T Rex Family

T Rex Family

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jury Duty

It's been a rough month around here. At one point I told hubby and quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, Episode III, "Not to worry, we are still flying half a ship." I feel like we recover from one big thing and move onto the next. 

Lil Sister was struck with a secondary lung infection about 2-3 weeks ago. She had been ill for 2 weeks and was actually worsening rather than improving. I finally took her to be evaluated for pneumonia which I suspected she had but I find difficulty in treating my own kids as I struggle to be objective. Even the pediatrician who saw her said he never treated his kids. He confirmed my suspicions. She was started on antibiotics and after 7 days of fevers being 102-103 F, 24 hours later she was fever free and finally coughing up what needed to come up. And we actually also had a good night of rest. We were exhausted.

The following week, jury duty started. I've been summoned a couple of times but I've never had to actually report. Well, this time rather than call in, my number was chosen so I had to actually report to the courthouse. I filled out the online questionnaire which asks my education level, where I work, my spouse's employer, and if I was related to or knew any police officers (if so, what was the name). I filled it out and even listed our close family friend as the officer I knew. (This will be important later.) That was it. I showed up and waited for an hour before we were brought into the courtroom. 

The judge explained the charges against the defendant. Four total:

1) Battery against a parole officer

2) Possession of a controlled substance
3) Possession of drug paraphernalia
4) Possession of a controlled substance

I know, two charges of a controlled substance - more on that later, too.

The young woman was 30 years old and we only knew that she had previously had some kind of felony charge because she was on parole. But that was all we knew. The prosecuting attorney was a female and the defense attorney was a male. Our judge was a very pleasant appearing woman who definitely commanded that court room - I was scared of her before the trial was over.

We were lined up and various potential jurors were questioned. The prosecution wanted to to clarify some of the responses in the online questionnaire that was filled out. Some were blank and some reported they had previously been prosecuted of various things. She also asked a few people their thoughts on legalizing marijuana. She also asked for anyone to raise their hand if they ever had an offense with the law including a speeding ticket. Only two of us did not raise our hand (yes, to this point, I have never even had a speeding violating - don't ask about parking violations, though!). However, most everyone had been directly questioned for something by one of the attorneys - I never was. Oh, at this point, the pool of people was about 65 total.

The defense was totally fixated on the police officer question. With that being said, we regularly see and socialize with our friend who is a city police officer. The defense attorney never asked me about this. No, he systematically questioned everyone else who did answer yes to that question. I sat through 2 hours of hearing people say, "Yes, my wife's best friend's son in law is a police officer in California" or "Yes, my daughter-in-law's brother is a sheriff in Cleveland." Talk about weak links to the law. Here I am not technically related but I regularly see and feed the city police. I think the attorney missed the boat with me. 

Plus, I totally thought they would not want the very pregnant lady. I may have worn clothes that really emphasized my belly. But at nearly 36 weeks, I thought they would not want to risk me being on an extended trial. (The judge explained the case should be resolved in 3 days - of course, if was not.)

After another hour of the attorney's debating back and forth about who the chosen jurors were going to be. The clerk finally announced the list. At this point, I was really grumpy having been sitting for about three hours and had not had a bathroom break. (I fully expected to pee my pants and suffer a blood clot - okay, maybe not, but I was about to have a fit.) Boy, was I grumpy when I was the 9th name called of a list of 13.

So, I was immediately placed in the jury box. Add another 30 minutes onto my wait. Now we are at three and a half hours without a restroom break. I am sure my face was turning red. The judge re-reviewed the charges and told us we could take a lunch break and be back ready to go after lunch.

Lunch that day was actually great. I sat with two fellow jurors. By the way, we were not able to discuss the case with anyone, even ourselves, nor could we get online and read anything related to the case or look up any legal terms or anything. So, the gentlemen I sat with during lunch told me of their lives. One, whom I immediately liked because he had the same first name as our son, was 80 years old and lifelong military. He had two adult children and no grandchildren. The other man (yes, I seem to associate with the old guys - probably from my VA training during nursing school) was recently retired from computer work. He had 5 children and 3 grandchildren. I told them how my wooden crochet needle had been collected at the secuity check in that morning and I was stuck without any entertainment during all that deliberating. We had a pleasant lunch of salad and fries and went back up ready to start the trial.

It was long, long, long. The state had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. So, all but one of the witnesses called were from the state. Most were parole officers or city police officers. They all had to answer the same series of questions like where did the event take place including date, time, physical location including state, county, street address, etc. It added time to each of their testimonies. Then the defense would get to cross examine which that attorney would totally ask nit picky questions, with long pauses between. He would often mispronounce the officers' names which I felt was a rhetoric technique. 

So, I really enjoyed the prosecuting attorney. Maybe because she was a super strong, well spoken woman, maybe it was because she was very straightforward and had her stuff together (if you know what I mean), or maybe it was her super cute, stylish suits. Her arguments seems to always sit well with me. The defense attorney just grated on me. He kind of drove me a little crazy with his defense tactics. Think "the biscuit" from Ally McBeal. He had this big thick mustache and kind of shaggy hair (hippie hair as T would call it). Oh, and he constantly kept provoking the prosecution to have to object. She was sharp, though, catching him every time but sometimes the witness would answer too quickly before the objection was called and so we'd hear the answer. It was tough to put that out of the mind once the question was answered, which is exactly what I think he was hoping for. As I said, he was playing games during the trial.

So, during breaks/recesses of the trial, the 13 of us jurors were escorted as a group, by an armed bailiff, to a locked, closed room - no electronic media, no news, just a book (if we had it). We could not discuss the case. One day I was so frustrated by the silence in the room I exclaimed, "I know we cannot discuss the trial but can we discuss what the witness was wearing or their hair - that might take the edge off?" We did that and it broke the ice. We finally started learning about each other. Jurors 8 and 10 were my little old men so we got to know each other quite well. #10 even brought the baby a crocheted hat to make up for the time I lost crocheting being on the trial and getting my hook collected. I was charmed by that. The next day I brought him some jarred pickle relish. Juror #12 was also expecting a baby and was also a nurse. She, however, was about 6 months with her first and barely sported a baby bump. She sat through the entire trial - all four days - and was the one randomly selected at the end to be the alternate. She never was able to participate in deliberations or had a vote. I felt so bad for her. I would have been pretty grumpy.

Juror #6 was a back country pilot. I enjoyed his stories. Juror #7 also had small children, a couple of boys. It was fun to hear her stories. Juror #3 used to work with my husband so it was kind of surreal to be going through all this with someone I was acquainted with previously. Juror #1 worked at Home Depot and was very proud of it. He was also full of random trivia. Juror #4 had 11 boys aged 2 to 18 - he said they had a refrigerator in the garage dedicated just to milk.

So, how were we treated? My husband was very concerned after that first morning because I was stuck sitting without assess to a restroom for 4 hours. Well, after then, we were treated like gold. Our meals were taken care of - whatever we wanted. Snacks of any kind were provided. We had armed escorts everywhere in the courthouse and around. Our bailiff was awesome. He did a great job watching out for us as well as our needs. And I had a special signal I could give him if I needed a bathroom break. He would then stop the hearing and we would recess. I actually never needed to use it because we had plenty of breaks. Sometimes the attorneys would have to debate things with the judge and we were not allowed to hear - they don't want to bias the jury. Yes, our tax dollars at work. The hours were kind of long - 8:15 to 5 or 6 pm but not too bad. Oh, and every time we entered the courtroom, everyone would have to stand - not just for the judge but for us. That was kind of cool.

So, after 3 1/2 days of trial, we finally had our chance to discuss the trial as jurors within our group. It took about 3-4 hours but we came to a consensus. It had to be unanimous. The two counts of possession of an illegal substance were because the defendant had spice which was a form of synthetic marijuana and was composed of two different types of chemicals. Hence, the two charges. We jurors debated over this far longer than I think we needed to because there was a tape of a police officer asking her if she knew she it was spice and if she knew it was illegal and if the pipe they found was what she used to smoke it - she replied yes to all three. Still, though, the debate was should she be charged twice. In the end, I made the point it did not matter. If we read the instructions from the judge, it clearly stated we had to determine if she possessed the substances - that was our charge, not to determine if she should be charged twice. The one that took the longest to debate was battery of the parole officer. We went around and around. In the end, we determined there was enough evidence to determine guilt. We presented our verdict to the judge. Then something odd happened.

She thanked us and asked us to please wait in the deliberations room. We were all a little shaken but went back in a tried to get the bailiff to tell us what was happening but he said he could not. We were finally able to go back in and the judge thanked us for our service and excused us. As it turned out, the defendant had previous felonies, not just the one we knew of. However, they could not tell us for fear of biasing us. The state then charged her with being a "repeat offender". Since she pleaded guilty to that, we did not have to do anything further. However, if she had plead not guilty, we would have had to debate that as well. But the bailiff could not tell us and bias us. 

So, on day three it was looking like I was not going to be able to go to work the next day. I tried to ask the judge if there was a way out of it since I had patients who were relying on my care that following day. Alas, there was no debating that woman - jury service before work obligations, even if my medical expertise was needed. Thus, all my patients the next day were canceled. I felt terrible doing that to my staff and to those patients. Everyone was kind and understanding. And my employer totally rocks - they paid me for the day, too. How grateful I am to work where I do and with whom I do. Great group - they take such good care of me.

There you have it - my jury service. At that point, my mom was doing okay but having some issues with gout. Fast forward about 4 days and she is in the hospital in kidney failure. Yeah, it's been a rough month but we're still flying half a ship. And let's now forget, Anakin did land that half ship for "Another happy landing..."

P.S. Mom is out of the hospital and significantly better. Lil Sister is better, my mom is on the mend, the minivan arrives this week, and the newborn cloth diapers are also en route - baby can come now.

1 comment:

Julie Kieras said...

I read this post in my email updates last week but didn't get a chance to comment (so is life going for me the past few weeks!)
I am amazed at all the intricacies of this case and how they didn't say anything about you knowing a police officer! :)