Civic Duty Calls

I have been summoned to jury duty and this morning my number is up. Have no idea how long anything will go on for, but blogging will be limited, obviously, and emails will be responded to slowly.

Rather wish I was Liz Lemon today…

But not him:

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • halflight

    Anchoress:

    Sorry, no sympathy from me. People like you are needed on juries. Do you really want our court system to depend on people who have nothing better to do on that particular day?

    Anyhow, if it’s a criminal trial, and you’re explicit about your occupation (accent on the “conservative”), the defense attorney will probably consider you pro-prosecution and use a “peremptory challenge” to remove you from the panel, no subterfuge necessary.

  • Mark L

    You could always try my magic phrase to get out of jury duty. When the defence attorney asks if anyone has any questions about the defendant’s guilt, put a puzzled look on your face, raise your hand, and ask will all the sincerity that you can muster. “If he wasn’t guilty, then why did the police arrest him?” After the defence attorney goes through his spiel about presumption of innocence, look even more puzzled and say, “Oh. I see now,” making it obvious that you really do not.

    Seriously though, of all the times I have been summoned for jury duty, I have only been empaneled twice. No defence attorney will empanel me on a criminal case because I have been the victim of a violent crime. (Got muggged and stabbed.) Doesn’t matter that the system worked for me in that case and that I have a negative interest in seeing someone innocent getting convicted of a crime. And I generally do not get empaneled on civil cases because I am an engineer.

    The two times I did get empaneled was when I was living in a small town in Texas where the main industries were the state prison system and the local railroad. Since I worked for neither the prison nor the railroad (I am not *that* kind of engineer) and had no relatives in the county, they got stuck with me. Or I got stuck with them. It was interesting, though.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Gee Bender, why are you so angry these days?

    Well, I tell you my dear Anchoress, it does not help when I see a couple of totally ignorant (scratch that, that might be too harsh) er, a couple of completely ill-informed (that’s better) comments about defense attorneys.

    OK, in this case, it doesn’t really make me angry, per se, as it is annoying.

    What I’ve NEVER understood is how someone can call themselves “conservative” and yet be so enthusiastically pro-government being able to deprive you of your liberties and toss you in jail on merely someone’s say-so.

  • halflight

    Uh, Bender?

    I’m a defense attorney. If I have no information about a perspective jury member, other than he or she works as a writer for a conservative publication, I’m more inclined to use a peremptory challenge against that person. Why? Because, as a class, conservatives tend to be pro-prosecution. Engineers, as a class, also tend to be conservatives, and thus pro-prosecution. A victim of a violent crime is less likely to be sympathetic toward defendants charged with violent offenses. If, as a defense attorney, the rest of the jury pool is acceptable to me, I might follow those common intuitions and use a peremptory challenge to knock a member of any of these groups off the jury panel. My job as a defense attorney is to work towards the best outcome for my client, and that includes playing the statistical odds when making peremptory challenges during jury selection. Of course, I can’t challenge a jury member for cause using the same reasoning. In that case, I have to show that the particular juror has a distinctive characteristic or relationship that will clearly create a bias against my client. Usually that’s limited to people who claim to be biased, or have a pre-existing relationship to the police/prosecution, the victim or the defendant.

    Prosecutors also have their own rules of thumb– for example, knocking young, middle-class women off the panel because they, as a class, tend to have more sympathy for defendants.

    It’s not science, but it’s not a knock on defense attorneys, either. it’s an acknowledgment of what actually happens.

  • dave roth

    Oops.

    Never mind.

  • Andrew B

    I was called for a jury in a civil trial. I sat for an entire day listening to the respective attorneys ask each potential juror the same questions. It was going to be a doozy, as the plaintiff had slammed into the defendant from behind while she was stopped at a traffic light.

    I could hardly wait for my turn, as I had been wanting to vent for many, many years. You see, my mother was struck and killed by a speeder, who then turned around and sued my mother’s estate.

    They asked every potential juror about their own experiences with tort law…except me. The attorney asked me if I was fair-minded, then said “No more questions” and seated me on the jury.

    When the trial was over (the jury deliberated for–by my actual count–10 seconds, so it wasn’t too time-consuming), I approached the plaintiff’s attorney. I told him my history, and that I wanted people like his client to go to jail, then burn in Hell. And I mentioned that, next time, he might want to ask ALL potential jurors the same questions.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    halflight — me too. And it not working “towards the best outcome for [your] client” to have such a knee-jerk attitude in jury selection.

    “People like you are needed on juries.”

    That’s exactly right. You want someone who has some commonsense and is morally grounded enough to take their oath seriously and not chuck the presumption of innocence out the window at the first opportunity, someone who will decide the case on the evidence and your argument, and only those things.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    The attorney asked me if I was fair-minded. . . . When the trial was over . . . I told him my history, and that I wanted people like his client to go to jail, then burn in Hell

    So you’re saying that you lied, Andrew? You are admitting that you were not fair-minded in your consideration of the evidence?

  • Scott Hebert

    Bender, he didn’t say that in the least.

    If the deliberations by the _entire jury_ took maybe 10 seconds, I think the case was pretty clear, no?

    And, by telling the lawyer what he did wrong, he helped future people in the same case.

    What is so wrong about that?

  • Andrew B

    Bender–
    Am I fair-minded? Yes, I am. Did the attorney ask me if I could be fair to his client, like he asked perhaps 50 people before me? No.

    I did not lie. The attorney was tired or bored or wanted to go home, so he didn’t ask me. He failed, I did not lie. Did his client, who gravely injured a woman, then sued her for the inconvenience, deserve to go to jail and burn in Hell? In my opinion, yes.

    Where’s the lie?

    All the attorney had to do to properly do his job is ask me the same four rote questions he asked everyone else. I would not only have happily told him my feelings, I was positively dying to do so. He failed to do so.

    His fault, not mine.

  • Herkybird

    For the myriad of undeserved blessings that come our way by virtue of being a citizen, the nation asks three things in return:

    Participate in civic life by voting;
    Defend the nation if it’s attacked.
    Insure the integrity of the legal system by serving on a jury;

    Is that really too much to ask?

  • Fry

    Andrew’s actions apparently didn’t change the outcome, but his spleen vent was kind of childish, I think. Whether or not he “helped future people” is dubious.

  • Lori

    Herkybird, THANK YOU. I wish more people would look at it that way.

    I think of all the millions who don’t have the privilege of being tried by a jury of their peers, and I think of all those who died so I could have this privilege (among so many others), and a few days in a courtroom seem like such a small price to pay in gratitude for what I have.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    His fault, not mine.

    You do know the concept of lie by omission?

    In any event, I must presume that you took an oath to well and faithfully try the case on the evidence and only the evidence (rather than your own personal bias). If you could not do that, you had an obligation to come out and say so, whether you were asked or not. But by your own admission, you did not do that.

    Hey, if it was all clear-cut to the other jurors, no harm, no foul, and it is morally forgiveable all the same, but all least come clean about it and don’t blame the attorney for your own subterfuge.

  • Tigger23505

    @ Herkybird

    “Participate in civic life by voting;”
    Done, due to being out of town on election day I went to my county board and voted before leaving town. (With all the ho ha about Military Overseas Voting, why take the chance if you can avoid it completely.

    “Defend the nation if it’s attacked.”
    Done, 20 years in the Navy – including a small incident on 10/12/2000.

    Insure the integrity of the legal system by serving on a jury;

    Been there several times, never past voir dire onto jury. Maybe next time.

    Is that really too much to ask?

  • Andrew B

    “Subterfuge”?

    I had sat for probably 7 hours listening to the same lawyer ask the same 4 questions of every potential juror. When he finally got to me he asked only the first question, then seated me on the jury.

    His second question was “Knowing what you do of the case, do you think you can render a fair decision?”

    My answer, had he asked, would have been “no”.

    He didn’t ask. Is that subterfuge?

    He asked me a broad, open opinion question and I answered. He deliberately chose not to ask any follow-up questions.

    As I said before, the attorney failed in his job. Part of my job is interviewing job applicants. Our HR department has a specific list of questions I am required to ask of each applicant. If I ask the questions of everyone, then decide not to ask them of one, final applicant, who is at fault? If I hire an unqualified person because I did not exercise due diligence, whose fault is that?

    I–like the attorney–am paid to do a job. He did not do his job. How is that subterfuge on my part?

    This is not an attack on the legal profession. It is an anecdote about a single event in which an attorney failed his client. How am I the bad guy here?

    And a question for you, Bender. As an attorney, would you have asked me all four questions or just left it at the first one and figured it was good enough?


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