — P]

    JVW (d667c9)

  26. I had always been told that, being a mathematician, I would never be chosen for a jury (almost like being a lawyer). However, about 15 years ago, I served on a criminal jury that included both (there was also a corporate attorney in that jury).

    The charge was marijuana possession (there may have been some sort of “intent to distribute” thing as well…it was a BIG pile of dope). The defendant was a Jamaican national who was clearly just a mule. She flew into the country at Houston Hobby, drug-sniffing dogs hit on her suitcase which had all the seams covered with duct tape, they opened the suitcase, found it was full of weed, let it go through the baggage carousel, and arrested her when she claimed it.

    The case put forward by the defense seemed to consist entirely of insinuating that drug-sniffing dogs are a Very Bad Idea for a wide variety of reasons.

    When we began deliberations, 10 of the jurors (all except the aforementioned mathematician and lawyer) began saying things like, “Well, I don’t know about them drug-sniffing dogs…” At this point, the lawyer and I reminded the other ten that our job was not to decide admissibility of evidence – if we had seen it, someone had already decided it was admissible – but rather to decide guilt or lack thereof based on said evidence (the judge had mentioned all this in his charge, although he didn’t make a big deal of it). At this point, my recollection is that they all said, almost in unison, “oh, well, then she’s guilty.”

    And that was that. The punishment phase took quite a bit longer (the defendant was about six months pregnant and this complicated those discussions considerably). During the punishment phase, we all agreed

    1) that the prosecutor was an irritating, arrogant jerk

    2) that we liked the defense attorney much better

    3) that we really felt sorry for the defendant and the defendant’s unborn child

    Then, we sent her to prison, where her child would be born, possibly with better health care than she would have had back home in Jamaica.

    The take-home message from all this is NOT that ten of the jurors were stupid people who just “didn’t get it.” In fact, they were quite reasonable, intelligent folks; I really enjoyed my time with them. However, they had very little training or experience in the precise parsing of words that is really important in the practice of the law (and mathematics). I firmly believe that if we two more-verbally-experienced folks hadn’t been there, she would have been acquitted; the relevant portion of the judge’s charge would have been ignored out of a failure to sort out the wheat from the chaff (I would guess that the charge he gave us was a fairly standard boilerplate charge – it seemed not to have been customized for the occasion).

    I’m not sure how to rectify this situation without seriously damaging the jury system (put a legally-trained observer in the room who is only allowed to ask questions, all of which are inserted into the trial record??), but having an experienced voice in the jury room can really make a difference.

    Kerry (080805)

  27. DUI case, guy was speeding down the freeway at 3 am, took an exit and started spinning brodies in a parking lot. Unfortunately, it was the parking lot of the local CHP station. Nabbed!

    We found him guilty, the evidence was ludicrously complete. I was in favor of finding him “incredibly stupid” as well, but that didn’t carry.

    mojo (8096f2)

  28. I was on a criminal case–multiple counts of attempted murder; jury members all agreed when time came to deliberate and send our verdict so didn’t take more than 5 days beginning [choice of jury] to end [delivering verdict].

    Elizabeth (b87e92)

  29. Perhaps OT, but perhaps relevant: Although I’ve lived my entire adult life in California, including the last 15 in LA, I’ve never been empaneled.

    Although this is less frustrating — less of a “wild goose chase” — since the advent of the One Day, One Trial policy, still it’s annoying: If they’re going to bother summoning me at all, why am I oh for four in getting on?

    Two times out of four, I never even left the large central assembly room for potential jurors in what’s now the Foltz building.

    A few years ago, I was part of a large venire-to-be sent off to the hallway outside of a courtroom on one of the high-security floors. The case apparently settled as we milled about. I wouldn’t have been enpaneled there in any event, for I noticed that one of the two prosecutors leaving the courtroom was reasonably well known to me.

    Over a decade ago was my only time even getting “into the box” as venireman who got asked the voir dire questions. This was in Santa Monica for a 3d-degree burglary case. Defense counsel kicked me on a peremptory. Heh.

    anon in LA (890cbf)

  30. Criminal case, aggravated assault and malicious mischief. Accused, a young man, got mad at his ex-wife and followed her car with his. She said he rammed her car, he said he didn’t. They both agree she pulled over and he smashed her headlights and windshield with a tire iron, got back in his car and drove away. The couple had since re-married.

    The malicious mischief was a slam-dunk, but while I could see simple assault for the window smash, I couldn’t find the aggravating element. Prosecutor wanted aggravated for the ramming, but all he had for supporting evidence were pictures of dents in the bodywork of her car, and they were all rusty. (This is in California — cars don’t rust here very fast.)

    Some jurors figured the defendant was hispanic, low-riding was part of his culture, and he might not have rammed her car this time but probably had before. They wanted to convict, and the rest gave in to them so they could go home. I was the lone holdout and hung the jury on the aggravated assault charge, as they wouldn’t comprommise on simple assault.

    We all wondered why we were in court since the two had obviously made up since, it should have been bargained out by the DA. Probably something going on they weren’t telling us about, but what we were given didn’t make sense.

    Socratease (64f814)

  31. My first experience as a juror was 20 years ago in a traffic court case. A police office from a neighboring town had been charged with going 45 mph in a 30 mph school zone. The defendant poilce officer represented himself and was given great latitude to present his case because he was pro se. During testimony, which the defendant provided in narrative, he mentioned that he would lose his job if found guilty of the traffic offense. (Objection; Sustained; Admonish to disregard.) During testimony, the officer also admitted he was going 40 mph but not 45mph. He also testified that he wasn’t familiar with our town and did not realize he was in a school zone. Given the location where the school zone started (just around a bend in the road), that was plausible.

    The jury consisted of 12 people of whom 4 were lawyers, including me. Two of the lawyers were older and obviously troubled by the possibility that the officer would lose his job if found guilty. They vigorously and successfully argued in favor of acquittal. This was the closest I’ve come to seeing jury nullification first hand.

    DRJ (420726)

  32. I’ve recounted my experience with the mistrial in voir dire. My daughter is an FBI agent and lawyer. One would think she would be challenged in any case especially a criminal case jury but she was selected and elected foreman by the jury. I forget the details but they convicted.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  33. Criminal Case. Drunk Driving.
    The case let me to conclude that Shakespeare was correct. First the defense attorney attempted to get all potential jury members whose profession was at all quantatitive and precise tossed off the jury. Enginners and accountants were summarially dismissed. Because he ran out summary dismissals I was left on the jury.

    Presentation of evidence took 3 hrs. The presentation of the evidence by the prosecutor was weak. The arresting officer was very young. Yet he was presented as having 8 years police experience. Prosecutor did not take time to explain that five years of this was as a teen age police cadet. Sort of reduced the credibity of the arresting officer.

    The case itself hinged on the breathalizer test results. Driver takes breathalizer test three hours after arrest and fails with a blood alcohol level of 0.18. Defense claim is the breathalizer is a biased test. Expert witness establishes that bias of test is to read blood alcohol results lower than other test results would show.

    Then the jury deliberations took 8 hrs to finally get a conviction.

    I have never spent so much time pursuading people who although educated, are stupid. The initial vote was 10 to 2 to acquit. One other former Canadian and I then had to with much pain a desire to have at least two baseball bats conduct basic instruction in statistics, in how to understand that test bias does not mean inaccurate and social drinking does not excuse DWI etc and after 8 hrs we got a 12-0 vote for conviction.

    Subsequently we found out this was the driver’s third DWI conviction.

    not a yank (c05f67)

  34. Civil case in Houston.

    This guy was suing for damages above workers’ comp, which had already been settled. His claim was that he was permanently injured, and the employer (a hospital) refused to find him other work. They claimed that they had tried, but there’s not much to do in a hospital that doesn’t require special training, except for humping heavy weights around, which he couldn’t do anymore.

    We found for the hospital because there was no evidence whatsoever of any conspiracy to “get” the guy. They just didn’t have a job he could do once he was disabled, and they had done for him what the law required. It sucked to be unable to help him, but we couldn’t do it by robbing the hospital.

    I got the definite impression that the plaintiff lawyer was a total shyster. Afterward, in discussion with the judge it appeared that they had filed the case to try and blackmail a settlement out of the hospital. He didn’t say so in so many words, of course. But the hospital wouldn’t settle and the plaintiff side kept coming up with reasons to delay, until the judge told them he was going to dismiss if they didn’t try it. So they rolled the dice and went to court.

    Trial highlight: the shyster yet again raised some dumb-bass objection, the judge spoke to him pretty strongly as he ruled for the defense, the defense attorney said “Thank you, your honor” and the judge jumped him too saying “You don’t thank me, I get paid to do this job” and words to the effect that he wasn’t working for them, but for the law, and he’d rule against the defendant too when they were in the wrong. The attorney apologized but was fighting to not smile. I assume the judge wanted to avoid any appearance of favoritism.

    In deliberation we came to the conclusion pretty quickly but reviewed a few things, like whether the employee handbook made some of the worker compensation process clear. So even on a pretty obvious case we tried to make sure we didn’t just go with the gut impression.

    After the trial some of the jury spoke with the defense attorneys. They told us outright that they were the “B” team lawyers getting experience by trying a slam-dunk.

    Some of the plaintiff evidence had come from a doctor who had done surgery on the plaintiff. The defense attorney, after the trial, told us that the doctor had been recommended by the worker’s comp lawyer, who often recommended this doctor on worker’s comp cases. The hospital’s doctors believed the surgery was not necessary, and was apparently done just because he could bill for it under worker’s comp. It also further weakened the plaintiff’s shoulder, so the attorney and doctor had basically screwed over their client so they could charge for surgery. The doctor had since passed away, and the attorney was genuinely saddened by his passing — he had so hoped to be able to get the unethical basset up on the stand.

    Sam (c71bb1)

  35. Oklahoma Criminal Court. Defendant charged with basically rape, kidnapping, assault, possision of firearm by a felon.

    Jury selection Monday morning. Opening arguments Monday afternoon.

    Testimony Tuesday. Only eyewitness was the woman who was raped. Some discrepancies in details, such as color of van though it was night when it happened. Picked defendant out of lineup and described certain characteristics that defendant’s ex-wife agreed to. Police and a few other witnesses. Female escaped from vehicle two blocks from defendant’s house. Other calls about crime traced to his phone.

    Defendant’s testimony was, “It wasn’t me. I was out of town.” No other evidence or witnesses to his being out of town, such as receipts, friends, etc.

    Closing arguments on Wednesday morning. Jury sent out at 10:30. Jury back at 11:05. Guilty.

    Afternoon sentencing phase begins at 1:00 and ends at 2:00. He had many priors including indecent acts with a minor. Jury sent out and back at 2:45. Max on all 4 counts (500 years each count).

    Two months later judge sent a letter informing me of the imposed sentence, 1505 consecutively, 495 concurrently. Eligible for parole in 150.5 years.

    I hated the experience, barely slept or ate, was a total wreck afterwards and don’t want to repeat it. But I am glad he is in jail.

    eeyore (60d814)

  36. Mid-90s case involving possession for sale. Defendant found in his lodging sitting on a couch with a case containing about 4-1/2 pounds of meth. Raid was with a warrant (no real argument about validity of warrant).

    Prosecutor was young and not very sharp (often vague and confused. Defense attorney was arrogant and agressive, which contributed much to the Prosecutor’s confusion.

    Defense theory was that drugs did not belong to defendant, although police informant had made buy from him.

    When we got the case a straw vote after about fifteen minutes of discussion was 10-2 for conviction. The two holdouts were apparently bought into the defense theory about ownership of the drugs, despite a pretty clear jury instruction on constructive possession. As the discussions went on it turned out that the real issue was that neither of the holdouts was willing to accept any responsibility for any bad things that might happen to the defendant if he were to be imprisoned.

    It took nearly two days of relatively heated discussion to bring them around. Had the judge not been pretty firm about not accepting a hung jury the guy might have walked. as the two doubters really had a problem with a verdict that might send someone to prison.

    After the trial we found out that this was this individual’s third conviction for drug sales, although the three strikes law was not invoked as at least one of the priors was while he was a minor.

    Bill (05719b)

  37. I’m a cop. I was called for jury duty. During juror selection (the case was some sort of weapon or assault charge) the defense attorney said “You’re a police officer, right?” Upon answering “Yes” I was promptly dismissed.

    In the jury pool room two days later some of the elderly ladies who got selected for that trial spoke to me after their case was over. They knew I was a cop. “Gosh, they were talking about Glocks and Berettas and different calibers, stuff you probably know about. Too bad you weren’t there and could have helped us understand.”

    Bob O. (f00bfe)

  38. Criminal case in San Mateo (this week, in fact).

    Jury selection was Monday afternoon; trial was Tuesday. The charge: misdemeanor entering an illegally parked vehicle. (This is apparently illegal in San Mateo; who knew?)

    The prosecution presented four witnesses, all police or police employees; the defense presented none. The four witnesses described the following story: an undercover police officer (who had never testified in court before and was *really* nervous) had been assigned to a ‘traffic enforcement’ sting. He saw defendant on the sidewalk, stopped his van in the middle of the street, and asked the defendant if he worked. The defendant said “yeah, yeah, yeah”; the officer offered him work at $15/hr doing gardening. The defendant got into the van, and the police officer took him off to be booked.

    We had a three hour lunch break while the lawyers and the judge thrashed out juror instructions. The jury came back, heard instructions and closing arguments, and went off to deliberate. First caucus was 10-2 not guilty (by reason of entrapment); I, and one other guy, were uncertain that the described situation constituted entrapment as defined in the juror instructions (we were told that it was entrapment if the inducement offered by the officer would induce a normally law abiding citizen to violate the law). We talked for about five minutes; the foreman posed the analogy of “if I were going to a job interview to make twice my current salary, I would speed on the interview to the job if necessary;” I found that argument persuasive, as did the other holdout.

    The judge after receiving the verdict suggested that the jury would do well to stay and talk to the prosecuter, as that would give him a better idea if he was barking up the wrong tree with the entire line of prosecutions.

    Apparently this law has been on the books for two years, and this is the first case that’s gone to trial; everyone else has either pled down to jaywalking or fled.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  39. Incidentally, in that case, *everyone*, including myself and the other person whose original position was guilty, thought that the law in question was one of the most absurd laws we’d ever heard of.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  40. While everybody else in the jury box, including people who have managed to make it all the way to Social Security, is chirping, “This is my first time on a jury, your Honor,” I’m counting on my fingers. I’ve had:

    1) Burglary of a business, by an employee who was doing his own work in the same line on the side. (Decided.) Somebody backed a truck up to this business in the dead of night and loaded up a bunch of business-specific supplies that seemed to lack much value on the open market. Could it have been the employee with the criminal record, whose wife testified against him? Well, yes, it could have. (It turned out post-trial they’d had to extradite him from somewhere else — New Jersey, I think — where he was in jail on some other matter in order to try him here.)

    2) DUI, by a fellow who alleged police brutality. (Hung.) The defendant, after describing how he’d been trapped, alone, at around 3 AM, by a couple of large guys with guns, acting menacing, was asked if he had been scared. “No.” That settled it, for me; he was either drunk or lying. About half the rest of the jury seemed willing to believe him.

    3) Auto burglary, where the issue wasn’t whether he’d done it but whether the car was locked when he did it. This turned out to be a Three Strikes case. (Decided.) The defendant’s own attorney as much as admitted that he did it, and it was where he did it that got me — near the very courthouse where he was being tried, about fifty yards from a police station, and right in front of a glass-fronted building full of court reporters, two of whom described his tussle with the car’s locks. And, as I recall, there was damage to the car.

    4) Spousal battery. This one was complicated by the fact that while the two parties spoke English, it became clear about halfway through the trial that what they were saying in that language (which was not their first) wasn’t necessarily what they thought they were saying. Example, more or less: “So you hit her?” “No, I never hit her.” (A couple of questions later, referring to the same occasion) “So you beat her?” “Yes, I beat her.” (Hung.) This was a pure he said/she said, with no medical evidence offered, and the problem was trying to figure out what they meant by what they said. We decided we couldn’t decide, and I (at least) told the prosecutor to get an interpreter next time.

    Also sat as an alternate on a civil case, a railroad employee suing his employer over an injury suffered on the job. Dullest (and by far the _longest_) case I ever ran across, assigned on what was allegedly my last day of service, too, and I didn’t get to deliberate, either. And on three or four panels but not selected. One of those featured the most delightful excuse for not serving I ever ran across, a nice black lady who pleaded that her employer wouldn’t pay for her jury time. And where did she work? “The law offices of Johnny Cochran.”

    All these cases were in the L. A. area, three in Long Beach and one in Compton.

    Jimmy (df2168)

  41. I recently served on a child molestation and sexual assualt case allegedly committed by an uncle(mother’s brother). The girl, now 19, claimed that the assaults occurred when she was 9-10 and continued for several years progressing from touching to intercourse at 12-13. 2 of us on the jury voted guilty while the other 10 voted not guilty. Hung jury. BTW the girls other uncle, brother to this one, had already pled guilty to charges involving sexual assaulting of her. The reasons some could not come to find guilty included: no physical evidence (one woman a nurse felt there s/b signs of physical injury after 6 yrs on a girl who was sexually active), others got hung up on the fact that the original police report was not entered into evidence despite the defense atty referring to it during cross of the mother, the father was a no show at the trial leading some to speculate that he thought the charges were nothing more than a family fued. The mother testified that she too was assualted by him when she was 12-13. We went about 12 hours before the judge let us go.

    Ron O (563d97)

  42. Served on two civil trial juries in NYC; one a state personal injury suit and the other a Federal trademark infringement suit.

    First one was early 90s. Suit was some 8 years in the making: LIRR worker slipped and fell coming out of the lunch room, injuring his knee. Though the RR attempted to accommodate the disability, plaintiff still sue LIRR, maintenance company, and others. No one disputed that the man had been injured. We heard three days of testimony (out of a promised several weeks) when plaintiff was forced to admit on stand that he had misrepresented some facts and lied in other demotions. When the jury returned from lunch, we learned the parties had settled. Seemed like a colossal waste of time for all involved, and the plaintiff’s attorney seemed somewhat patronizing and theatrical. The bailiff, after much begging, told us the settlement was in the hundreds of thousands of dollar range. Most jurors commented we wouldn’t have given him anything, though I doubt that would have been the outcome had the trial gone to it’s conclusion.

    The second suit was a rather convoluted trademark infringement suit about a very esoteric branch of academic publishing where a board member of a foundation that awarded an annual literary prize in a very obscure branch of study sued over a trademark infringement. The foundation had forced said board member out and had supposedly given up the right to use the board member’s family name in association with the literary prize (named for the member’s father, who established the foundation). Foundation claimed they’d never given up the right to the name and the foundation lawyer to purportedly did so had no authority to relinquish said trademark.

    As a jury experience, this was fascinating. First, I was surprised that I was on the jury since I work in a related area and have had to deal with trademarks in the course of my business. The jury itself was very mixed. Myself, white male; an African-American man, working class; an African-American woman, college degree, an Indian woman, college degree, a retired white secretary, and an African-American young man, high-school dropout, among others. The witnesses were a true cast of characters, who, if they were fictional, wouldn’t never seem credible, including the foundation lawyer who had a highly amusing name and looked just like Soupy Sales.

    Just before deliberations, the judge ruled on the trademark infringement for the plaintiff “as a matter of law,” so the jury didn’t consider it (though if we had we would have done the same, since it was clear in testimony that the foundation president was a lying weasel who had clearly approved the letter relinquishing right to the trademark. What was most instructive was the deliberation on the amount of damages. This took a couple of hours. The jury was fairly split between those of us who wanted to award minimal or even nominal damages (my position, since the plaintiff testified that “all s/he wanted” was his/her “father’s name back”, which had been achieved) and those who though a much higher number was in order. The young African-American man was fairly insistent about wanting to award “a million dollars”. While this was clearly not right, no one on the jury pointed out how ridiculous this was; instead we spent a fair amount of time probing why he wanted such a high amount. When the ultimate answer came out as “because we can,” further discussion brought him around. We eventually split the difference between the two amounts, along the lines of $20,000. The judge later told us (after dismissal) that he thought it was the right amount. Though the facts of the suit and the testimony were very dry, I was impressed that all the jurors took their responsibility seriously and were mostly quite attentive (except one juror that kept nodding off after lunch).

    LostSailor (6de77a)

  43. Malpractice trial in Florida.
    Plantiff argued that two doctors miss treated and failed to diagnois an infection to spinal cord after spinal surgery.
    Neurosurgeon was Korean and difficult to understand. Family doctor was nice and seemed honest and fair.
    Plantiff’s attorney was pleasant and charming. Two defendant attorneys. Family doc attorney was nervous and sweated through his shirt and jacket. Seemed knowledgeable, but very nervous. After trial, learned that he never tried cases, and settled all the time for the insurance company.

    dan parker (a90377)

  44. Florida cont,
    Neurosurgeon’s attorney very abrasive and combative.
    Case was very simple because different organisms cultured from surgery site, one in hospital as post op infection site, other ar infected disc five monthes later.Plantiff alleged that post infection wound was cause of infected disc five monthes after discharge. Found for doctors, took 3 hours. One jurer it turned out couldn’t understand English, and the rest of us explained it to her. High school biology tearcher on jury was best “expert” on organisms. She later went up to Family doctor and asked if she could become his patient. Liked th
    I liked the plantiffs attorney the best, and felt sorry for man, but there was no malpractise.

    dan parker (a90377)

  45. Three or so years ago, in Cumberland County, PA. Aggravated assault, with some traffic offenses as well, but the felony was the big charge. Two punks were desperate to get to an apartment occupied by two girls (they met earlier and arranged to get together later)for some horizontal acrobatics and refreshment. Unfortunately, an elderly Korean man was driving in front of them on a windy narrow country road. After several attempts to pass, frustrated by oncoming traffic and sharp, blind turns, the punks flashed their lights and forced the man off the road. For some reason, they pulled off behind him, screamed at him, pulled him from the car, then beat the crap out of him.

    Todd G. (e24254)

  46. I was on a Criminal case, shoplifting, in Orange County, around 93.

    Jury Selection and trial took 2 days. I got to read quite a bit of Ruah Limbaugh’s “See, I Told You So!” while waiting.

    The man was a middle class black entreprenure who represented himself. BIG MISTAKE!

    We went over the evidence carefully during deliberations. We thought he was guilty, but were giving him the benefit of a doubt until I found I found the 3 receipts he claimed were from the departmant store he took clothing from. The receipt was from Tower Records and not from the date the shoplifting occured on.

    Stuffing those receipts in the evidence, which the judge and prosecutor did not make proper note of, sunk him immediately.

    We thought his jury picking was odd to inept. He challenged jurors who would have been sympathetic to him.

    We didn’t get to hear the sentence as we were dismissed before then.

    My gripe with the prosecutor was that she didn’t look for jurors who had problems with “the man”, “The system”, or with “Whitey”.

    PCD (1c84a3)

  47. Fascinating discussion.

    I (almost) wish I had somet experience so I could add something intelligent.

    I’ll just let you all know that it’s very intriguing to hear your stories.

    Every one that I’ve had time to read so far has added some great perspective.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (5ab65d)

  48. This was a long time ago in Orange County – a check kiting case that put Bank of Santa Ana out of business and involved Rockview Dairy. Three defendents, a trial that lasted 6 weeks, jury that was locked up 3 days and nights during deliberations and we ended up hung. Fortunately, L.A. County tried them a few weeks later and got them. One of the most frustrating 3 days of my life because of instructions from the bench: “You can only convict if you think they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” That reasonable doubt thing absolutely stymied about 3 people.

    Jackie Warner (41f17a)

  49. Sorry – hit the wrong button –

    Anyway, the whole thing was witnessed by a mother and daughter who pulled over behind the punks, thinking a medical emergency had occurred, and wanted to see if they could help. They did, later on the witness stand, and earlier by calling 911 from their cell phone.

    The defense attorney and prosector were both competent and their personalities were not an issue. As seems to be a continuing theme, the Korean man’s English was not perfect, but he was understandable. There were some supressed laughs as he recalled, and tried to pronounce (several times), all the horrible curse words hurled at him, but he soldiered on. He was a very credible witness, the defendant not so much, trying to explain that he pounded on the man for calling him names and spitting on him.

    The two ‘objects of desire’ were also called to the witness stand, and presented their accounts. I believe they were called by the prosecutor, as the defense attorney would surely have told them to shy away from micro-skirts and tube tops, and would probably have insisted on underwear. No kidding – made me almost weep for my country.

    Testimony took an afternoon and most of a morning. We got the case at around 1100 as I recall, with the judge promising to send up lunch as we deliberated. He could have saved the good taxpayers of Cumberland County some money if he had waited about 30 minutes.

    The jury, which was mixed in age and race (I’m a white, professional male, aged 41, with a wife, two kids and a mortgage FYI), just kind of looked at each other when the bailiff locked us in the jury room. Finally one member, a heavily tattooed 20-something female, broke the ice by saying, “So…. when did you all figure out he’s guilty, I knew when the victim tried to say “@^##$%$%” – a word which the defendant said upset him to cause bodily harm – couldn’t be pronounced by the victim.

    We actually had to wait until the lunch arrived and was served out (apparently this Judge had a standing order at a nearby catering place, so there were 2 ham and cheese, 3 tuna on wheat, etc, and each juror picked). We had found him guilty before we elected a foreman – is there an appeal there??? We spend lunchtime getting acquainted and while all were sympathetic to the Korean gentleman, the men were somewhat understanding of the drive exhibited by the defendants — especially after the appearance of the two scantily clad witnesses.

    I say defendants – we actually only had one defendant, one who was slighlty less involved in the assault. He went first, although we didn’t know it at the time. We were to try the second defendant afterward, but after seeing a guily conviction, he (pled – pleaded?) copped a guilty plea and saved the county another lunch for twelve.

    I can’t speak for the other jurors, but I found it very fulfilling to participate in this exercise of civil responsibility. I have lawyers on both sides of my family, and often thought of going to law school. Perhaps when I retire from my present occupation. Nothing exhibited at the trial by either the prosecutor or defense attorney would cause me to re-evaluate this possibility. The judge was just what one would expect from a Norman Rockwell painting, graying, glasses which came off and were put back on, forward leaning, sort of like the Uncle we all wish for. So much so, that I have been trying to get my now 14 year old son down to the county courthouse meet and to see a case tried before this judge. I have In-laws in the county BAR who tell me this judge loves to meet youngsters in a court house of their own volition. Trouble is, the judge’s schedule is probably easier than my son’s.

    Oh, by the bye, both defendants were sentenced to 1-3 years.

    Todd G. (e24254)

  50. I sat on a jury about 20 yrs. ago for 1st degree murder in Alamosa, Colorado. The defendant (late 20s hispanic) had hooked-up with three other hispanics (cousins of each other but not the defendant, one mid 20s, the other two 16-18) one Saturday night and were riding around in the defendant’s vehicle, drinking and doing drugs. They picked up a prostitute (the victim), something happened in the car which made her try to jump out of it while moving, which they prevented but dragged her for some distance. They apparently panicked and took her to a field west of town, bludgeoned her to death with a 2×4, then tried to set fire to the body. The older cousin was picked up the next morning trying to hitchhike out of town with some of the victim’s jewelry in his possession; he implicated the others under questioning.

    I was not disqualified from the jury though I am an engineer. We were not sequestered (the county didn’t have the money) but were instructed by the judge not to read any newspapers, watch T.V. news, or discuss the case with anyone. Presentation of the case took 4 days, and we deliberated for approximately 6 hrs. on Friday before returning a verdict.

    The primary evidence in the case were footprints at the scene which matched a pair of shoes found in the defendant’s trunk and the testimony of the three cousins, in return for reduced charges against them. Their testimony was problematic. We saw videos of their multiple interrogations. The first time their stories were widely divergent. The police then kept them in the same cell, and the second set of stories were then closer but still not in agreement. They were again kept together, and finally by the third set of interrogations their stories were mostly consistent, though differing widely from their original accounts. These circumstances were the primary defense — how could any of this testimony be believed, given their varying accounts and obvious self-interest? The defendant did not testify.

    This question was enough for three jurors to initially have some reasonable doubt. We did not do secret ballots; all discussion was open and there was no animosity. We finally decided to list what we thought was true based on all the varying accounts: all were intoxicated and under the influence of drugs; the defendant was driving when the victim was dragged (the dragging confirmed by the autopsy) and when they went to the field; the shoes found matched the footprints at the murder scene (we actually requested the shoes and casts of the footprints and compared them); and all testimony placed the defendant and the older cousin at the scene and somehow involved in the actual murder (the two younger cousins stayed in the car). Per the judge’s instructions, this set of circumstance was sufficient to conclude under Colorado law that the defendant was an active participant in the murder. This argument was enough to convince every juror of his guilt. Also per the judge’s instructions, the defendant was clearly impaired, so we returned a verdict of guilty of 2nd degree murder. I later learned, when questioned by the public defender after the trial, that the defendant had recently been released from the State mental institution where he had been held for 8 yrs. for stabbing a woman.

    I was pleasantly surprised by the people on the jury. There was a wide variety of people, from housewives to middle-class workmen to professionals, and even one college professor. All took their responsibility seriously, showed respect to the other jurors even when they disagreed and no one seemed to have an agenda. We had a joker who would always crack some joke as we went back to the jury room during the trial and would get some of us laughing, which I’m sure was unsettling to the judge, prosecution and defense.

    jd watson (a17873)

  51. I served in a civil trial: plaintiff’s family was suing an insurance company after a fatal car accident. We were told that the amount was not what was in question, only whether it was this insurer that would pay, whatever it was.

    The situation: Unlicensed (not even a learner’s permit) 17-year-old driver borrows brother’s car to leave party with 18-year-old friend who has been drinking (not sure how much, didn’t sound like much). Brother specifically forbids 17-year-old to drive car, tells 18yo to drive, but 18yo cons 17yo into driving (“oh, just pull it out of the parking space, it’s really tight and I had a couple beers”).

    So (unlicensed, remember) 17yo, who lives with grandparents and not with brother, is driving this car on the highway, when the front end starts to shake. Both panic, passenger grabs the wheel, the car goes across the median and hits another vehicle head-on, killing one person in the car (the plaintiff’s mother, if I remember right) and injuring the others.

    The plaintiffs sue the grandparents’ insurance company, claiming the 17yo (still unlicensed, still no learner’s permit) should be covered under their policy. To me, they were toast as soon as plaintiff’s counsel threw his arms up in the air and said, “This big insurance company, hiding behind their lawyer, nobody from the company even showed up!” “They don’t have to be here,” replied defendant’s counsel in his summation (somewhat laconically, thinks I). Plaintiff’s attorney tried it again in his summation, to a purpose that is beyond me (due to the angle of my forehead, perhaps).

    I volunteered to be foreman because no one else wanted the job. The testimony wrapped, we retired to the jury room, I polled the (eight-person) jury, and you guessed it, there were three votes for the plaintiff. I managed not to ask what trial the three had been watching, and we kicked it around a little.

    “I just felt like the family deserves something,” one juror said after watching the wife weep through the trial. I allowed as to how that might be the case, but could not figure out how we could ask the insurance company to pay, considering it was the brother’s car, not the grandparents’ (and the brother could just about legitimately have reported the car stolen), and the 17yo wasn’t on anyone’s insurance. Driving without a license is illegal in the great state of Ohio; could we ask the insurer to sanction an illegal act? After another 20 minutes or so of discussion, we found unanimously for the defendant.

    Ken (e42325)

  52. My most recent service was a murder trial two summers ago at the Torrance court. I was an alternate. A 20-something Latino male was accused of shooting another 20-something Latino male. The two had had a history of bad blood, though they had not really had any interaction for at least a year. I thought the prosecuter was a much better attorney than the public defender, who resorted to spinning a wild theory about how one of the witnesses for the prosecution might have been the real shooter. The lesson I learned is that if I am ever facing a serious charge, I am not going to rely upon the public defender’s office. I did not end up in deliberations since I was only an alternate juror, but they returned a guilty verdict. I was not so sure I was convinced of the guy’s guilt, and I would have wanted to look over the transcript of the testimony to check on a few questions that I had.

    [What questions? — P]

    I was bothered by a couple of things: (1) as I heard it, the lead witness for the prosecution described the person he saw in the gunman’s car as a “clean shaven Latino.” When the guy on trial was arrested up a day later, however, he had a full goatee beard. Perhaps the witness was referring to the guy’s head, which was in fact shaven, but when you are identifying a 20-something Latino male with a shaved head in Los Angeles County you are only narrowing it down to about 20,000 people. I would have wanted to check the transcript of the testimony to see if I might have mis-heard the witness; (2) the prosecution didn’t have a murder weapon, nor did they ever connect the shooter’s automobile to the defendant. The defendant’s alibi was pretty weak: he said that he was in the neighborhood where the murder took place, but was watching a Lakers game at a friend’s house. He told the cops that he received a ride home from a friend of his friend, but he couldn’t remember the guy’s name. His friend who was hosting him never came forward and testified on his behalf either.

    I was about 60% certain that the guy on trial was the actual shooter, but I had enough nagging doubts that I am not sure if I could have voted guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It would have been interesting to see if the rest of the jury could have swayed me.

    I never did find out what the sentence was for the guy who was convicted. Nothing ever ran in the paper, and I have had no luck searching on his name at various search engines.

    JVW (d667c9)

  53. I was on a criminal jury in Compton courthouse back in 1988.

    The charge was hit and run, but the circumstances were pretty funny.

    It seems the defendant was cruising some street in Long Beach (I don’t remember which one), and pulled over to talk to a woman who was walking along the street. Two undercover cops recognized the woman as a hooker, and pulled in front of the defendant’s car. Whereupon, the defendant hit the accelerator, slamming into the undercover car and tearing the passenger side door off.

    The cops got his license number and radioed the info to the base. A motorcycle cop was dispatched to the defendant’s home, and when he got to the door, the defendant’s wife said he wasn’t there. (Turns out the defendant was hiding along the side of the house.)

    At this moment, a man who was renting a room from the defendant and his wife came stumbling to the front door, drunk. The motorcycle cop, thinking this was the man the undercover cops sought, arrested him.

    The two undercover cops showed up at this point, and told the other cop he had the wrong guy. Then the defendant walked around to the front door, trying to make it look like he had been there all the time.

    The defense tried to argue that the roommate was really the guy at the wheel, not the defendant. And that the cops — who were white and black — couldn’t see the subtle feature differences between the defendant and his roommate — both Hispanic.

    The problem is, the guys were about as alike as Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzeneggar looked like identical twins in that movie.

    The jurors talked mostly about the defense’s theory on racial characteristics in identifying suspects, and we felt that since the cops had more training in observation than the average layman, it was a bogus argument.

    Took us about an hour to come to a guilty verdict. The discussion was pretty serious, and very polite.

    Steverino (0ed24c)

  54. I have been a juror on 3 different trials. 2 were drunk driving charges and we disposed of both pretty quickly. The 2nd took a day of discussion as there was some testimony at odds and we spent time discussing it. In both cases, the ultimate verdict was guilty.

    The third case was a murder trial and it took weeks to try. Weeks in which we as jurors spent as much time out of the courtroom as we did in it listening to testimony. The prosecutor was very unlikeable, in fact so much so, that the jurors were convinced he was as evil or more so than the man being charged. He did not seem to know how to ask a question of even his own witnesses without coming across as sarcastic and snide. It made all of us uncomfortable.

    We deliberated for 6 days and ended as a hung jury of 6 to 6. I voted not guilty. I was not convinced that the defendant was innocent, but there was a glaring gap in the prosecution’s case regarding a stamped time card. The defendant had been living at a half-way house that kept the doors locked at night and had deputies who did regular bed checks and the residents had to check in and out by punching a timecard. The problem was, he was at the morning bed check and rollcall, according to deputy generated records, and his timecard was stamped. The claim of when the crime had been committed could not be valid with our defendant as the killer if the half-way house records were correct in their times. There just wasn’t enough time for the defendant to get from the half-way house to the crime scene based on those times that showed he was still at the halfway house at the alledged time of the murder. We had all the exhibits and all our notes in the jury room and we spent hours trying to make that prosecutorial timeline work as most of us thought the guy was probably guilty. In the end though, based on reasonable double, those time descrepancies were too glaring to ignore, especially in light of the fact that the defendant was supposed to be travelling across town by bus and not a car, and would have had to transfer at least twice in the process.

    We later found out that our trial was the 2nd time at bat for the prosecution and that they did even worse the first time with a jury that came in 11 to 1 for not guilty. I heard later still that the defendant had run out of money and at a 3rd trial he only had one wet-behind-the-ears public defender who was just out of law school and that he did get convicted.

    We took our job very seriously, especially since it was a death penalty case. The crime was a severe beating with a tire iron during an alledged car theft.

    I mentioned this here on the blog recently. This experience left a very bad taste in a young woman’s world at the time. I was the youngest on the jury at age 27. After the mistrial was called, we as jurors were called back to the courtroom by the judge and told we were stupid and ignorant and a host of other names. I left the courthouse in tears. The prosecutor also took us up to his office and showed us all the evidence he had that he had been prevented from presenting. There was tons of it, but still nothing that explained the discrepancies in the time cards/bed check logs against the evidence of when the crime was committed.

    The prosecutor also told me in an aside that he felt I’d let him down. Turns out that the girlfriend of the murder victim was a coworker of mine at the local newspaper. This was a fact I was unaware about during the trial but apparently the prosecutor and defense attorney both knew. I took the prosecutor’s remarks to mean that he expected me to vote guilty no matter what his evidence out of some kind of friendship for the victim’s girlfriend.

    I would never want to be on another capital case as the stress of having someone else’s life in my hands was mindboggling.

    Sara (Squiggler) (47b627)

  55. Nothing special here. It was about 6 months ago, for drunk driving. A 40+ y/o lady was stopped after a cop followed her about a quarter mile. She kept crossing the yellow line. She popped a bunch of candy before the breathalyzer and failed, then refused to take the more accurate test back at the Courthouse. We sat through about 1/2 an hours worth of testimony from the officer and then had the judge give us about 10 minutes worth of instructions. Please keep in mind that all the statements above came from the arresting officer because he was the only one who gave testimony. The thing I found most interesting was the instruction that we could not hold the fact that the defendant did not testify against her, but as we found in the holding room, it is really hard to give her the benefit of the doubt when the only info we have is from the officer. We spent 45 minutes trying to see things from her POV, but since no one explained her POV we eventually found her guilty.

    Dawnsblood (30da23)

  56. Civil trial. My only jury experience. One week.

    A man working for a (union) construction contractor at Fermilab near Chicago was suing Fermilab itself. He injured himself while carrying rebar when he tripped over what he claimed was unmarked conduit protruding from the floor. He was in some chronic pain and needed continuing treatment.

    Some things wrong with that.

    1)The union would shut the site down if they thought anything was unsafe.

    2)Fermilab and contractor supervisors denied any unmarked conduit.

    3)Defense showed the accident report filled out by the plaintiff himself. Not a thing about unmarked conduit.

    I felt sorry for the guy, but the evidence to sue Fermilab just wasn’t there. We unanimously denied the suit after deliberating for less than 2 hours. Much of that time was just making sure we replied correctly to all the verdict options presented to us by the judge.

    Jim C. (85b830)

  57. Never sat on a civilian jury, but was a member of military courts-martial numerous times. Also, one time as a Summary Court (judge AND jury!). I much prefer the military rules for jury/member deliberation.

    Bob (120b51)

  58. I was on a civil jury for a multi-million dollar lawsuit against a trucking company. A teenage girl died while attempting a u-turn on the Interstate in Duval County, Florida. A truck hit her when she drove across the grassy median.

    I considered it to be an easy case: this sweet, beautiful girl died because she made a stupid mistake. Everyone else on the jury saw it differently. They thought that it was wrong to send the parents away empty handed. They thought that the fairness of the decision was irrelevant because the trucking company’s insurance could easily handle the cost.

    Among the jury members was a state’s attorney. I was shocked at how easily the emotionalism of the plaintiff’s case convinced the other jurors. And they thought that I was a cold hearted SOB for siding with the trucking company instead of this very cute girl and her grieving parents.

    John (2c0df7)

  59. On a criminal trial in Pomona about 8 – 10 months ago. Seven various counts of sex with a minor under the age of 16 by a person over 25. The guy was in his 40s and according to testimony the girl was a crack (or something) baby who is significantly below average in intelligence. (She seemed a bit slow, but not severely challenged.) Her age at the time was 14. The defendant and victim were different races, as was the defendant’s wife, but I never felt that that was an issue for anyone on the jury, which was also quite mixed.

    Three or four prospective jurors pleaded lack of English as a excuse, even though two of them were overheard conversing is quite decent English in the hallway. A similar number of young unserious people and a couple of folks who appeared to be dingbats were excused on challenges.

    The case was fairly cut and dried. The defendant and his wife were foster parents for some period of time, having gone to some trouble to qualify. A 12 year old girl was in the house at the time of the crimes. Based upon her testimony and several pictures, it seemed to most jurors (including myself) that the atmosphere in the house was sexually charged. There were photographs of “dress up” games involving the victim (who lived with her grandmother across the street) and the 12 year old, and both girls appeared decidedly uncomfortable. During deliberations, several jurors remarked upon this, and there seemed to be a general feeling that things were just not right in the home.

    In addition, exactly what the guy did for a living and why his working hours were so strange were never presented. I think that several jurors thought that there was a story there, and that it probably didn’t reflect well on the defendant.

    The testimony from the girls was fairly compelling, although the victim seemed to be torn between feeling victimized and being a willing party. It seemed pretty clear that in the beginning she thought of it as “love” despite the presence of a wife in the home. The testimony of the investigating officer was pretty vanilla and didn’t add much. However, there was a long tape of a conversation between the girl and the defendant. Most jurors appeared to feel that this was the deciding evidence in the case. There were some reservations about whether the girl might have been lying (she had been in some mild trouble at school and may have previously been involved with a neighborhood boy).

    However, in the tape, the girl mentioned several of the things that had occurred. At no point in the approximately half-hour tape did the defendant deny that the events had happened, he only talked about how her going to the police would ruin his life. Very damning. The defendant’s wife testified that nothing had happened, that she closely monitored what was going on, etc., etc., but all the jurors seemed to discount essentially everything she said.

    I personally felt that the defense lawyer did a poor job. He tripped himself up on the facts of the case at least twice and did not come across as a strong advocate. Of course, he didn’t have a lot to work with. If I ever get in trouble, I sure hope I can afford someone better.

    During deliberations, the first vote was held after about a hour. The vote was 12 to 0 on conviction on four of the charges. I was one of the holdouts on two of the charges. After an overnight recess and three or four hours more of deliberations, it was 12 to 0 on six of the seven counts.

    After another two or three hours, it became clear that one juror would never vote to convict on the remaining count of sodomy. He never really gave any reasons or rationale, he just said that he would never vote to convict on this count. I don’t think any of the other jurors understood this any more than I did. If he had presented a logical rationale as to why he was unconvinced, it would have been more understandable. But he didn’t and it remains a mystery.

    Gary (c5464a)

  60. I’ve had an experiment going since I turned 18, which was 35 years ago. That is, I ignore all jury summons’. My idea is to test whether the selection system can detect those of us who attempt to opt out.

    I’m employed, a homeowner, relatively stable guy. Neither the county, the superior court or anyone else has ever followed up on a summons which I discarded.

    Obviously, the system is still broken, despite alleged improvements over the years.

    Bill

    Bill C. (2604a2)

  61. Charge was Cal. PC 12025 and PC 12031.
    Defendant was a gang “wannabe”. Voted to convict on 12031, hung on 12025.

    Case was open and shut, IMHO. Kid was guilty, but two members of the jury thought the officers were ‘probably harassing the kid’, so voted to split the difference….Very frustrating.

    Robert Shaftoe (1f4060)

  62. <sarcasm>Nice to see you’re helping out, Bill, by ignoring your bit.

    Maybe I’ll try avoiding all my responsibilities in an effort to improve the system too.</sarcasm>

    Chris from Victoria, BC (9824e6)

  63. Assault and Battery(with a collapsible baton) during attempted robbery of bodega in Orange County. Jury empaneled in one day though to this day I can’t figure out why I was not excused(robbed 3 times, once at knifepoint and twice with what I was positive were portable cannons). We heard testimony in the morning then were excused after lunch. Seems the owner of the bodega and his nephew were coincidentally assaulted in the parking garage, by the courthouse, and were now unwilling to testify. Case dismissed. In the corridor later a few of the jurors were talking and it seemed that they had made up their minds to convict even with the testimony of only the arresting officer, one passerby and the recovered money and lottery tickets.

    Pat Patterson (5b3946)

  64. Sorry, should have deleted “attempted”.

    Pat Patterson (5b3946)

  65. Washington State – Child rape and child molestation. —– LONG POST WARNING

    This was a difficult case, involving Vietnamese victims and a Vietnamese defendant. There was heavy use of translators, though the children spoke English. The case was completely based on testimony evidence – no DNA or any other scientific evidence. Also, the events had happened at least a year or more before the charges were filed.

    The jury was all Caucasian; no Asian, Black, Hispanic or other minorities. Ages ranged from mid-20’s to about 65, seven women – five men.

    There were three girls involved, two sisters and their cousin. Ages at the time of the molestations ranged from about 5 to 12. The mothers were Vietnamese immigrants who led a somewhat fast & loose lifestyle – they would drop off the kids at the defendant’s house for the weekend while they would be off doing “stuff”. That’s when the incidents were alleged to have occurred.

    The prosecution case presented information about a 3+ year timeframe, which made it important to keep a clear timeline and clarity about which person was being talked about. Several witnesses and victims had the same first name, which added to the confusion at times. The defense worked to present character witnesses showing that the defendant wasn’t the type of person who would do such a thing. Also, they tried to show that the prosecution’s presentation of events was not consistent.

    The trial presentation lasted 5 1/2 days. At times, we had trouble trying to figure out what both the ADA and the PD were trying to present. This was due to the judge keeping the attorneys on a path of presenting evidence but not allowing any type of exposition about how this all fit together. So the attorneys gave us lots of witnesses, lots of testimony evidence, a small number of other exhibits (with little explanation of what they proved). There was a lot of cross-examination to try to discredit the witness testimony on both sides. Summation tried to put it all in perspective on both sides – the defense contending that the defendant wasn’t that kind of person and that the victim’s mothers were fabricating the charges to “get back at” the defendant. Also that there was no scientific evidence of the crimes. Both sides worked hard to discredit testimony by the other side.

    After dismissing the randomly chosen alternates (they pick out 2 numbers from the 14 jurors and they get sent home) we started deliberations. I was elected foreman (actually, there is a more PC term used up here, but I forgot it right away).

    There had been a TON of testimony, with contradictory statements on both sides. Witness credibility was a big factor. I decided to try to sort it out, so I used the white-board (about 12 ft long) in the jury room to sort out who the various witnesses were, what they said, and what the relationships were between the testimony and the charges. It was difficult because the victims could not cite specific dates/times (explained as being due to their ages) and thus the defendant had difficulty generating any specific alibi. However, the defense also said that the prosecution was presenting “vague charges without specifics”.

    The fact that the crimes involved children made it a challenge for the jury to determine exactly what had happened. It took a lot of collective memory and notes to get clear pictures at times.

    Eventually, we decided that the defense hadn’t shown that the victim’s mothers had concocted this as a revenge scheme and gotten three young girls to go along with it. So that defense claim went out the window. We also found that the character witnesses for the defense were only that, and did not serve to discredit the prosecution testimony. We did reach a conclusion that the victims’ testimony was truthful.

    Due to the way the charges were presented, we felt that two counts were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This was on second incidents with one girl, and with the different definitions of child molestation and child rape. There was no provision for a lesser charge, and we could either find guilty or not guilty on each charge individually. However, we found the defendant guilty of 2 counts of child rape and 3 counts of child molestation.

    The deliberation took about 1 3/4 days (9AM to 5PM). It could have possibly been done faster, but these were charges of great significance, with heavy repercussions from our verdict. The defense played up that the defendant was a hard-working family man with children of his own who would be going to college soon. They had his wife and 3 of 4 children on the stand. I told the other jurors when chosen foreman “I will take the position on the condition that we examine this complex case completely, so that none of us will later have to wonder if we did the right thing. So that we will know that we have reached the correct verdict and can sleep at night.” Everyone agreed, and as we concluded, most told me that they felt better having gone over everything – that they wouldn’t be second guessing down the road.

    After the verdict was announced, we had to be escorted out a back stairwell of the courthouse to our cars….the Vietnamese community was out in force for the trial and verdict (supporting the defendant – many witnesses had tried to testify that the victims’ mothers were less than stellar moms) and it was felt that we shouldn’t make our way through their presence.

    The case is currently on appeal. If Patterico wants to contact me for more info or questions, feel free to do so through the email in the comment registration.

    Washington Don (da7e28)

  66. Criminal case in downtown LA–DUI/driving over .08 with a speed enhancement charge for driving over 90 MPH. Young guy, failed field sobriety, plus 1.1 on the breathalyzer and blood test. Admitted drinking a beer or two. Two jurors just assumed the cops tampered with the blood with no evidence and with no claim by the defense to that effect. Most jurors were skeptical of the CHP officers. One guy said the car couldn’t have been going 90 MPH because its speedometer only went to 80. Result: convicted on the .08 charge, acquitted on DUI and speed enhancement. This took two days of deliberation.

    Jim Berry (1d8eeb)

  67. Criminal case, marijuana smuggling. The defendant was a 50ish guy caught trying to bring about 100 pounds of marijuana into the US via a border checkpoint. The goods were wrapped in plastic wrap (about 34 bundles, if I recall) and hidden in various compartments within the extended cab of his pickup truck and the locked truck bed toolbox just behind the cab.

    The lone defendant claimed that he was unaware of the presence of the marijuana–he was in Mexico with a friend visiting a dentist (recommended by this friend) since he needed to get better fitting dentures. The defendant claimed his ill-fitting dentures had been an embarrassment for him for several years prior, and he had had to resort to gumming his food and was thus entirely unable to eat in social settings. Supposedly while the defendant visited the dentist, the friend had borrowed the truck for several hours. On the return trip back to the US, the friend had claimed he needed to use a restroom and left the defendant to cross the border solo in the truck, claiming he would walk through and rejoin him later. The entire defense strategy could be summarized as “the friend did it, my client was unaware of anything”.

    On the stand during cross-examination, the defendant was asked the name of the dentist, the gender of the dentist, where the dentist was located, if the dentist had offered a good price for dentures, when and if a followup visit was scheduled, etc… the defendant basically answered “I don’t remember” to all of these questions. He was also asked if he had thought it odd that the contents of his truck bed toolbox (a pretty large amount of storage) had migrated to his cab after his friend had borrowed his truck, and did he ask his friend why all of his stuff was now on his backseat? His answer was “I don’t remember”. There was other testimony that I don’t recall–none of which was favorable to the defendant. My thinking at this point was that this was pretty much open and shut.

    I was shocked to death by our initial vote: 9 guilty, 3 not guilty. We flipped two of the holdouts within 2 hours–they’d somehow mistakenly gotten the impression that the guy had provided reasonable dentist/toolbox-related answers. The last holdout was a much tougher nut to crack–she insisted that the guy couldn’t possibly be guilty, and gave the following reasons:

    1) “he doesn’t look like someone who would do something like this”
    2) “he reminds me of my grandfather, so kind and gentle-looking”
    3) “when he said that he couldn’t eat publically, I almost cried”
    4) “the prosecution hasn’t proved that the other guy didn’t do it”

    …we finally flipped her after another 2 days…even then, she hesitated for a scary 2-3 seconds when the defense polled the jury after our guilty verdict. Miss Holdout was about 25, with a bachelor’s degree (Biology, IIRC). She was reasonably cute and seemed to be an otherwise level-headed and intelligent person. This was my only experience on a jury, and largely due to Miss Holdout, I dread serving on another.

    Cryptic One (2f281b)

  68. So, Cryptic One:

    1) What can a prosecutor do to find out about jurors like Miss Holdout before they get on juries and potentially screw up a solid case?

    2) Do you see why we get frustrated sometimes?

    All I ever ask for is a set of 12 jurors who will decide a case according to the evidence. This juror didn’t do that — it sounds like she was mostly moved by emotion.

    How do we avoid such jurors?

    Patterico (91fd36)

  69. Jim Berry,

    Could you provide me more information as to why your jury acquitted on the DUI charge? (And the speed enhancement?) Did you share the other jurors’ doubts? Was there a compromise?

    Patterico (91fd36)

  70. Snohomish County, Washington about 12 years ago; 4th degree assault.

    Two-man construction company working on a kitchen/garage remodel out in a rural area. Helper is a bit on the dim side, boss has a temper problem. The day hasn’t been going well, and boss has already tossed helper’s tools into the bushes because he’s pissed.

    Boss is up on a ladder with a nail gun, asks helper to go get something. Helper comes back with something else entirely. Boss gets down off ladder and proceeds to berate helper close up. Boss uses nail gun to punch helper in chest for emphasis.

    Nail gun goes off.

    Boss and helper are now looking at the head of a 3.5″ framing nail which is pinning helper’s shirt to his chest – it’s ALL the way in. Both panic – any resemblance to Bluto and D-Day after the horse had the heart attack is purely coincidental, I’m sure – and run to boss’s pickup and drive over the crappy roads in the Clearview area to get to the hospital at Monroe where a cardiac cutter removes the nail from helper. Fortunately, they didn’t hit any really big bumps on the way in or the nail would have ripped helper’s heart in two.

    Charge is 4th degree (reckless) assault. Boss has hired a well-known, very effective local lawyer who is pretty much willing to do any criminal case where the defendant has cash.

    Prosecutor lays out what happened; calls the surgeon who testifies about just how serious the injury really was. Defense calls the helper; points out that helper is cooperating with prosecutor because a guilty verdict will help the civil lawsuit the helper has already filed (no fooling). Defense further goes on that this was just an accident, just two guys fooling around and it turned out badly.

    Jury goes out. We elect a foreman. I figure maybe 30 minutes tops. Foreman polls. 10-2 for guilty. I’m stunned.

    Foreman – very politely – asks #1 hold out why. She says that she knows he did it, but doesn’t think he should go to prison because he didn’t intend to do it. I comment to the effect that a conviction on 4th degree is – per the judge – a conviction for RECKLESS disregard and does not involve premeditation. In other words, the motivation doesn’t matter but what does is whether an average person would consider whacking someone in the chest with a live nail gun to be reckless. It doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily going to prison.

    “Oh. He’s guilty then”.

    Great. One down, one to go. Still pretty much on schedule for that 30 minute deliberation.

    #2 is an older guy. He’s convinced that this is just horseplay and that your average construction worker engages in this sort of thing a lot (I have subsequently tested that assertion on various people who’ve been building houses for us and reactions range from horror to ridicule). We go round and round and round and round.

    Lunch break. I figured we’d be done by now. No such luck.

    Back from lunch. 2 more hours of “No, they’re just goofing around, construction guys do this all the time”. I’m desperate – the last thing I want to do is spend another day in the jury room with this guy. But if we don’t resolve in the next 30 minutes or so, that’s what’s in the cards.

    So I try a last shot. “Carleton”, I say (his name wasn’t Carelton, but there was a character on “Wings” by that name that sounded just like this guy), “Carleton, I’d like you to try a little thought experiment here. I give you an air compressor and a nail gun – no nails – and the world’s longest extension cord. You go over to Colby Avenue and walk up to the first dozen guys that look like construction workers and slap that nail gun to their chests. I wll give you $1000 for every time you do NOT pick yourself up off the sidewalk. At the end of the day, how much money do you think you’d have?”

    Silence for 30 seconds.

    “Aw, f**k it, he’s guilty”.

    Yay! Back in, verdict to the judge, defense guy polls to force us each onto the record. We stay unanimous. Judge gives the boss a short sentence to be served on weekends and a trip to the anger management class.

    Most striking things? How well most of the jury behaved: they listened to the judge’s instructions, paid attention to other viewpoints, and in general really did pretty much what was asked of them. Second most striking was that while you know intellectually how some people can cling to views that might charitably be described as “whacko”, it’s a real shock to encounter it face to face and damned frustrating to try to reason with them.

    Been called for selection a couple of times since, but always a bridesmaid and not the bride. Carleton must have passed the word about me.

    unrepentant (8071a7)

  71. Criminal case, theft by a teller at a bank was the charge. We acquitted, even though there was a signed confession. We felt the confession was signed under duress, with the accused being held by the police while her young child was–I forget the details–getting off from school or day-care without any assurance that he’d be taken care of, something like that. We also were assured the confession was written verbatim by the defendant, but it was in faultless English and the defendant wasn’t exactly speaking like Shakespeare. All of us liked the prosecutor more than the defendant’s attorney, who took forever and a day to get to the frickin’ point. But there was very little sentiment by anyone that the charge was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Not even close. Some of us thought one of the prosecution’s witnesses was a likely candidate for the crime, but that may have been fanciful.

    FWIW, all-white jury, plaintiff/defense attorneys white males, white judge, black defendant. We liked the judge, who kept things moving, and the conduct of the trial seemed fair to us.

    Christopher Fotos (f9677b)

  72. unrepentant,

    That is one of the greatest stories I have ever heard.

    I may make it into a post.

    Patterico (91fd36)

  73. Have never sat on a jury, but have sat in on a number of trials as part of a former job.

    Always wanted to hear a prosecutor’s take on grand jurors though. Especially in small communities, the identity of grand jurors can be easily known, or made known. Lays open the way to intimidation.

    Witnessed a small town paper go through the process of printing the names of the grand jurors in one popular case. Which I still don’t believe they did…

    JJ (24f47b)

  74. Patterico asks:
    *******************************************
    So, Cryptic One:

    1) What can a prosecutor do to find out about jurors like Miss Holdout before they get on juries and potentially screw up a solid case?

    2) Do you see why we get frustrated sometimes?

    All I ever ask for is a set of 12 jurors who will decide a case according to the evidence. This juror didn’t do that — it sounds like she was mostly moved by emotion.

    How do we avoid such jurors?
    *******************************************
    Re: question 2: Absolutely. Trying to convince this woman was like talking to a brick wall–we would point out evidence, she would “refute” it with non sequiturs and wishful thinking–“how can we be POSITIVE he really doesn’t remember?” “We could be sending an innocent grandfather to jail for something he didn’t do” I was somehow elected foreman, and prior to her finally flipping I was very tempted to send a note to the judge noting that Miss Holdout was disregarding evidence and jury instructions.

    During voir dire this woman seemed normal enough…a bit on the mousy, shy side, but she gave no indication that she was so emotionally fixated. While we were deliberating, she gave an indication that she was “playing possum” during voir dire–she linked the “gentle-looking grandfather” and “doesn’t look like someone who would do something like this” quotes to her very first sighting of the defendant, and even said something along the lines of “I knew I needed to try to give him another chance” (via serving on his jury, I assumed). At this point I realized that her behavior during voir dire (fidgeting and excessive nervousness) was probably an indication that she was being deceptive in her statements to the court.

    Miss Holdout somehow managed to take what little testimony/evidence that she couldn’t entirely disregard and use it to reinforce her preconceived notion of the defendant’s lack of guilt. It’s frightening to consider how many other Miss Holdouts are out there in the juror pool.

    As to avoiding such jurors, I would guess that asking more questions of them during voir dire could help weed out some of the Miss Holdouts–my guess is the average juror during this trial was asked no more than 10 questions during voir dire. I am far from an expert on body language, but I’m assuming that it would be much more difficult for someone to be successfully deceptive during say, 30-40 questions. Of course, this would slow down the procedure by quite a bit.

    Cryptic One (2f281b)

  75. Yeah, we don’t get that kind of time in most cases, unfortunately.

    Patterico (91fd36)

  76. Patterico asks:
    *******************************************
    So, Cryptic One:

    1) What can a prosecutor do to find out about jurors like Miss Holdout before they get on juries and potentially screw up a solid case?

    2) Do you see why we get frustrated sometimes?

    All I ever ask for is a set of 12 jurors who will decide a case according to the evidence. This juror didn’t do that — it sounds like she was mostly moved by emotion.

    How do we avoid such jurors?
    *******************************************

    In the 3rd degree burglry case I wrote about there were no holdouts but NONE of the Jury thought the charges were worth 10 to 20.

    We were under the impression we had no choice.

    Despite some convincing arguments you have made, put back in that Jury Room today. I would have said

    Folks we don’t have to do what they tell us to do, we can do what we think is just and the Jury decision would probably have been unanimous.

    Not Guilty of PFO.

    Dan Kauffman (3c9c17)

  77. Criminal case in Dallas. Father charged with sexual assault of his own daughter. This was at the back end of the day care sexual assault histeria. All the usual prosecutor techniques used – the “victim” did not say there was any sexual assault until after one of those specialists with the dolls worked on her for a few weeks. Then her story changed all over the place. By the trial, she was denying it ever happened. The only real witness left was the babysitter who first accused him, not because she witnessed any assault, but because she had just watched an Oprah episode on the topic and thought the dad showed some of the same behaviors as the dad in the case on Oprah. Since this kind of thing was no longer new, though, the defense attorney seemed well-prepared to defend against it.

    I thought it was incredible that the prosecutor even brought the case to trial. Had I been the judge, I would have accepted a move to dismiss without the defense even having to present a case.

    The jury elected the least qualified person as foreman. She really wanted the job, as apparently it would be the most responsible position she had ever had in her life, and no one else cared enough to fight it.

    I was amazed that some people on the jury were even in doubt. The whole case consisted of the testimony of a teenaged babysitter who witnessed nothing and clearly wanted to be the hero of an Oprah show. Three or four people (all older women) had a lingering sympathy for the little girl, and couldn’t separate their sense that something should be done for the girl from the judgement of the guilt or innocense of the dad. In effect, they felt that a not-guilty verdict somehow let down the little girl.

    These jurors were finally persuaded by photos of the house, which was very small, which convinced people that there was no way someone could have sexually assaulted the girl with people in the next room over. I was flabberghasted that this was the evidence that people latched on to – it was about 23rd on my list of reasons to aquit – but as I was trying to convince holdouts to aquit, I latched onto whatever worked.

    The experience was educational, though I really did not enjoy sitting through hours of testimony about just how much trauma it takes to break a little girl’s hymen. Blech.

    Warren Meyer (5eac09)

  78. i, my brothers and my late father live/d in a mysterious shadow zone out of sight of the jury commissioners, but mom got tagged once, civil wrongful death suit, caretaker versus homeowner, caretaker’s child had drowned in homeowner’s swimming pool. economic class issues divided the jurors, mom was one of three defense votes, nine favored the caretaker (enough for a civil verdict in california), and then…
    “we each wrote down a number, including the three zeroes, added them up and divided by twelve!”
    “mom, that’s called a quotient verdict, and you’re not supposed to do it that way. the nine majority jurors have to agree on a number.”
    “my son the lawyer, ever present with timely advice! i thought this was america, where we could do anything we want in there [i inherited this attitude to some extent]. so what are you gonna do about it?”
    “i’m not gonna do anything about it. i only represent specific clients who pay me money, plus some pro bono legal aid sends over. i’m not an all-purpose public paladin. how do you know the nine plaintiff’s jurors didn’t inflate their numbers to make up for your zeroes?”
    “oh, they seemed like really nice people, they wouldn’t do something like that.”
    “the hell they wouldn’t!”
    hard to yell and laugh at your mom at the same time. as i recall, the ultimate award was only about 70 grand, curiously low, maybe they misplaced the decimal point during the division.
    zoo animals all.

    assistant devil's advocate (c52d98)

  79. I served on a Queens criminal jury in 1994; it was right after the Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown murders and the OJ Slow-Speed Get-Away. The charges were 2 counts of attempted murder, 2 counts of first-degree assault, and 1 count of possession of a handgun (although no gun was ever entered into evidence as it was not found). The trial was brief, lasting about 5 days (not including days off because the judge, given the case at the last minute, had other legal commitments). The case was a slam-dunk as the two brothers who were shot were witnesses (one brother lying on the ground while the defendent stood over him and shot him), but inside the jury room it was not. One problem was that we had one of the deliberating jurors (4 others were alternates and not in the jury room) who was slow, and I do not mean this in a sarcastic sense, but in a medical sense. (One reason he ended up on the jury was that there were quite a few removed from the pool for cause, including not being able to speak English, not being a citizen, and one woman who did not understand the proceedings going on around her [and I could tell she was not faking]. This one juror was still around in the last group to be voir dire’d, and the pickings were slim with over half the jurors still needed to be seated.) The day before we were given the case for deliberation, we were told that we might have to be held overnight, we were told to bring items necessary for such an event. This person was the only juror who was excited at the prospect of being sequestered. When the deliberations were going on, the vote quickly went to guilty on all counts by the 11 other jurors. (I had initially voted guilty on 4 counts, and not guilty on 1 charge of attempted murder. That was my gut reaction, but I was willing to listen. One other juror said to me, “How can you vote not guilty on that one count? The man pulled out a gun and shot at the person. You don’t shoot at someone unless you are trying to kill them.” That changed my vote to guilty across the board.) But this one juror could not grasp the concept of guilty or not guilty, and he was having trouble handling the questions being put to him by the other jurors, as in going into a shell. A decision was made by the rest of us that one person would talk to him, while the rest of us left the deliberating table and talked about other things. In the jury room, he was not coerced but finally said the magic word, “Guilty,” on all counts. We then let the judge know we had reached a decision. When the defense wanted the jury polled, and the time came for this juror to say in open court his verdict, the rest of us held our collective breaths while he, in apparent great mental anguish, sat silent for what seemed like forever. Finally, he said “Guilty” on the exhale and we were done.

    Later, the judge met he jury and answered some of our questions. We asked the judge why this case was not plea bargained, as there was no defense for the crimes. It was then we learned more about the defendent. He was a paroled felon, facing three strikes (having a gun in the commission of a crime was not going to sit well at plea bargain time). He figured it was better to take a shot at trial rather than go directly to jail for 25-to-Life.

    My one lesson is that I, personally, never want to go to criminal trial and have a jury of my peers decide my fate, because I’ve sat with them, and it was not pretty.

    RickZ (495c3b)

  80. Patterico, since others have mentined non-criminal jury experience, I’ll also pass along one of those, too.

    In late 2000, I was selected to be on the Queens Special Grand Jury, a regularly scheduled six month grand jury that met twice a week (lucky me!). We did not hear the typical armed robbery/burglary street crime type charges, but more the conspiracy-type charges. There were 23 of us, and we needed 12 to bring a True Bill of Indictment. Now most of have heard how a D.A. can get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich. And that is mostly true, as the Grand Jury only finds enough evidence that a crime was committed by the accused, and to let the case proceed to criminal trial (and let somebody else handle it). [I know, I know, that is not a legal definition for a Grand Jury, but it was what we felt.]

    That being said, there was one time where the Queens D.A. brought us a case where a woman supposedly torched the boat, berthed at a marina near Shea Stadium, of a former boyfriend. The jurors found the case lacking (it had been investigated for about two years), and returned no True Bill of Indictment. Now that decision did renew my faith in the legal system, as us jurors were not rubber-stamping charges brought by the D.A., but really talked about them. Most cases brought before us were easily forwarded for criminal trial (after sometimes long and painstaking testimony, including wiretaps), but this one case did show that the People really are the last line of defense against unwarranted prosecution by the Government. (The woman had been under a legal cloud the entire time.) I felt very proud to be a (peripheral) part of our legal system when that (minor) decision was reached.

    RickZ (495c3b)

  81. Regarding identification of emotional jurors unlikely to respond to fact-based evidence in voire dire:

    In business and in the Air Force, we used the Kiersey Temperament Sorter to identify different personality types and understand how to deal with them (the Special Forces, I’m told, use an advanced version and take only certain types in). The juror who refused to listen to facts was likely one of the NF variants—probably INFP. It’s a good bet the only appeal which would work would be an emotional one focused on the victim, not the accused.

    During voir dire, you could potentially ask a couple of questions from the temperament sorter designed to discriminate NFs from the rest and challenge anyone who answers those questions as an NF would.

    Just a thought.

    Teflon (a16c30)

  82. Patterico, this is a very interesting thread and thanks for a great idea. I have a summons to jury duty in two weeks out here in lovely Cook County, IL. I hope I don’t get to meet the Miss Holdouts of the world. And thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences.

    btorrez (8373bb)

  83. Teflon — I’m not sure that’s a good approach, as it presumes that all INFPs would behave that way. I test as INFP fairly consistently; but i’m also able to put that aside when i have an affirmative need to be analytical. It’s not my normal mode of operation, it’s not how I behave in my day-to-day social life … but in limited contexts I can do it, and I understand that as a juror I am *required* to do it.

    Should I be disqualified because of how I test on a personality profile?

    aphrael (e7c761)

  84. Patterico, quick question: I was living in Brentwood, CA on the Westside about four years ago. It’s abotu 12:30 am and I’m sitting in bed, lights out, when I hear BLAM! BLAM! BLAM-BLAM-BLAM! I hear screeching of tires up Bundy Drive (not far from Nicole Simpson’s Condo, FYI). I run down the stairs outside to the sidewalk and these three Mexican guys, youngish, maybe 18-22, are lying dead in a pool of their own blood.

    Apparently killed as some kind of gang initiation or something. Anything like that ring a bell with you? The three guys worked at a Koo Koo Roo on the corner of Bundy and Wilshire. They were waiting for a bus, I think.

    Damn shame. I hope that one doesn’t die in the Cold Case files.

    Wilson (2e6b16)

  85. I was on a criminal jury in Montgomery Co. Maryland. The defendant was accused of armed robbery in a kiddy playland place. The thing I remember best about the case is that DESPITE the fact that citizens caught the guy with BAGS of money running out of the place, we, as jurrors, spent HOURS trying to convince some of our colleagues that yes, he really was guilty. The citizens caught the guy, gave the bags of money back to the company, and stood on his back while the police came. It was astonishing.

    Jackie Clark (f616b5)

  86. Patterico –

    Thanks. Feel free to post if if you wish; I realize the whole thing sounds pretty improbable but it’s as accurate as I can remember over 12 years’ time. One of the more surreal experiences of my life, for sure.

    unrepentant (8071a7)

  87. I’m a registered voter. Never been on a jury, nor part of a selection process.

    Last time I ever got the call, I was out of town in college.

    Still waiting. . .

    Doubt I’ll ever make it on to a jury though due to my demographics.

    GaMongrel (c940d3)

  88. GaMongrel: why do you think your demographics would impede your presence on a jury *puzzled look*.

    Aside from non-citizens, lawyers, convicted felons, and people who don’t speak English, I would expect there would be no other demographic which would be excluded.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  89. Patterico,
    Responding to your questions…..
    This was largely a compromise I think. We spent two days and some jurors wouldn’t buy that the guy was actually under the influence (as opposed to showing .08 on the test) while others wouldn’t buy that he was driving over 90 mph. I suggested that since we couldn’t get agreement on those points could we at least convict on the .08 charge. That was adopted as the result. I wanted to convict across the board but the consensus just wasn’t there.(BTW, I’m a civil lawyer and reluctantly was elected foreman. I was shocked I wasn’t bounced by the lawyers since my brother in law is a sheriff’s sergeant and my father was an FBI agent.)

    Jim Berry (c72c90)

  90. I’ve been called to jury duty several times and served on a couple of juries (once as foreman). I found the process unsettling for a couple of reasons. Sometimes the jury has too little information and has to select the highest probability explanation based on common sense, and in other cases honest service seems to require a suspension of common sense. Some examples ….

    Applying common sense to only part of the story: In the case where I was foreman, the accused was stopped at the Tijuana border crossing with drugs in his trunk. His defense was that he didn’t know they were there, someone must have put them there when his car was parked, etc. The prosecution offered no useful rebuttal, and, of course, it could happen. There was no useful information about his character and past record. A couple of the jurors said that his story was enough for reasonable doubt. The rest of us took the cynical “He would say that, wouldn’t he” approach (basically assuming – against the judges instructions — that he wouldn’t be in court unless he had a record to convince the prosecutor it was worth the effort to prosecute). As the clock ran toward dinnertime, all agreed to convict. The sincere thanks of the judge and calm resignation of the defendant and counsel told us that we had it right. Clearly, the judge knew a lot more about the defendant than was presented to us sheeple (that is how it feels) in the jury room. So we went for the highest probability explanation of the generic situation, knowing next to nothing about this particular defendant. For justice’s sake, we should have known more.

    Suspending common sense: In the voir dire process for a gang member (described as such by the court and defense attorney) accused of murder, jurors were asked questions like:
    This defendant is an acknowledged gang member; can you disregard this when judging his guilt or innocence?
    Can you disregard any prior knowledge you have about gangs and gang members and use only what you hear in testimony in this case?
    Police officers will be testifying in this case; can you judge the truth or falsity of their testimony in exactly the same way as you judge it for the other witnesses?
    Are you able to give equal weight and credence to the testimony of gang members and police officers who may testify in this case?
    Almost everybody answered yes to these questions. Fed up, I said something like: “I don’t understand, what would it mean to be in a gang if you weren’t willing to lie to protect one of your gang brothers?” This got me kicked out of the pool and the honor of being the defense counsel’s poster boy for the kind of prejudice the other jurors should resist. This was a long process, and I got to know many of them. I doubt there was a single one who would view the veracity of police officers and gang members equally (the system couldn’t work if they did), but we all knew this is what they are supposed to say and pretend to do. I only differed by being unwilling to go along with the pretence.

    Bottom line is that my sense (based on meager experience) is that the system has gotten tied up in a lot of artificial rules invented by lawyers, but never followed in real life by mature and balanced people making normal common sense judgments. Those who refuse to pretend don’t generally get on juries (I suspect this is a bad thing for conscientious prosecutors like you).

    Tom Bache (76adec)

  91. I’ve never been called for jury duty, but many of my co-workers have been called several times. One story jumps out that goes to the very heart of this thread. My co-worker sat on jury about a traffic case where the defendent was clearly speeding. However, he was caught in a “speed trap” in a small town. My co-worker vehemently hates speed traps, and hung the jury in a 11-1 vote. The small town could not afford to re-try the defendent, so he got off although there was no question that he was speeding.

    me (6c97a3)

  92. Well, your co-worker is an ass.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (9824e6)

  93. But so you don’t take that in the wrong tone, I thank you for sharing the story. Some people are just like that.

    You’re sharing it because you realize it’s an asinine position that cost the taxpayers a bunch of money for nothing and wasted everyone’s time, not to mention thwarted the law, because he probably breaks it himself.

    Jerk, and I’m referring to your co-worker.

    Chris from Victoria, BC (9824e6)

  94. Was a juror on a case where 2 men (we were trying 1) tried to steal one van, successfully stole another van, and then rammed it through the front windows of a stereo store in an attempt to steal the merchandise. They drove away from the store and evaded the police briefly, ditched their car, tried to steal a jeep where the owner ran them off with a shotgun. They were cornered by another homeowner with a .357 magnum. The trial was straightforward as the defendant did not wear gloves so his fingerprints were everywhere. The defense attorney didn’t have much of a defense as the case was overwhelming. We spent most of the time in the jury room trying to get the sequence of events straight as the prosecutor did not give us the timeline of events at the start. It was never clear why the defendant did not plea bargain the case.

    Also, if you ever get arrested, smile for the booking camera – our defendant looked like he wanted to rip off someone’s head in his booking picture. It didn’t make a difference in our case but it sure would not have made a good impression on a wavering juror.

    RobertD (0b5c9d)

  95. I’ve been on several juries, all criminal, mixture of federal and county/city. I seem to always get picked and don’t mind as I think serving on a jury (as well as voting) are important civic duties. The most memorable time was a child molestation case. A black school bus driver was accused of fondling a small white child (boy) on his first ever day of school during the bus ride home. I served as foreman. There were quite a few factors that pushed arguments for or against conviction during the 2 day trial. Delibarations subsequently lasted for 3 days with the first vote 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal. Ironically (at least on the surface), the two most vocal advocates for acquittal were probably the two most conservative jurists- myself and another fast track businesswoman. A strong proponent of guilt was considerably more liberal. Our the biggest obstacle to a unanimous vote was a little old East Texas lady who was convinced of the accused guilt because “the prosecutor said he did it”. There were no black people on the jury. We eventually rendered acquittal by maintaining that the prosecution could not fully establish the proof of guilt ( and a very iffy timeline of events) although the three original dissenters had a gut feeling of guilt (the guy did look pretty brutal). Nonetheless I read the Not Guilty verdict to end the trial.

    The most interesting part was after the reading of the verdict, the father of the child cursed and stormed out of the courtroom creating a bit of a disruption. Afterwards we learned that the family was of extremely meager means, had some questionable finances with regard to entitlements and had been counting on a guilty verdict to proceed with a very large civil suit against the school district, city and county.

    The fathers display gave some of us a collective relief as the trial was at times emotional. I personally remember the heavy sense of responsibilty the night before our deliberations began. This case made me really appreciate the difficulties of the justice system and the whole meaning of reasonable doubt. The events afterwards confirmed it.

    Rob from Dallas (50019f)

  96. Civil case, where a woman injured while working in a paper mill was suing the manufacturer of equipment that, had it been running, would have done the job she was doing when she was injured.

    We found for the defendant, unanimously — and were all frustrated by that, as the woman really deserved to collect. The problem was, she deserved to collect from her employer, not the people she was suing (as I understand it, she was prevented from suing her employers by having taken workers’ compensation — a fact apparently known to some jurors, but not discussed during the trial or deliberations).

    The discussion in deliberations centered around whether (1) the cause of her injury was the fact that the machine in question was not working (conclusion: no — there were safe ways to accomplish that task; her company simply neither trained her in them, nor used them at all, despite the fact that the machine had not been in operation for months), and (2) was the design of the machine at fault for it not working (conclusion: no — putting it in a known dirty environment and not maintaining it even vaguely did not make its failure a design problem). Everyone on the jury was convinced by one of those lines of reasoning, as I recall; two of us also commented on the fact that the plant would not make safety related modifications without the approval of plant safety and the plant manager (brought out in testimony as a result of a jury question) rather disposed of the plantiff’s argument that the installation recommendations of the manufacturer did not make them responsible for removing other safety equipment.

    Given my background as an engineer, I was surprised to be left on the jury for an engineering product liability case. I was able to ask the plantiff’s lawyer why he had not challenged me (defendant’s lawyers got away before I could ask them); they thought I would understand their argument and be able to explain it to the rest of the jury. They were right — but I did not believe their argument was reasonable.

    Mark (005214)

  97. I was on a panel for a duece with a prior in a rural California county about ten years after retiring as Lt. from LA County Marshal’s Department (now Sheriff).

    So, believing jury duty to be a serious matter, I dressed in my best sport coat, slacks, shirt and tie and reported for duty. On seeing the other members of the panel were dressed so casualy, I thought, “Mistake number one.”

    To the people’s question of the panel, “Do any of you have any relatives in law enforcement?” I replied, yes my oldest son is a sergeant in the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. “Anyone else?” Well, my wife and I were in law enforcement before we retired. “Where and when?” I answered as above. “Do you have any relatives who have been arrested?” Yes. Another one of our sons has come to the attention of law emforcement officers a number of times. “Can you set aside your experiences and base your decision only on the evidence presented in this case?” I may have replied, “Absolutely,” or something like it. “Have you and I ever met before today?” I think we may have been introduced when I was serving on a grand jury.

    There were no questions from defense counsel. I was seated as juror number seven expecting to be excused by the defense during premptory. The ADA excused me instead.

    Did I have biases? Yes.

    Defense counsel was an expensive looking out-of-towner.
    Defendant looked like a boozer rich enough to be able to game the system.
    I have no sympathy for DUI drivers.

    On the other hand, during three civil grand jury terms (appointed foreman twice by two different judges, one as foreman pro-tem and two different District Attorney’s (not ADAs) as counsel) I had heard several complaints about professional mis-conduct of local peace officers. My prior work experience would have made me especially alert to an officer’s credibility. Of the science of DUI testing I rememberd nothing, so if that became an issue, I had no preconceived notions.

    On the third hand, my oath, the evidence, and the instructions from the court would have been determinate.

    This is probably not too helpful. But, you asked. And, I appreciate your blog.

    gnh Washington

    G. Holbrook (ce962c)

  98. I made a post on my one jury experience:
    http://www.marypat.org/stuff/nylife/020525.html

    Short story: carjacking case (was foiled, in that the guy who got carjacked, a pizza delivery guy who was obviously set up, grabbed onto the outside of the car and held on until the ‘jacker “crashed” the car and ran off) – we acquitted, as the ID was sketchy and the cops were rather untrustworthy. We believed the defendant was guilty of =something=, but that the prosecution did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was guilty of the crime charged.

    I hated both the prosecution and defense (the defense more, because the lawyer and his client were idiots), and liked the judge. I wasn’t the only one on the jury with this opinion. Two of us talked with the defense afterward, as the prosecutor didn’t care to hear from us.

    meep (c0f65d)

  99. Aphrael-

    Please don’t get me wrong; I’m simply positing that NF personality types may have a higher proportion of people who are unwilling or unable to put aside emotion for evidence. In some cases, prosecutors may welcome this; in some, they will not.

    The question was whether there might be any way to identify such potential jurors during voire dire, not whether it would be considered ethical or right to do so.

    After all, the primary rights here are for the defendant to get a fair trial and for the plaintiff to get justice, not for a given juror to sit on a jury.

    As Patterico noted in the main post, as a lawyer, he will never get to sit on the jury. Is that right, fair, or even common sense? Probably not; it’s just the way things are.

    And if the objective is to reduce the odds of jury nullification through an unwillingness to weigh evidence based on fact, perhaps personality typing might help to do this.

    Teflon (fb1a0d)

  100. I really wonder how people get on the jury duty list. I work with 30 people, and only 3 of us have ever been called. I’m the ‘winner’ – I’ve been asked to report 6 times in various jurisdictions.

    I’ve made (to my estimation) legitimate excuses and did not report 5 times. One of those times I was in grad. school, the others I was at work. I’m self-employed and if I’m not working generating income, I don’t get paid.

    After getting out of all of these notices over the years, I felt guilty and decided to actually go last time. I decided to use my vacation to accomplish this. I planned time 3 months in advance and made arrangements with the folks at the court house to come in during that time period. So I spent my (unpaid) vacation days sitting in ‘the big room.’ I was never called into a court for questioning.

    Had I been questioned I don’t think I’d have been empaneled. I am very capable of following the law as explained to me, if I think the law is right. Should the ‘right’ vs. ‘legal’ conflict arise, I have no problem doing the right thing.
    (Guess that probably qualifs as jury nullification)

    I just got another notice 2 weeks ago (How DID I get on this list, and why, cannot, they spread the joy?) I just sent in a letter saying why I can’t come.

    anne (ee680a)

  101. Tales from the Jury Room…

    Prosecutors — hell, all trial attorneys — always wonder what exactly goes on in the minds of jurors during a case, and how twelve strangers arrive at some of the odd results we see when the verdict is read. Although……

    Out on a limb at Mike Lief.com (150b64)

  102. I am a lawyer and have sat on two criminal juries (I have no idea why counsel let me stay). One was for a violent home invasion, and the other for a simple battery. We convicted the home invaders and acquitted the other defendant. I formerly did a significant amount of civil trial work (primarily defense), and I was impressed and slightly surprised by how seriously my fellow jurors took their responsibilities and how diligently they applied the “reasonable doubt” standard.

    DavidsonMan (a9e40f)

  103. I was on a drug dealing case for about a day. The prosecution had barely begun to lay out their side when it mistrialed.

    The mistrial, however, was interesting. There was a policeman on the stand and the prosecutor asked him who was at the scene at the time of the arrest–the police had been staking out the defendant, so there were a lot of people there.

    Among the people the cop listed was a parole officer.

    The defence asked to approach the bench, we were sent out of the room, and about half an hour later we were dismissed.

    Not all of the other jurors figured out what had happened, but I also was not the only one who knew that we weren’t supposed to know about the parole officer, because it suggested the defendant had prior convictions.

    But I’ve thought a lot about it since then–in order for their *not* to have been a mistrial, there would have to be a conspiracy among the members of the court to make sure that the jury *didn’t* learn about something. It makes you wonder what else you are not being told.

    I can understand the need for it in this case, but it is still disturbing to a juror to know that there is a conspiracy by the court to keep you ignorant.

    Ann (4f49e9)

  104. I have a co-worker who was brought into a court room, looked over at the defendant, and recognized him. All through jury questioning he kept trying to tell them that he knew the defendent (in a divorce case, where he was accused of hiding money), new his wife better, and had heard the whole sordid tale at length. Every time they asked him a question, he’d answer it, then try to tell them he knew the defendant. Every time, they cut him off and wouldn’t let him speak.

    Finally, when he was about to be empanelled, they asked an open ended question, and he was finally able to speak. He said something to the effect that he knew the man’s wife, that the man was a rat, and was guilty as sin. He then pointed out to the judge that he had been trying to get a word in edgewise to tell them this since he entered the room.

    He not only got off the case, every other potential juror in the room was contaminated too.

    They had to start selection all over again.

    Ann (4f49e9)

  105. Drunk driving trial. The police had a videotape, but no audio. The officer testified the defendant was speeding and swerving. I didn’t see anything on the tape that I felt was swerving. Testified that she was an officer for N years and had done M drunk driving stops. Testified she *always* does the 3 standard field sobriety tests and in addition *always* has the driver count down from “37 to 32″.

    I tried the “stand on one foot” in the jury room and I couldn’t do it, and the walk-the-line was unclear without the audio. (The officer testified that the defendant had started/stopped before being instructed, and that was the reason for his failure.) The nystagmatism test was obviously not on tape. The defendant declined to take the breathalyser.

    The key for me was this: On cross, the defense showed that the officer’s report had the driver counting down from “29 to 25″, not “37 to 32″. At this point, I decided he was not-guilty; not because the numbers were wrong, but because the officer had implied that she *always* did a DUI stop the same way, every time.

    The first vote was 8-4 not guilty, it quickly became 11-1 NG; 3 hours pass. The holdout held-out because he felt the defendant was guilty because he didn’t take the breatalyser. At about 9pm, the bailiff knocked on the door, and the jury was about to be hung. We asked for a couple more minutes and the holdout agreed to NG, We convinced him that losing the drivers license for at least 3 months for not taking the breathalyser was enough punishment for anything he might have done.

    After the trial we found out that this was the defendant’s only DUI arrest, which I must admit was a relief. After the trial, I discussed this with an attorney co-worker who indicated that the fact that he took the stand meant he didn’t have a prior incident, otherwise it would have been brought up on cross.

    Was it wrong that the holdout agreed after we mentioned that the defendant would have had his drivers license suspended for violating “implied consent”, and that the hold-out agreed that this was sufficient punishment? Even though this was “juror’s knowledge” (i.e not mentioned during the trial, but common knowledge to a few jurors)?

    If we were deciding on personalities of the laywers, the prosecution would have won. One of the defense lawyers implied that the officer was somehow wrong for following the defendant before he did anything wrong. Also implied that the missing audio was intentional. In addition, his closing was way too long. (It was his first closing, the other defense atty agreed the closing was awful.)

    Chuck C (c9e7c2)

  106. I live in (and serve my jury duty) in Essex County, NJ, whose county seat (and ground zero for most crimes) is the city of Newark. Jury service is indeed a responsibility all citizens should take seriously; however, my own experience (three times in the last 10 years) suggests that it is a system that needs some serious fixing.

    My latest whopper involved a criminal trial of three young men from Newark, who had been arrested as part of a crack cocaine “crackdown” by the Newark City Police. I learned a lot in the testimony, but even more during the deliberations. The three defendants had apparently organized their little sales activity in the form of a “cut out”; i.e., one of the crew held the drugs, one held the money, and one was the “expediter”, directing the buyer to retrieve the drugs after paying the “cashier”. I believe that in this way, they were working under the assumption that the drugs and the money would never be in the possession of any one person, and thereby avoid prosecution for possession with intent to distribute.

    In any event, testimony was quite short — two detectives related how they had hidden in an abanoned car in an empty lot to watch the transactions, a lab report about the 207 vials of crack in the pockets of the “warehouse” partner, and a recounting of the $900+ in money in the “cashier’s” pockets — nearly all in $5 bills. Then, a map of the portion of the city, highlighting the proximity of the sales location to a middle school, for which there is an enhanced penalty. All told, the prosecution was done in about 3 hours. Very little cross examination from the defense team (each of the defendants had separate attorneys — one of whom was West Indian and nearly impossible to understand even when he spoke slowly).

    The defense was a surprise – a purported girlfriend of one of the defendants to say that they had never sold cocaine, and a lot of argument about the location of the school, and whether or not the distance was measured from the edge of the building, or the edge of the school property. Having seen many of the schools in Newark, this distinction is indeed a mystery — if the goal is to reduce drug use in proximity to a school, the entire school property is apparently the basis of the analysis, not whether you can actually see the school from the point at which the crime took place. The attorneys were apparently trying to insert a line-of-sight exception into a clearly written distance based (straight line, through buildings, etc.) statute.

    Many of the jurors appeared to be losing interest in the defense being made, since there was no real testimony as to the facts alleged by the prosecution, or the advancement of some other theory of why the defendants were arrested where they were and with what they had in their possession.

    Closing arguments — about what you would have expected. the prosecution reviewed the facts that they had presented, and then the defense attorneys, one at a time, proceded to do their best Johnny Cochran immitations about how these poor boys had merely been pawns in a process designed to pluck innocent folks off the streets for crimes they hadn’t committed. One of the attorneys even went so far as to suggest that the drugs and the money might not “really” have been in the defendants’ possession, since there were not videotapes of the arrest, and since the prosection had not presented any non-police corroborating witnesses as to the items in the defendants’ possession.

    You can presume from my narrative above that I had pretty much determined that these gentlemen were clearly guilty, and were trying to get a pass on either a technicality or some sort of nullification theory. It appeared later that I was correct.

    The make-up of the jury was about 50/50 Newark vs. suburban dwellers, about 50/50 black and white, and 50/50 male and female. When given the case, we went into the jury room and took a poll to get started. 9 guilty, 3 not guilty. Then the fireworks started — the 3 not guilty votes began accusing the guilty votes of “railroading” these poor boys, and not “being in touch with the community”.

    We decided (as a group) to go over the evidence piece by piece, and to discuss our recollections of the testimony in light of the physical evidence, and coupled with the “community flavor” provided by the 3 not guiltys. This took about 3 hours, and then we had another poll, again 9-3.

    By this time, we’re in the middle of our second day on this trial, and things are not looking real good for getting out of the jury room at any time during the then-current Presidential administration.

    I began to see where this was going when the 3 not guiltys started to ask questions of the bailiff about having meals delivered to the jury room (denied) and transportation to and from the courthouse (likewise). Nonetheless, we plodded forward as a group, trying to establish some basis of unanimity.

    On the EIGHTH day of deliberations, after what was probably the 40th successive poll of the jury, one of the jurors (an elderly black man from the City of Newark) finally decided to speak out on the entire matter. He had been mostly quiet throughout the entire process, and hadn’t given any indication of his perspective on the process, merely on his rationale that the defendants were guilty. However, at this point, he decided that he had had enough, and calmly stated to the three holdouts that they were part of the problem of crime in Newark, and not part of the solution. He admonished the holdouts (2 women, 1 man) that they were trying to force an outcome in the case based on their own biases, notwithstanding the testimony or the evidence. After about a 10-minute tonguelashing, he finished with the coup de grace; i.e., “you just want these boys to go back out on the street so you can say that you ‘helped’ some poor kids avoid jail time, even though that will probably kill some other ‘poor kids’ as a result.” He said this complete with air quotes — it was a masterful slicing and dicing of three people who wanted to insert their own theories of justice into the way that the law works.

    Well, he finished his speech, sat down in a huff, and was applauded by at least 6 of his fellow jurors. The 3 holdouts were chastened at first, and then one of them sought to have the judge brought into the jury room to complain about what had happened. One of the holdouts realized that they were on the short side of the vote, and suggested a 10-minute cooling off period.

    The 3 holdouts apparently spoke with the bailiff during our break, and must not have been given a great deal of sympathy; upon our return, the poll was 11-1, after which the last holdout insisted that she was changing her vote only because the other 2 had “abandoned” her. From our perspective, it was now 12-0, and let’s get out of here.

    The verdict was read in court, and the defense attorneys sought to have the jury polled for their unanimity. This was when I sensed that there might have been some pre-planned process involved, although none of the attorneys indicated any shock at the outcome (all 12 agreed that they had willingly voted to convict). Nonetheless, there was a sense that at least one of the attorneys was certain that the re-polling by the court clerk would indicate a wavering vote. He didn’t get the outcome he wanted, and the jury was released. All told – nine and 1/2 days for a trial that lasted less than 4 hours. Of the 9-1/2 days, only about 20 minutes had any probitive value at all, and the rest was merely about which side was going to be more stubborn. Not our jury system in its best light.

    Drewski (4603b6)

  107. I was the jury foreman on a Federal civil case last year (2005), in Atlanta. Relatively complex but low-impact case, the plantiff was an older woman suing her own insurance company for denying a “no-fault” claim in a minor traffic accident with very minor (and low-medical cost) injuries to the plantiff. The reason this case made it to Federal district court was that defendent #1 (a truck driver who struck the plantiff) was from another state and defendent #2 (a “John Doe” whose actions caused the accident, but who was not caught or identified) was represented by said insurance company who was based in a third state.

    This setup, frankly, made little sense to me, in terms of the court’s jurisdiction, but there we were.

    During vore dire, a number of very specific questions about traffic accident investigations, medical issues and insurance issues were asked, and as I am a former firefighter/paramedic with many years on the streets dealing with exactly these issues, as well as many subsequent cases I testified in, I was stunned when I was not cut from the pool, with or without cause, which had happened in every one of the previous times I had been called for jury duty. This was the first, and so far only, case I have ever served on the jury.

    The #2 defense (the insurance company) lost in their opening statement, in my opinion. Plantiff’s attorney (a bit stiff but professional) stated right off the bat that while the trucker (defendant #1) did indeed strike his client, he believed the ultimate fault of the accident laid with defendant #2, “John Doe,” whose erratic driving in rush hour traffic caused a chain-reaction pile-up. Unsurprisingly, defense attorney #1 agreed in every detail. This seemed to set off defense attorney #2, a large, overly dressed and verbally offensive sort, who initiated his opening statement by pointing to the plantiff (65-ish nicely but plainly dressed little old lady, who worked for a religious charity) and defendant #1 (30-ish quiet, professional, and very polite blue collar sort) and stating quite empahtically, “Those two are in bed with each other!”

    This is the South, that sort of talk don’t hunt in these parts.

    A two-day trial proceeded, where in my opinion again, the plantiff’s case was well established by the transcripted testimony (legal term for this?) of the orthopeadic physician that treated the lady, as well as the ER records from the hospital and treatment records from the physical therapist. Total medical bills ran to about $6,000, which really is a pittance.

    It turned out the entire #2 defense revolved around the fact that the plantiff had originally denied injury on the scene, and turned down EMS transport, but then got her daughter to take her in to the ER later that evening when she began hurting. This “proved” to #2 defense that she was lying, and was therefore colluding with #1 defense to make some money. During cross-examination, he also got the plantiff to admit she had been in another, similar setup accident some years before, and was nervous in traffic. This made little impact on most of the jury, as Atlanta’s traffic makes most everyone nervous and twitchy.

    Defendant #1’s attorney was practically a non-player, I cannot recall anything he added to or subtracted from the plantiff’s case. Both sides got on our nerves by mistaking themselves for Perry Mason, and calling objections to (quite literally) every other question asked, until the judge (Richard Story, a fine man and very impressive judge) put a firm stop to that nonsense.

    Plantiff’s attorney irritated the whole jury by stating up front that he was not there to discuss money, and didn’t until his last five minutes of his closing statement, as if he was going after some Noble Constitutional Principle. It’s a civil lawsuit, the whole sheebang is about who gets the check and how many zeroes are on it in the end. Simple as that, and everyone in the jury knew it.

    Then he had some wildly overcomplicated chart set up for display, with all sorts of “suggested” dollar amounts for the jury to carefully consider, based on our perceptions of damages, percentages of guilt, etc. I, personally, would have vastly more appreciated a simple “we’re asking for $250,000,” even if it was far too much for the actual damages in the case.

    Lame closing by defense #1, but not damaging to their case. Defense #2, who had figured out by that point he had alienated at least part of the jury, appealed for us not to find against his client simply because he (the attorney, that is) was a jerk. That is pretty close to a quote, by the way!

    Judge Story took almost an hour to read us the 45-page jury instructions, which required us to find on five seperate points, including percentages of guilt of the two defendants, actual and puntative damages.

    The jury consisted of eight men, seven of us were middle aged to retirement age, mostly in professional careers, and the other a young college student. In the jury room, after the opening formalities of electing a foreman (me, as one juryman put it, because I was the only one wearing a suit!), we did an initial vote on the first point (did the accident happen as described). To my surprise, it was a 7-1 vote. The young student had decided that the plantiff was simply looking for a buck and that the truck driver was helping her for some reason (no connection of any sort other than the accident had even been suggested during testimony). He also thought she was just a nervous old lady who had slammed on her brakes for no reason at all, then was hit by the truck. We discussed the testimony in a very polite way for about an hour, then Judge Story let us go home for the night.

    Next morning we started by skipping the initial point and started in on how much guilt the truck driver should have for the accident. Surprisingly, this was also a sticking point for other members of the jury. Although the main issue was whether “John Doe” actually existed, or had the lady simply panicked for some reason and slammed on her brakes, about half the jury thought the trucker was most at fault for following too closely. We spent a large amount of time reviewing the accident scene photos (there was no police report, for some reason that I cannot recall), and ultimately agreed that the amount of damage to the plantiff’s car, coupled with the point of impact (about 1 foot from her right rear bumper) showed that the trucker had done a very good job of almost avoiding the accident entirely. This was accomplished by both the fact that several on the jury had experience in trucking or accident scenes, and the fact that we all did what I consider a very professional job of politely debating without breaking down into one-sided arguements.

    I believe what you are looking for is the jury room dynamics. In this case it was very low-key, with everyone being far more polite than I would have expected (which may have been affected by the fact that I am a pastor), and even though we spent what turned out to be far more time in deliberations than the judge had expected, we finally came to a decision by resorting to bargaining with the lone holdout. He wanted to find for the defense, while all the others wanted to find for the plantiff and award costs ($6,000) plus $50,000 or more in puntative damages, and 100% guilt for either the trucker or “John Doe.” We finally compromised on $25,000, with 50% guilt for each defendant. We all agreed that we would have had a much harder time deciding on a case that actually had merit and worth!

    Judge Story asked to speak with us after rendering the verdict, and there he told us the whole, sad saga of this case. It turned out that the three sides had been arguing for almost 4 years, including twice in his chambers (the last the very morning of the case), without ever coming to a compromise. He thanked us profusely for affirming his judicial expertise to these attorneys; he had warned them that no jury was going to either find for the defense nor give any large reward, in fact, he had told them we would probably award between $20,000 and $30,000! He then gave a short but obviously heartfelt speech about the critical nature of the courts and the jury system, and thanked us for our service (he also sent a thank-you letter the next week).

    All the attorneys were waiting outside the courtroom, wanting to talk with us about how we made the decision, and what we based it on. We took the chance to lamblast defense attorney #2, who seemed genuinely shocked that we were offended by his comments (he actually said, “But I apologized! Why did it make a difference after that?”). I asked the defense attorneys why in the world they had not cut me, when they found out I had been a paramedic, and #2 emphatically stated that it was the very reason they wanted me *on* the jury. It seems he thought I would be put-off by the fact that the plantiff had initially refused EMS transport. I informed him that fact was what sealed in my mind what she was saying was the truth; my experience was that money-seekers would be complaining of injuries on the scene and demand EMS transport, while an honest person tends to be overcome with shock over the accident itself, and not start really hurting until that shock wore off.

    In short, defense attorney #2 lost his case in part because he acted like such a flaming jerk in the courtroom (even the young student juryman didn’t want to let his client completely off the hook, for that reason), and in part because he had a seriously faulty understanding of what paramedics (and cops and firefighters) know about accident victim responses.

    John the Baptist (02c8ef)

  108. […] Also, cases resolve for less time because of the inherent uncertainty of jury trials. The case Lopez describes sounds strong, but there is no such thing as a slam dunk when there is a jury involved — especially with a drug case. Many jurors simply don’t care about them. There is always the potential that you will get an unreasonable juror who won’t look at the evidence. In a drug sales case, you may well get someone who thinks drug sales is a victimless crime, and will lie to get on the jury and acquit even if the evidence is overwhelming. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Steve Lopez Contradicts Pattt Morrison on First-Time Drug Dealers Going to Prison (421107)

  109. Thanks for the informative article. It made me think up some things. :)

    Reseda Charity (2be720)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.4665 secs.