Jury Duty--Days 5/6December 5th, 2012 at 5:23:41 pm
Day 5 is here, consolidation prize is by now we are getting the "long term" rate of $24 a day vs the $9 or so for a short-term service. We earn every cent.
By now we are reading and understanding all of the 10 charges. Some are what I later called very "technical" involving body parts and penetration. Others are what I called "broad" meaning broad terms like "endanger." The group is split. Oddly it is mostly split by sides of the table, though that was not planned in any way. One woman is ready for a 100% guilty on all counts, one guy (my lunchmate) is 100% not guilty. I am in the middle, saying I belive inappropriate things happened but maybe not to the level we think.
Lunch is free and not bad, not great but not bad, and free!
One clear issue is some jurors have a major, major concern about sending this guy up for these charges. This is Pennsylvania. This is the state where Jerry Sandusky is still on everyone's mind. The defendant is 57. Conviction on the most serious charges means an effective life sentence. It means he will be branded a "Chester" upon arrival, where his life will be worse than the wreched until his dying day. He could be in the same cell tier as Sandusky--this is Pennsylvania and Sandusky is in a ChoMo unit. None of us takes that lightly, especially the men.
However, justice has two sides. I am one that reminds that there is a victim here, that the defendant has a 12 year old daughter at home, same age as when the defendant stated the abuse of her started. We are deadlocked on most items. We are trying to find rational ways to deliberate as we are reading each charge. they are very instructive as to what must be found in a legal sense.
Eventually we go home.
Debate has taken a turn. My former lunchmate I could once see us being friends, now he is getting tired of me and I of him. He is a holdout who has his mind made up. Fine, that is how the system works.
One charge is "endangerment." It is broad. It is a charge that you can use if you are not comfortable with the biggies, and it is NOT a sex-charge. We have 4 holdouts on it, and they are holding out on not for reasonable doubt, but other reasons. They say "endangering" is not definate, that it is a "fishing" charge, and that "by the way it is worded I could be charged for leaving a butterknife on the table."
I retort that the Commonwealth would throw out something so silly at the arraignement. And that it is not for us to decide the charge, only the guilt. I ask if they would feel better if we got a definition of "endanger" from the judge. They say they doubt it will matter but agree. Turned out it was a waste of time, there is no definition, the judge said *we* make the definition.
We tell the judge we are deadlocked. Some hope that is it. I state there is no way after a 3 day trial the judge accepts the first deadlock, she will send us back. The foreman reminds she can do it as many times as she wants. He and I are of the same mind on this case and the process, even if we do not say so. He will be the last other juror I see when it is over, our cars being the same direction before we part.
Judge does just as he and I suspect. Politely says try some more.
Eventually we can go home. Come back tomorrow, which is Thursday.
Jury Duty--Day 4December 5th, 2012 at 5:03:14 pm
It is monday and we are back in court. Few of us had a relaxing weekend. Child molestation cases have testimony that is brutal. Most of the witnesses are for the defense, the Commonwealth had just the victim. Even with that, this is getting hard to follow. Dates and timelines are a mess. We get a layout of the house and that is hard to follow. Some juror even asked the judge to tell them to be more speciffic.
When you watch testimony on TV it is very rapid-fire. The actors are reading a script. In court someone has to transscribe the words. You do not talk at the same time as the other party, attorney, witness, or both. Another of those moments when you see reality is not TV, though there is a lot of it in those court shows.
Gem of the day is when the victim's grandmother is asked if she knew the accused was molesting the granddaughter. She says one of the most firm "NOs" you ever heard. When asked why she states, "because if I did this trial would be for me murdering him!" I believe any witness that says they would not cross grandma--I would not cross grandma.
Near the end of the day, both "our" and the "other" accused took the stand. Let me say, if you are ever accused be very careful if you take the stand. The parade of witnesses the defense put up was tearing down the prosecution case piece by piece. I could have acquitted in an hour. Then they came on the stand. Disaster, for them. What they said did not add up. How they said it was worse. Terrible.
Another lunch, in fact the last time we could leave the jury room for lunch. But the last time we had to pay for lunch, other than a tip.
We get back and time to deliberate. I firmly am against a vote right off the bat and tell everyone we cannot do that as we have a duty to DELIBERATE, even for a short while. Consensus is all over the place and we are feeling each other out. Roles are building and will continue. We get to leave at the end of the night, more than we can say for the cop-killer case. Word is they have just 7 of the needed 14 (12 plus alternates) or more.
Jury Duty--Day 3December 5th, 2012 at 4:44:57 pm
We are to report by 9:00 today. This does not mean we START at 9:00, just that we report by then. As we later find out, the judge has 20 cases on most days, the others fit in around us. Some are in-and-out plea deals. It is made clear we will never know why we are waiting, just that we must. This day the judge said she would be late, and she is. Eventually we file into court. By midday lining up by number and walking in line into court will seem normal.
One kind of frustrating thing is the sidebars. When Jack McCoy goes to a sidebar you get to hear what they are saying. Here you do not, and sometimes the questioning line totally changes. You have to deal with it.
There are 2 defense attorneys, which means 2 cross-examinations. The attorney for the wife is clearly more experienced than the other two, and one juror says on one break he is a rising-star of sorts in his field. His job is easier, defending one far lesser charge than our defendant's 10, many of which are very serious.
Curiously, we are allowed to leave for lunch today. AZD's band of merry-men has expaned to 2 plus myself by now. Not discussing the case is hard, one guy tries and I give him a firm "shhhh." I tell him it is nothing personal but tell him the place we are eating is a known attorney-hangout, which it is. Later I will tell a female juror to put away a smartphone while looking up a legal definition, which were were told not to do.
It seems the oath we took, it is more than raising your hand. Anyone can say "I do" but as you see all of these attorneys, court personnel, and the judge you get the message just how serious it all really is. Afternoon of testimony then home for the weekend. Word is the cop-killer case still has a less-than-full juror pool.
Jury Duty--Day 2December 5th, 2012 at 4:30:05 pm
"I'M A MAN, NOT A NUMBER---ooops, Juror #4, sir."
We have our numbers and those necklaces waiting for us when we get to the juror room. 6-7 of us there, awaiting the others. Wait will not be as long since we are ready to go this case seems to have gotten priority. The cop-killer case is still choosing as word on the street is they got only 2 jurors out of 50+ prospects. Sitting around the table we get to chat, get to know a little about each other. Fair mix of male/female. Discussion a mix of personal and what will be happening soon.
A word on the jury room. Strangely we were allowed to use smartphones for "business" or even make a call. As long as we were not researching the case it was cool. Outside cell phones or electronic devices of any kind were strictly forbotten. Inside there were two nice, clean restrooms. Plus a big table with chairs, and coffee. It nearly felt as if you had elite membership and were allowed to use the lounge.
Somewhere near noon they completed selection, but told us to just go have lunch as it was 11:30 or so at the time. A pattern started where one or more people wanted to come with me since I knew the places to eat, having worked on the same block on two previous jobs. I am happy to help, knowing what finding a decent place nearby at lunch can be hard. We come back and time to go.
We have to line up by number so we sit in the right, numbered juror chair. We are told to remain standing to be sworn. #5 starts to sit and I give him a tap-and-hand-signal to remain standing. He tanks me verbally, then by giving me the same signal when I screw up later. Teamwork at its best.
Opening arguments start followed by the prosecution. A word here is that you see mixed things. Some things are like you see on TV, nearly to a T. Othertimes the actors appear normal and human. Can't find a paper, not 100% sure of law or procedure. A few times the judge has to say the right way to ask something to do it correct by the law. There is one ADA and two defense attorneys as there is a second defendant (the guys wife) sitting on a lesser charge which the judge is deciding, she waived a jury trial. Tomorrow I will see if she made the right choice.
This goes on the rest of the day, we have to come back tomorrow, tomorrow being Friday.
My Jury Duty---a view from the inside.December 5th, 2012 at 4:10:40 pm
Last week I was picked for a jury for the first time ever. The following series of posts is about the experience, figured it lets me make a small journal and based on the firends and family asking I think many people wonder what it is really like.
In my couty you get a "pool number" on your summons then call the night before to see if you will be called or not. I just started a new job and have to tell my new supervisor that I may have to go to jury duty the day after I am hired. You read that right! Nothing anyone can do but I feel like a heel having hired people before and know missing even one day of training can be critical. I call and am told to report.
No entry for a Day 0 but the math folks here may have a problem going directly from -1 to 1.
THAT'S A JOKE, SON!
Arrived at the courthouse, go through security, get to the third floor, a sign greets me saying if I am there for Jury Duty I am in the wrong place and need to go across the street. Last time I was called this was the building, but this summons is for criminal court. No huge deal, across the street I go. Security is tighter there as there are criminal and not civil trials here. You must remove your belt and jacket here, empty all pockets, and pass the metal detector. It is a process I will get very good at soon.
Find the room and sit down. We have to give our summons which is replaced with another form. We have to fill out a questionare about our life and if being on a jury will cause undue hardship. Just saying the later will is no guarantee you get out of it, more on that later.
A lot of time in court is spent waiting. Wheels of justice are moving, but you do not get informed. Eventually a defendant is brought in, with the ADA and his attorney. They read the charges and potential witnesses, then give an estimate of how long the trial will be. This one is big, they say "sequestered" as if it will be certain. Cop-Killer case. It takes 10 minutes to read the witness list, trial to take a week or more. I imagine explaining that to my new boss! As I do not watch the local news or read the local paper I have not heard about the case, with no cops or crooks in my life I know both attorneys would drool over me if I get into that pool. A judge is there for the selection (only case today that a judge comes in) and the potentials will be led to a courtroom or something fore more instruction. The case is BIG. My parents knew about it. Luckily I am not in the pool.
Second case is aggravated assult with a hammer. Some weird stuff involved but nowhere near the complexity of the first case. They clear seats and call out names, I am not picked.
Unlike civil Jury Duty here they let us leave for lunch. I go to my favorite local sushi place in my favorite building. Come back and they are reading for a third trial, this one a child sex case. Ugh again. This time I get called into the pool. They read a sort of abstract of the case, just like the other two. Again like the other two they ask if anyone is uncomfortable taking this case. About 1/3 of the hands go up, mine does not. I can judge a case on the facts and have no sex abuse perps of victims in my life that I know of, which means I do not for this purpose. We are given numbers and I am 19. I get called in time.
In this court you sit at the same table as the accused. Plus they "intrtoduce" you to him (in this case.) You do not shake hands, but you do give a friendly head-bob. One of the most weird parts of the whole thing. At the table they have my questionare and ask me about my answers. It is the kind worded where any "yes" merits more questions but any "no" means there is no issue.
I have a few "yes" as any normal person would. They ask about the undue financial hardship and tell them I started a new job yesterday, *YESTERDAY* I say. I tell them they know I cannot be fired because of this, but hey, I started a new job *yesterday.* They ask a few more "yeses" and I tell them the reasoning. In all of them I took a more narrow or broad view of what was intended. eg: "Have you worked with an officer of the court." Yes, I worked for a DUI attorney. I reply with "you asked, I answered, I'll clairify whatever you want" in a tone that is polite. I get sent back.
Later 6-7 of us get called and are told to follow the guy in front of the room. We have been selected. We go to the courtroom and he gives us some logistics for the next day. We do not have to report until 10:00 as they need to pick more jurors and the cop-killer case has apparantly sucked that day's pool dry. He is a friendly guy, treats us as people and you can see he knows all the emotions we have. We get dismissed, the journey has only begun!