Jury Duty - Our most Sacred Civic Duty
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Thread: Jury Duty - Our most Sacred Civic Duty

  1. #1
    Senior Member LuvNot's Avatar
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    Jury Duty - Our most Sacred Civic Duty

    I don't often do this, but this is weighing heavily on my mind and I can't sleep. Hopefully, throwing this out there to the group will help.

    For the last 2 days I've been part of the jury for my city's circuit court. I know a lot of people joke about what they would do or say to get out of this type of thing, but I can't do that. I've been called to serve for a reason and believe in doing the right thing. Maybe that is naive because I've never had to do this before. And after going through this "minor" case and dealing with how it's affected me, part of me can understand why others would wish to avoid it. However, it doesn't matter: I'll still answer the call again if it comes. Because now that I've gone through this, now that I've got experience and seen how people react to this type of situation, next time I'll do my damnedest to be a lot more persuasive when trying to sway the members of the jury that will not consider the facts as presented, and instead allow "ifs" and "maybe" scenarios to make them afraid to take evidence at face value, even if it is circumstantial.

    We all need to stick to our morals and do what we believe to be true. That is part of the system and is even codified as instructions given to the jury. Making decisions based on our moral compass is what makes a jury so powerful. But moral grounds aren't the only thing we use when making decisions during a trial. We also use logic, and react emotionally to situations. We are all human, after all. But as humans who are often ruled by emotion instead of logic, we are often swayed more by emotions than common sense. And that is a very powerful, and often grave error. When we are presented with evidence that cannot be explained away in a LOGICAL fashion, whatever remains, however much we don't like it, is the truth we must act upon.

    And the sad truth of the matter is, in this instance, emotion won. No matter what the rest of us in that jury deliberation room said to this individual, they would not budge. I could almost see the moment when fear of making a mistake rolled over into stubborn refusal to change a verdict for personal reasons. In cases such as this, when a decision becomes personal instead of logical, the result is never good.

    In this instance, because the jury could not unanimously agree upon a verdict, the judge had to call a mistrial and could not convict the defendant on the more serious of 2 charges. During the sentencing phase of the proceedings, when the prosecution could finally provide evidence from previous related cases that was not originally admissible, we could see that this trial was a result of being caught in the act that was a pattern of offenses for this individual. The circumstantial evidence we were shown in the original phase of the trail was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this individual's behavior. Armed with this new information, we were allowed to deliberate once more on how to sentence the defendant for the one offense we all agreed upon. Thank heavens this was not a longer debate: we all agreed to provide a sentence of the maximum jail time and fines. It was a small consolation - too little, too late. But at least the defendant will be out of society once more for a while and his victim relatively safe from retaliation.

    <sigh>

    Okay, I know everyone is different. We have different experiences that color our perception of the world. Personally, as a woman who grew up as an only child, was a latch-key kid, and have lived by myself most of my life, being observant and analyzing other's body language, patterns of speech and patterns of behavior, is a skill that keeps me safe. When something subconsciously or consciously makes me alert, I pay attention. Things I observed in the courtroom:
    1. The Judge said twice, "I do not wish to call a mistrial." - When a Judge emphasizes this twice, pay attention!
    2. The defendant's body language was 'off' - This is subjective observation on my part, but something that struck me as the trial progressed. The person in question was relaxed, watchful, and arrogant. I hate to use the last word, and struggled to find another that fit what I observed, but it just fits. Perhaps calculating is a better word? I really hate this part of observing because it's so difficult to quantify, but gut reaction to the defendant's body language was don't trust this individual.
    3. The defendant offered too much non-related information during questioning - Okay, this is another hard-to-quantify explanation, but boils down to the old saying, "Con-men are the nicest people". This individual talked around every important question that was asked, offering irrelevant 'facts' and details in a manner that was clearly designed to alternately misguide and gain trust. It was similar to the cons pulled by people who approach you at 7-11 and start out with the fact they are a veteran or they have kids or are from the other side of the city before asking for money. There is too much 'heart-string' information or information that is frequently repeated, has nothing to do with the point at hand, and is designed to emotionally manipulate you into compliance. All provided with a smooth 'I'm harmless' voice and 'con-man' posture.
    4. The defendant's lawyer started out strong, but faltered during the trial. - This was another huge flag. When a defendant's lawyer is given pause during testimony and has to go back to his notes, there is an issue with the information his client provided. When, during questioning, a lawyer keeps fishing for a specific thing that turns out to not be a thing after all, there is an issue with the information his client provided!


    What this all boils down to is:

    PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE

    No, that's not directed at y'all, but is my shout out to the universe during the wee-hours of the morning because I can't sleep after going through this mess.

    I am not perfect. I am not always right. But I am methodical. I am logical. I believe in facts. I believe in patterns. I believe in rule of law, and personal accountability. I seldom allow emotion to over-rule common sense and I never allow it to over-rule my instinctive gut reaction to situations. I also believe everyone has the right to make their own observations and form their own opinions.

    But next time, I shall do my very best - my absolute damnedest best - to point out all of my personal observations, and reinforce all the supporting facts, and be my most persuasive to change the opinion of another person who is wrong!
    TW-Brian, Xracer, Swingarm and 4 others like this.
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    Super Moderator JerseyJeeper's Avatar
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    I'll read that long post in full later but I do want to get one thing out there now. Sometimes laws are wrong, over reaching and should not apply in certain cases. Do not ever forget about jury nullification! It's our god given right to make things right no matter what the prosecution or judge tells you, yes you have to follow the law but the law allows you to judge the circumstances.. do the "right thing" no matter what the circumstances.
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    Senior Member phelonius's Avatar
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    All perps. have the right to a fair trial before they are hung.
    Smitty Blackstone and grewen like this.
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    Senior Member Fred's Avatar
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    Proud to have met someone like you who takes this seriously Kim. Good for you.
    It is just do easy for most of us to decide we do not wish to be involved.
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    Senior Member plumbstraight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JerseyJeeper View Post
    I'll read that long post in full later but I do want to get one thing out there now. Sometimes laws are wrong, over reaching and should not apply in certain cases. Do not ever forget about jury nullification! It's our god given right to make things right no matter what the prosecution or judge tells you, yes you have to follow the law but the law allows you to judge the circumstances.. do the "right thing" no matter what the circumstances.
    So true. Thing that gets me is that we have no control over the laws that are made. Basically the law makers make laws that they are immune to at times. People need to realize that the power in the court room is the jury. The judge is a referee that passes out the rules of the game. Both the defender and the prosecutor want to put a gold star on the calendar no matter what the truth of the case, we see it all the time. It comes down to each person on the jury to make their personal decision and stick to it regardless of the pressure put on by the rest of the jury.

    I applaud you Kim to doing what you believe is the right thing.

  7. #6
    Senior Member troll's Avatar
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    Great post Luvnot, I served jury on a murder trial and it was very challenging. We were hung for several days and it was very difficult to deal with the differing levels of understanding. Emotions were raw and the court offered counseling after the case was finished. I found the experience fascinating and enlightening.
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  8. #7
    Senior Member LuvNot's Avatar
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    For those who seem to misunderstand my emphasis on what the judge said: I in no way believe that judges are infallible or that laws are always correct and that both must always to be followed. There is Law, and then there is Justice. I think the US has the most extensive legal system in the world, but offers very little justice. We all recognize nuisance laws - speed limits, no chewing gum/cursing in tourist location, grass can only be 6" tall, etc... And we all recognize when justice is not served.

    I am, however, saying quite plainly, that when someone emphasizes a point, and that point is taken together with other evidence, people need to pay attention. They need to take this seriously. They need to actually observe and listen to everything so they can connect the dots and actually understand what was going on. Information was given to us - no matter in how round-about a fashion - that people never heard. Why? Because quite frankly, many of them didn't want to be there and didn't seem to take the job seriously. That also chaps my hide.

    And ya know what... I can keep going with this but the fact is - it's taken up enough of my emotions. Read the whole post and comprehend the message before making assumptions. I tried to get it out of my system, but revisiting it just ties my guts in knots.
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    Super Moderator JerseyJeeper's Avatar
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    If your talking about my post your reading too much into it. I didn't read yours yet actually but this one caught my attention,. I was headed out on a ride and just couldn't take the time to read your post, just got back from a 100+ mile ride actually 70 dirt/30 off road, and was planning on getting back to it. FWIW.. when ever anyone ever mentions having to do jury duty I notify them about jury nullification and give them a flyer on it. I'm a member of a group who tries to get the word out.. (that they as jurist have the final say

    As far as your trouble and frustration with your most recent jury duty experience where others were not up to that task. Yea, that sucks. Very frustrating I'm sure. There are lots of stupid lazy people out there. We may have the best system in the world but it does rely on having good jurist. Look what we wind up with as politicians..! Anyway sorry you are hit hard by the experience and sorry I added to your frustration
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    Super Moderator JerseyJeeper's Avatar
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    WTF! No chewing gum? Where the H is that? I've never heard of that...
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    Senior Member Swingarm's Avatar
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    Let me think about this for a second.....you ran into a social justice warrior.........

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