05 November 2009

Jury Duty

I've been summoned.

more later.

Update: It's now later.

"Juror number 7, you are released". Woo Hoo! Since I've been released, I can talkblog about it.

First of all the courtroom was probably the smallest I've ever seen. Maybe 30'x60'. The court staff, attorneys, complainant and defendant were present before we were allowed entry. Then add in 62 jurors and the room was packed. 14 in the jury box, and other 14 in front of the jury box, 30 or so in the gallery and two more across the room in from of the clerk of the court. The place is as crowded as my desk!

The choirboydefendant looks young. He's presumably over 18 because we are in adult court, but probably not more than 22, I'd even bet south of 20. He wore dark slacks and a red/gray long sleeve shirt. I looked for tats peaking out at the wrists and neck but didn't see any for sure.

The case involved one choirboy shooting another attempted murder with a firearm. The actual trial was expected to start Monday and continue every afternoon for three weeks plus lengthly deliberations beyond that. If my mental math works out, the trial would wrap up just before Thanksgiving and then deliberations continue for an indefinite period following that.

The judge went through several general questions for every juror. The judge, early in the process, read the case synopsis and asked if that caused bias for or against either party. Juror #18-ish objected and started in on how she thought guns were bad and CCW was wrong... I bit my tongue while mentally shouting "HELLO! THIS CHOIRBOY IS ACCUSED OF ATTEMPTED MURDER. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THIS CASE HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH CCW? IS HE OLD ENOUGH TO EVEN POSSESS A FIREARM LET ALONE A CCW? DOES HE HAVE PRIOR FELONIES THAT WOULD PRECLUDE HIS LEGAL GUN OWNERSHIP? I'D BET MY NEXT PAYCHECK HE IS AN ILLEGAL POSSESSOR AND HENCE THIS CASE HAS ABSO-FRACKEN-NOTHING TO DO WITH CCW!" I so wanted to hear the judge say "Juror #18-ish, you're released on the basis that YOU ARE TOO STUPID TO UNDERSTAND THE PROCEEDINGS." (apologise for the shouting text but that's the way it played out in my mind).

I believe in the the jury process though if it functions as explained today, it's deeply flawed. For instance one question the judge asked was something to the effect of "Can you apply the law as I explain it to you without regard to your own feelings on the law?". I think she might have even breathed something about "in other words, we don't do jury nullification here." I raised my number in objection. How many times has the SCOTUS gotten the verdict wrong and only reverse themselves 50 or 100 years later. In current day, I think the SCOTUS clearly got it wrong in the McCain-Finegold restrictions on free speech. I cannot apply this law in good conscience. The existence of one such exception suggests there are probably others. But if blindly following the judge's interpretation of the law is a requirement to serve, is this really a jury of peers? Any judge worth their salt is going to paint the law in such a small box there is only one possible conclusion. Why have a jury? If they gave me the written law and perhaps any precedents which I could decide if they were on point or not then let me make my own interpretation, I'd be good with that. But such was clearly not the case.

This trial was going to be lengthly enough that I would clearly be neglecting my dayjob(tm). I am developing a product we are trying to get on the market by the end of the year. Usurping more than half of my productive hours would surely cause a schedule slip.

But I didn't raise that issue with the court. I have a bigger concern. I coach two First Lego League teams at my son's school. We meet two days a week after school and our regional competition is December 5th. It's crunch time and pressing me into jury service would mean the end this program.

Yes, I played the "it's for the children" card.

I'll give props to the judge for releasing me on that basis. I sold this program to the principal and she put up the money to fund these two teams on my word that I would see it through. I'm glad this unforeseen roadblock will not interfere with that commitment.

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