Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Jury Duty: My First Experience as a Juror

I was a juror on a civil trial for the past three days, and enjoyed the experience.  It was a civil trial regarding a truck accident on a dirt road to a construction site.  Was the property owner negligent in maintaining the road, and should thus be held liable for the cement truck that rolled over the edge, or was the accident more likely driver error?

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, and in our initial vote, we voted 8-4 that he did not meet his burden of proof.  Only nine of twelve jurors need agree in a California civil suit, so we then entered discussions and deliberations to convince the pro-plaintiff jurors.  We convinced two of them, and found for the defendant by a vote of 10-2.

There were folks on the jury who dressed rather shabbily, who were construction people or truck drivers themselves, in jeans and sweatshirts, boots and baseball caps.  That old saying about not judging a book by its cover was proven true, however.  When discussions started, these folks showed impressive common sense and were articulate.  The jury system relies on the common sense and fairness of the common man, and it usually works.  It worked today, and I felt proud of my fellow jurors.

Serving on a jury was a rewarding experience.  I recommend it.


Adrienne said...

I've been called for jury duty twice and both times everything was cancelled.


Sorry for shouting...

Question Diversity said...

The first time I had to do JD, when I was living in the City of St. Louis, was in November 2001. Learning experience? You betcha. My mother and also a few other city-dwelling relatives prepared me, but they could only do so much.

When you first go into the St. Louis City Civil Courts Building, they direct prospective jurors to a large room on the first floor with lots of seating, with spillover space in an even larger room one level down directly underneath it.

A couple hours into sitting and waiting and feeling my brain cells die having to watch CNN, (I swore to bring reading material next time), a black woman Sheriff’s deputy (the operational security of this Court House is provided by the Sheriff’s Department) presented herself to the assembled prospective jurors and blurted this out:

“Hey y’all. If any a’y’all been convicted of a felony, you ain’t gots to stay. Which means you can leave!”

Thanks. I could have implied “you can leave” from “you ain’t gots to stay,” bad grammar notwithstanding. Considering her target audience, I’m not surprised she had to qualify her own words.

At that moment, it seems like 40% of the people in the room, almost all of those getting up and leaving were black, did indeed get up and leave. Actually, it wasn’t so much “leave” as stampede out. I watched the whole scene, and I thought to myself, “is there a watermelon truck parked out front along Tucker Boulevard that just made a last call?” Just to prove that stereotypes are usually valid, one of the felonious members of the stampeding herd yelled out as he made his way out the door, “hey y’all, I know a fried chicken place not too far away!” That in turn only served to embolden the part of the herd that had not already escaped to squeeze through the doors even quicker than they were already trying to.

It was then I realized, I was stuck inside Birth of a Nation, and I couldn’t get out.

Actually, once the herd moved on, (I wouldn’t have wanted to have been a waiter at that fried chicken joint), I actually did escape BOAN. It wasn’t that much longer before I and a few dozen others was called to a higher floor to take appraisal of our case. Of course, it was a car wreck lawsuit. For as much crime as there is in the City of St. Louis, most criminal cases are pled out. Most of the work for trials and juries in the St. Louis City-based state circuit are civil cases where the plaintiffs’ attorneys from all over God’s Creation venue shop the matter to a jurisdiction known for stupid jurors that like to stick big civil judgments to “the man.” And from what I saw, it would be even worse in that respect if felons were allowed to be jurors.

I didn’t make it on that actual jury that day.

Twelve bucks not very well earned.

Stogie Chomper said...

Sounds similar to the procedure for San Benito County. We are much smaller than St Louis, with lots of Hispanics but almost no blacks. The Hispanics on my jury did a commendable job, and earned my respect.

Proof said...

It was the bow tie, wasn't it? You looked halfway respectable and they took you to be a responsible citizen! Let that be a lesson to you!

Stogie Chomper said...

I'll bet the bow tie helped!

Always On Watch said...

I've served a few times -- back in the day when I wasn't the sole household earner and/or the caregiver here.

I was seated on the jury only once, and almost immediately, the prosecutor made an error; he brought up prior charges and convictions. The judge immediately declared a mistrial, and we all went home. It was late in the day, too. I was disappointed that we on the jury didn't even make it to the deliberations phase.

I'm not sure why I wasn't seated on a jury more than one time. Looking back, it seems that I was rejected every time that I had to explain that I was a teacher in a small Christian school.

Anyway, the times that I was called for jury duty usually involved long waits, and we actually visited a courtroom only once or twice during the entire day.

Glad that your experience with jury duty was a better one than mine, Stogie.

Stogie Chomper said...

I got rejected once, too. Plaintiff attorneys seem afraid of anyone with certain occupations -- they want the most impressionable jurors available.