Jury duty

Never been called before and I’m kind of excited to experience this.

Well, “excited” may be too strong a word, but I’m intrigued. Juries are an expression of faith in democracy, of faith in people. The idea and the ideals are things I’ve always supported, but I’ve never experienced the process firsthand.

Today’s my chance to do that. The automated message at the 800-number they had me call last night said I should get to the courthouse by 8:30 a.m., shouldn’t wear shorts, and shouldn’t bring any weapons. Check, check and check.

Anyway, I’m not in charge of my schedule for the next couple of days, so I may have to resort to evening-only blogging until Wednesday.

  • Monala

     My mother, who is now over 70, was called like clockwork for jury duty every three years. She was empaneled 6 times, including two murder trials, one in which she was sequestered. I used to joke that she should one day write a book titled, I Was a Professional Juror.

    At the voir dire for the last murder trial, she thought that by telling the lawyers she had been empaneled for a murder trial previously, they might let her go. Instead, one lawyer said, “You’ve already served on a murder trial? Awesome! Come on up!” and the other lawyer agreed.

    Her experience, all six times that she was empaneled, was that her fellow jurors were all intelligent, thoughtful people. Btw, she lives in a major city.

  • LL

    I was called for jury selection, didn’t get selected (this was about 5 years ago). Will go again next month. It’s not like it’s my favorite thing ever, it was mostly kinda dull (the legal explanations were somewhat interesting), but I don’t mind doing it. This is one of the costs of living in a decent society. We should have people on juries other than the chronically unemployed and the retired. Take a book (or e-reader, whatever).

    Note: in Dallas county, the selection process lasts all day, but if you don’t get selected, you don’t have to go back, unlike other jury selection procedures I’ve heard about in other places. 

  • LL

    Compensation varies. In some places it is quite small (like less than $20 a day). In other places, it’s more like $50 a day plus travel allowance (mileage, I think). 

  • MikeJ

    Regarding nullification: the judge is there to see to the law. The jury is there to see to justice.  It is immoral to convict a person of an immoral law. 

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    When I was called for jury duty this most recent time, it was for the same week that my husband and I had made reservations to go to a state park overnight. When I called about changing the date of jury duty, I was told to send confirmation of the reservations we had made. Looking at the confirmation letter, however, I discovered I could change the date of our reservations to the next week for a ten dollar fee. I decided it would be easier to change the trip than change jury duty.

    It turned out to be a good decision, because the earliest opening available for me to be called again for jury duty turned out to be the time when they picked jurors for the murder trial of  Torrance “Lil Boosie” Hatch. Jurors for the trial were sequestered as soon as they were selected and the trial ran for almost two weeks, counting jury selection. It probably would have been interesting, but I don’t think I would have wanted to be on a sequestered jury.

  • Darkrose

    I’ve been on a jury twice. Once was a civil case that was a little silly; someone got rear-ended in the Sumner Tunnel and sued. The other one was an assualt with a deadly weapon case between three prisoners; two of them were accused of shanking the other guy. The problem is that it happened four years previously, so we were relying on grainy security video and eyewitness testimony. We were having trouble agreeing, and the judge eventually told us in so many words that we had to come up with a verdict. It was incredibly stressful for me, to the point where I had anxiety attacks when I got called again last year. 

  • VMink

    Huh, synchronicity!  I’m sitting on jury duty this week.  I have to call them tonight or check their website to see if I have to go in.  Part of me is intrigued and willing to do my civic duty.

    And part of me is dreading the parking. -_-

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That insurance case? Makes me glad I live in a province with no-fault insurance (Compensation without regard to fault). Statistically it’s also been shown that ICBC does not routinely try to find both drivers in an accident at fault, so the investigators are competent and do their work honestly.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Still, minimum wage at 8 hours is  $64 for where I live, so you’d think they’d get the hint and pay jurors more than the equivalent of minimum wage :|

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Jury Nullification written by Sam Smith. I know it’s in his book as well.

  • Rhubarbarian82

     I’ve only been called while I’ve been a freelancer. If I’m at a courthouse for 9 hours a day, I can’t do my work properly. And if I can’t do my work properly, I can’t get paid (beyond the laughable pittance the court pays you). I can’t get paid, I can’t pay my rent. I wouldn’t have an issue if I worked in a corporate environment where I was given jury pay, and didn’t have to worry about losing my job because they switched to another freelancer while I was waiting in a courthouse somewhere and decided they liked him better. A lot of people literally cannot afford to be selected for jury service, and naturally the courts have decided that financial strain isn’t a sufficient reason to avoid service.

  • ReverendRef

    I’ve only been called once to jury duty.  It was the “show up one week every day, call in the next week to see if you’re needed” variety.  My first week I served on two cases, a drug possession and a car accident.  The driver in the 2nd case was found guilty and had to pay fines, do community service  or something like that. 

    The defendant in the drug possession case was found guilty.  After the trial I learned of some information that had been suppressed at trial, which also meant that we got the verdict wrong in my opinion.  Luckily for the defendant and me, this was his first offense and the judge let him off easy.

    Mrs. Ref, however, has been called to jury duty every time we’ve changed locations.  She hates moving.  The best place we’ve lived for jury duty is Montana.  You get a letter that says, “You’ve been selected for jury duty for the following calendar year.  We’ll notify you when we need you.”  The one time she actually got called during that year, the pool went right to selection.

  • thatotherjean

    I’ve been called for jury duty twice, and picked once to be a juror on a case in which a woman was accused by a store owner of stealing money from the register.  It was an interesting experience, particularly since we were allowed to take notes and ask questions–not something every state will permit.  We found the defendant not guilty because the prosecution hadn’t proved its case; but after it was over and she couldn’t be tried again for the theft, all of us really wished we could ask her whether or not she had actually taken the cash.

  • Mary Kaye

    My father was in the jury on an assault case.  He said that the most interesting thing about it was that, except for the cops (who had no personal stake, just doing their jobs) *every single person* who took the stand was very clearly lying.  They were part of a subculture where you just can’t safely answer a question like “Where were you on Friday night at 11:00 pm?” because the answer might be “At Jake’s crack house” or “With a prostitution customer”.

    It was pretty hard to figure anything out with all of the testimony being false, but apparently it was educational.

    My husband was on a driving without a license case.  (These do not have to go to jury trial, and usually don’t, but the defendant insisted.)  It was eventually established that it couldn’t be proven that the defendant was driving the car when he was stopped, as–two years later–the cop who stopped him could not ID him.  He claimed that it was not him, that someone had borrowed his car….

    The jury stewed about this for a while, and then asked, “When was this guy’s license suspended?”  They discovered that his license had been suspended, and never restored, ten years previously.  Also, that the car he’d been driving was his car, all licenses paid for each year by him.

    They came to the conclusion that if a person has had his license suspended for ten years, and has had a car for all that time, and then the cops stop someone in his car who claims to be him, there is a prima facie case that he has been driving without a license.  I don’t know how I feel about this myself, but I can see their point.

  • Jenora Feuer

    I’ve been called up twice (here in Toronto; calling up lasts a week, generally, where you get to sit in the federal courthouse all day with their large library and computer desks), and been in selection for three juries, none of which I got selected for.

    The first one was a minor case, the jurors weren’t even asked questions, just filed past while the lawyers each got a chance to do their initial rejections and kick people out until they had twelve people.  Don’t remember much about it.  On the other hand, the person at the courthouse who was there to explain our duties to us was a great and funny guy, very good at his job of keeping the interest of a bunch of people of mixed levels of interest.

    The second case was a murder trial I saw in the papers later.  Two people were selected from the jury panel to act as kind of secondary questioners; they got to suggest that people shouldn’t be on the jury as well as the lawyers.  (I got asked if I felt I could try the case fairly, then bumped anyway.)   The main thing I remember from that case was that when the judge asked about reasons not to serve, one guy put up his hand and noted that he lived three doors down from the crime scene and had known the victims personally.  Needless to say, he got excused.

    The third case they ended up running through all the people they had pulled up there twice to get enough people, though they didn’t get to me the second time around.  After that, on Thursday afternoon, we were all told there were no other cases waiting for the rest of the week, so we could all just go home.

    With regards to the parking comment, well, the federal courthouse here is a block from one of the main subway stations in town, and only about two blocks from the biggest shopping mall in town.  Parking usually wasn’t a problem.

    And yeah, compensation should be worked on.  Both the companies I’ve worked for had Jury Duty policies, though if the case started to stretch on over multiple weeks, you’d likely be looking at an official leave of absence.  And the official compensation hasn’t gone up in a very long while.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    Wow, how did you manage to avoid it all this time?  I always get called.  I’ve done it twice in Camdem County, once in Bucks, once (at least) in Montgomery County, once in Chester County and once in Philly.  Somehow I never got called in Delaware County.

    I think being on a jury makes you a little more sympathetic towards those unpopular jury decisions you hear about sometimes, where everyone says things like “Well, if *I* had been there, I would have found him guilty” or whatever.  But if they had seen what the jury saw, and heard all the arguments, they would have probably come to the same conclusion. 

  • Dash1

    On a bit of a tangent with a jury horror story–or at least so it seems to me. My mother, good fundagelical that she is, started the jury deliberations by asking if perhaps they could start with a prayer. She was just thrilled that everyone agreed, and she led them in prayer. Whether she was elected forewoman before or after the prayer thing, I don’t know. I do know that she was elected forewoman. (This was the 1980′s, so the culture wars were not yet in full swing.)

    I’m wondering if (a) there were any Jews on the jury, and (b) if there were, whether they were surprised when she prayed “in Jesus’ name.”

    Ever since then, I have been prepared, should I run into someone who tries to pull that in a jury room, to say, “I’m sorry. I find that inappropriate. Lead a prayer if you want to, but I will ask to be excused from the room while you are doing it.” (I need to practice this, since my immediate reaction would be . . . a bit stronger, I think.)

  • LoneWolf343

     If I was a defense attorney, and I found out about it, I would appeal it on First Amendment grounds. Probably won’t win, but hey…

  • Jay

    I got called up, once.  We went through the voir dire process Monday morning.  When the prosecutor noticed the judge was asleep, I laughed.  That was enough to get me off the jury.

    I can understand that, for the defendant, this process was very serious.  I also understood that for the judge it’s routine and boring, and was not scandalized that a sixty-something judge would fall asleep in the middle of it.

  • LoneWolf343

     I’d sue if I was suddenly rear-ended in my Sumner Tunnel.

    …i’m sorry…

  • P J Evans

     One time I got called. The defendant and his lawyer looked at the room full of potential jurors and decided to change the plea.
    Another time, the defendant’s lawyer didn’t show up at all, although everyone else was there..

  • P J Evans

     No knitting needles, no nail clippers. But embroidery is okay. I’m surprised they allow pens and pencils.

  • P J Evans

     Where I live, jury pay is something like 10 dollars a day, and you only get paid if you serve more than one day. And not everyone gets paid for jury duty by their employer.

  • P J Evans

    The assembly rooms where the potential jurors are put while waiting to be assigned to a courtroom have improved a lot since the judges became liable for servicee…. (Also, they put up pictures on the wall of the Big Name People who have been called.)

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I was called for jury duty once. I waited in a freezing cold room until lunch (this is Florida, where people compensate for the heat by setting the AC at under 60 in public buildings). Then I was called, and was going to be seated in what looked like an extremely odd trial. An elderly man in a wheelchair was on trial for assault. The prosecutor, who was probably younger than me, was condescending to everyone she asked questions of. The questions themselves were utterly weird — yes or no, do you think cops lie. Yes or no, would a person being in a wheelchair affect the way you saw him in literally any way whatsoever. Yes or no, do you feel sorry for people with disabilities.

    We were sent out of the room after about an hour and waited for another hour in a large room in which there weren’t enough seats for everyone to sit down. Then we were called in again and told that because of some important point of law (I have no idea what), none of us would be seated for this trial. 

    Then I had to wait another five hours, in case another trial needed a juror. By the way, the only person in authority who came close to treating the possible jurors like people rather than particularly ignorant robots was the judge.

    It wasn’t a harrowing experience, but it was not a pleasant one either.

  • P J Evans

    The questions themselves were utterly weird — yes or no, do you think
    cops lie. Yes or no, would a person being in a wheelchair affect the way
    you saw him in literally any way whatsoever. Yes or no, do you feel
    sorry for people with disabilities.

    The first one is pretty standard, because there are a lot of people who will believe either everything or nothing said by a cop (the ‘everything’ group seems to figure that just being arrested makes people guilty). The others are looking for bias for or against the defendant.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Sure, but they didn’t allow us to say, “maybe in certain circumstances” or “sometimes” — yes or no, and that was it. 

    After we were told we wouldn’t be on the jury, all of us, including people who had been on juries before, thought the whole thing was really odd. It was like the prosecutor was trying to empanel only sociopaths — she obviously wanted to strike anyone who would feel an ounce of pity for an old man in a wheelchair.

  • ohiolibrarian

     If knitting needles are weapons (see movie, Foul Play), do you think a crochet hook would be safe?

  • Diona the Lurker

    I actually have an exemption from jury duty. I’m severely deaf – bad enough that I have a couple of cochlear ear implants – so there’s no way I’d be able to serve on a jury. I’m not entirely sorry about this; while it would be an interesting experience, the thought of having the fate of another person in my hands is really rather scary.

    Weird story – back when I was in my early twenties, before I even got my implants, I was called up twice for jury service. I was excused the first time; the second time, I went around to the courthouse with my mum to get a permanent exemption, letting her do the talking. Waiting for the bloke on the desk to return from the back of the office, someone stuck his head out from around a door, stared straight at me where I was reading a notice board – and giggled. WTF?!

  • Hawker40

    While I was active duty, I recieved a jury notification once a year.  Being in the navy and assigned to a deployable unit (and at least twice, actually deployed) I was excused.

    After I got out, I immediately was called up and went to the courthouse, where they started selection process for a case that would involve trigger warnings and underage girls if I were to describe it.  The first thing the defense attorney asked was who in the pool was a parent of a girl, and then asked the judge to have everyone who raised thier hand dismissed.

    A year later, I was called in for one day, but my number wasn’t called.

    A year after that, I pulled jury duty during Thanksgiving Week, and wasn’t actually called in.

    And I haven’t gotten a letter since.  It’s been a few years, maybe they’ve forgotten me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Lipton/100001171828568 Jeff Lipton

    I’ve been called twice and the latter experience really pissed me off. 

    I was in the first group to go to a room in the morning.  They sat about 20 of us in the back and called 18 of us to the jury box, with six seats in front (I was Juror # 1!!!))  They let us know that the trial was scheduled to last two weeks.  Since I was going driving up to see my mom in two weeks (I live in LA, she lives near San Francisco) I was a little worried in case the trial ran long.

    So…  they started voir dire… one by one, not en banc as with my previous experience.  Since this was a case of sexual abuse of a minor, I could see why they wanted to be careful.  But this was going to take a while…

    At the first break, I asked to speak to the judge, and told him and the attorneys about my plans.  I also did not hide the fact that I wear a hearing aid and can’t hear every word.  I told them that I took jury duty to be a serious obligation.  The judge asked if I could postpone my trip.  I told him that I would ask my mom.  I did and she agreed that serving was important and that I should come up later.

    After a full week, they still don’t have a full jury, but since they haven’t asked me any questions in a while, I’m pretty confident that I will “survive”.  But after a full week, they call me into conference in a hallway and ask about my hearing.  I’m honest with them — I can’t hear every word, especially the judge who talks veryfast.  But I can always ask to have something repeated so it shouldn’t be a problem.  Nope, as soon as we come back into session — “Thank you for your time.”

    I was mad as hell — still pretty pissed about the whole thing.  If my hearing was going to be a problem, why couldn’t they have dismissed me before I had to disrupt my plans?

    I doubted they would have the jury seated in two weeks, much less have the trial over by then.

  • Joshua

    Best of luck, Fred. It can be a harrowing thing to do, and a boring one. I’ve only been on a jury once, but I did find it interesting and educational. And harrowing and boring.

    The jury selection process in New Zealand seems a lot simpler and IMHO more just than the ones described here. The judge had a list of names of people involved in the case, and anyone who recognised a name was excused. The judge asked if anyone had any other reason to be excused, and one guy said he was deaf and wouldn’t be able to hear what was said. The judge was inclined to take a hard line on this, as the court was fitted with a hearing aid induction loop just for times like this. The guy didn’t seem happy about it, and one of the lawyers excused him. Wins a point with the rest of the pool, and saves the guy some hassle. He was the only one excused.

    At no point did we get asked any questions individually, or get asked any questions by the lawyers. They either didn’t have or didn’t take a change to fiddle the demographics of the jury pool. It should be random – a jury of your peers, not vetted by interested parties.

    Fairly serious charges, too. I doubt anyone wants gory details, but the maximum sentence would be more than half of what you’d get for murder over here.

    All in all, I was amazed by the effectiveness of the system. It was run by perfectly ordinary people, and the jury included all sorts, but cross-examination in a courtroom makes it difficult to lie without being caught in a misstep and our jury deliberation left no stone unturned. Everyone’s got their point of view, and had a chance to speak, so no piece of evidence or line of thought was ignored.

    I remember feeling the weight of responsibility, that I could sent this guy away for years and ruin his life, and how that would be for him if he was innocent. But I also thought of the victim, that setting the guilty free in front of her could easily wreck her life too. So I just voted on my reading of the evidence and didn’t second-guess myself any further.

    We put him away. I have no doubt at all that we were right to do so.

  • Joshua

    Oh yeah, if I can double-post.

    I think the “reasonable doubt” standard is very carefully chosen. I think it can sometimes be treated as “almost certain” but that’s not what it says. If you have a doubt, it has to be reasonable. The defense is trying to create, at minimum, reasonable doubt: is their version of events reasonable?

    In the case I was on, the defense did as much to dispel reasonable doubt as the prosecution. You expect us to find that story reasonable? Uh-huh.

    In the case described by Mary Kaye on the last page, obviously without knowing the full story, yeah, the guy owned a car for ten years, paid the fees for ten years, but didn’t drive it? Is that reasonable? If it’s a valuable classic with only 500 miles on the clock, he’d be able to show that. If he did it for his broke brother to drive to work, out of some family obligation, he’d be able to show it. Just the unsupported statement by itself isn’t a reasonable story IMHO.

    In another case I heard about, a house got burgled. It was established to the jury’s satisfaction that the defendant had helped to load the van up from the front porch of the house. The legal point of fact on which the case hung was whether he had personally entered the house and carried stuff out. His story, apparently, was that he was walking along the street and just wanted to help out some guys he thought were shifting house. Some of the jurors felt that that was enough to create reasonable doubt. IMHO it can create doubt, certainly, the world is a strange place and the people even stranger, but it’s just not reasonable. Don’t know how it turned out in the end.

  • rrhersh

     “That insurance case? Makes me glad I live in a province with no-fault insurance”

    No-fault comes with its own baggage.  It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but typically it gives the insurance carrier more say in directing your medical treatment.  Ponder that for a few minutes… 

    It also often limits payouts to economic damages, mostly meaning medical bills and lost wages, eliminating non-economic damages, i.e. pain and suffering.  Maybe you agree with that, maybe you don’t.  It is not at all obvious to me that the only damages worth noting are ones that come with a receipt attached.  Is spending months arranging your and your family’s lives around physical therapy because someone else hit you a significant factor?  I would say yes, but some would disagree with me.  So far as I am concerned, if I am forced to spend my time doing something that I wouldn’t have been doing anyway, then my life is adversely affected.  The court can’t give me that time back.  Cash is the only compensation it has available.

    Finally, note how including lost wages but not pain and suffering subtly makes injuries to people with high salaries more important that injuries to poor people.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    I’m in Massachusetts, where the rule (for the state courts) is “one day or one trial”: if you don’t get on a jury after a day in the courthouse, you go home and you’re off the hook for three years.   

    So I’ve been called four times and actually had to go in three times, but I’ve never been on a jury.  The closest I got was the last one, a serious violent-crime case in Superior Court where they went through enough people at the voir dire stage that they *almost* called me up to the front for questioning, but not quite.

    The weird thing about it was that it was in Salem, and it was right around Halloween, when Salem becomes a major tourist attraction because of a grotesque miscarriage of justice 300+ years ago.  I tried to remind myself not to add to the legend.

    My wife’s never been called at all, despite living in Massachusetts for 16 years.   It’s strangely arbitrary.  One of the stated justifications for “one day or one trial” is that, since it requires them to call in a lot of people, they get a lot of public civic involvement in the court system.  But in practice, I suspect that the first people they tap are the people who came in last time and whose three years are up, probably because they’re the most likely people to actually show up.

  • http://inquisitiveravn.livejournal.com/ Inquisitive Raven

    I haven’t really bothered to track how often I’ve been called up since I moved to Philly, but until 2010, they got me every three years like clockwork. Last time, it took them four years. I’ve only actually served on  a jury twice, once for a criminal case, and once for a civil case. Before moving to Philly, I was called up twice in Delaware County. Both places do the “one day or one trial” thing described for Massachusetts.

    It’s interesting to contrast the two locations. Frankly, the summer stock theater folding chairs would have been an improvement over the things that were provided for seating at the Delco county courthouse, and the magazines were all out of date. The first time I was called, one jury was empaneled (I was not called for it), and we were sent home after lunch. The second time, no juries were empaneled, and we were sent home before lunch.

    In Philadelpia, the jury waiting  area has movie theater style seating with folding lecture hall style desks so people have a surface to write on when filling out questionnaires. As soon as the introductory video is done, they start empaneling juries. Civil cases are tried at City Hall, criminal case in the Criminal Justice Center. I don’t remember going through any sort of security check in Delco, but it’s been nearly twenty years, so don’t take that as reliable. Philly’s security check makes the TSA look sloppy. Okay, they don’t make you take off your shoes (yet), but they’re  otherwise very thorough. I was surprised when they let me keep my cell phone last time. I normally  don’t bring my cell phone to jury duty precisely because I expect it to confiscated, but last time I needed it in case I had to reschedule  a doctor’s appointment that I had for the very next day. On crochet vs. knitting: I’ve never had any trouble getting my crochet past the security check, but two weeks after one of my jury duty stints, someone I know had her knitting taken from her despite her making a point of bringing a project on plastic needles. Go figure.  Typically, the people not chosen for the jury in the earliest panels get sent back to the waiting area to be called again. I’ve never been one of the earliest called, so I’ve always gotten sent home after empaneling. Heh, one time for a civil case, we all filed into the courtroom,  and the involved parties promptly decided to settle.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I have been called up six times in the 19 years I have been in Bexar County.

    Three of those times I was exempted due to being a stay-at-home mom.

    I have only come close to being put on a jury once.  The case was one where the plaintiff had bought a house with a leaky roof and, after leaving a family heirloom under the leak for several rainstorms, the heirloom had been damaged.  She was suing the previous owners for the damage to the heirloom.  She said they should have disclosed the leak.

    The only question they asked the prospective jurors was whether they could hear this case with an open mind.

    They found their jury before they got to me, but if they had asked me, I would have had to have said “no,” because I believed she had a duty to mitigate the damages — she should have moved the family heirloom out from under the leak the first time.

    The attorneys I worked with at the time agreed with me, by the way.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    British Columbian here – so the no-fault medical issue is less severe cause Canadian Medicare.

    That said, out-of-insurance payments can be an issue if the procedure isn’t deemed necessary by ICBC, but I think the universal healthcare we have minimizes the problem compared to a USA state government with no-fault and profit-seeking insurers.

  • Randall M

     There was an SCTV sketch about a professional juror.  That is, a “commercial” for a new TV series about the adventures of a professional juror.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    So, I asked once before what would happen if I were on a jury panel for a capital crime. (Not gonna happen, cos I live in a country that doesn’t have a powerful Right To Life lobby, so naturally we’ve abolished the death penalty).

    I was advised that, as a capital punishment abolitionist, I’d probably be considered ineligible. Which I guess means juries are an expression of people who don’t conscientiously object to state-imposed violence. But anyway.

    New question: if you also object, as a matter of principle, to mandatory minimums–would that disqualify you from serving on a jury where such penalties applied?

    Conscientious objection: not just for abortion and gay rights!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    John Grisham’s A Time To Kill has a black prospective juror finding out that opposition to the death penalty gets you disqualified during voir dire. Result: all the black prospectives dissemble and claim they have no problem with it.

  • Lori

     

    I was advised that, as a capital punishment abolitionist, I’d
    probably be considered ineligible. Which I guess means juries are an
    expression of people who don’t conscientiously object to state-imposed
    violence. But anyway. 

    Juries in death penalty cases have to be “death qualified”. If you’re totally unwilling to impose a capital sentence then you don’t get on the jury.

     

    New question: if you also object, as a matter of principle, to
    mandatory minimums–would that disqualify you from serving on a jury
    where such penalties applied? 

    Yes, provided that the judge accepted that your objection to mandatory minimums was a sincerely held belief and not just an attempt to avoid serving on the jury. If you’re flat out unwilling to impose the sentence required by law then you’re considered unqualified to be on the jury.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Worth being clear here, that these are both just examples of “If you say up front that even if the prosecution proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt, you will still refuse to return a guilty verdict for political reasons not specifically related to the case, you’ll be disqualified”, which is itself a special case of “If you have already decided what the verdict is before the trial starts, you’ll be disqualified.” — If you’re opposed to mandatory minimums and this is a mandatory minimum case, you’re pretty much saying “You don’t actually need to tell me the details of this case; I’ve already decided to acquit”

  • Lori

     Yes, there are good reasons for the qualification rules. I was just answering the question Sgt Pepper’s asked. Some opinions do keep you from being considered qualified to serve on a jury.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That said, isn’t it almost like the judges and lawyers are purposely stacking the deck in favor of people who are predisposed to vote to convict in the first place? (-_-)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    If you say up front that even if the prosecution proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt, you will still refuse to return a guilty verdict for political reasons not specifically related to the case, you’ll be disqualified

    (emphasis added)

    Moral reasons.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If you’re opposed to mandatory minimums and this is a mandatory minimum
    case, you’re pretty much saying “You don’t actually need to tell me the
    details of this case; I’ve already decided to acquit”

    Wait, so there’s no difference between “I think the defendant’s guilty and I think the minimum sentence is too harsh” and “I think the defendant’s not guilty”?

  • Lori

     

    Wait, so there’s no difference between “I think the defendant’s guilty
    and I think the minimum sentence is too harsh” and “I think the
    defendant’s not guilty”?  

    No. The point is that a person who is opposed to mandatory minimums is a risk for jury nullification because the only way to avoid giving a mandatory minimum sentence is to acquit the defendant.  Judges and prosecutors don’t want to take on known, obvious risk like that so they dismiss that person and move on to the next one in the jury pool.

  • Lori

     

    That said, isn’t it almost like the judges and lawyers are purposely
    stacking the deck in favor of people who are predisposed to vote to
    convict in the first place?  

    Being willing to impose the legal sentence if a person is guilty is not the same thing as being predisposed to find the person guilty. I’m sure there are some people who would be willing to impose the death penalty for some crimes, but would feel the weight of that responsibility in a way that would make them demand more or better proof for a conviction.

    I haven’t looked at jury research on the issue for years so I don’t know how it plays out in practice these days.

  • Dash1

    I did a quick search for studies to see if there was evidence that those who were pro-death-penalty were more likely to convict in general, and I’m not seeing the evidence for that. I did find some studies that indicated that there was no connection.

    Of course, it was a quick search, and I’m not a legal expert, so I may be missing important journals or important studies.


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