Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jury Duty: Day 4, Part 1

Today I truly did my civic duty and actually served on a jury. The day started off innocuously enough - for the first time we were allowed to sit and wait in the jury room this morning, and within an hour we were sitting in the courtroom being questioned by the attorneys to see who would make it onto the jury. I was the second alternate and assumed that since I speak quite a lot, there was no way I would actually make it on to the jury. We got asked all kinds of questions about assault, intent to commit assault, whether we'd ever witnessed or experienced an assault, and whether someone is committing a crime if he is asleep and accidentally twitches and hits his wife. One woman admitted to being in an abusive marriage and one to being abused by her parents' friends as a child - I was a little horrified that of the 20 or so of us there, there were 10% who had been seriously abused.

This was the second time I'd had the opportunity to be questioned and it's interesting how much you can guess about the case based on the questions asked. In fact, I was told that yesterday during the questioning of the jury the defense attorney got cut off multiple times as she basically tried to make her case through the questions themselves. Anyhow, surprisingly, I was picked for the jury. In fact, the jury ended up being all women, the first of several poor decisions made by the defense attorney.

The trial was quite a sad case. The defendant (Hans) and the main witness (Cara?) for the prosecution had been best friends since they were little and were hanging out after doing errands all day to prepare for their good friend's funeral (he'd died in a skiing accident). The defendant's father had also died recently from a terminal illness, and we found out that one of his brothers died a few months later too. Anyhow, apparently after their errands, they went to Cara's house to watch a movie in her room (she lived at home with her dad and her 2 year old daughter, who also was sleeping in the same room). When Cara woke up to her daughter crying, she found Hans' hand in her own pants, under her underwear, she slapped him, and he left. The defense didn't really argue whether this was true or not. Cara sobbed on the stand telling her story, even though it had happened more than a year earlier. She obviously was traumatized by what she saw as the betrayal of one of her best friends. She apparently called Hans' brother, who responded "oddly," to tell him what happened. Then she called her friend, who testified that she was hysterical and crying and took several hours to calm down enough to convince her to call the police. The police officer who came to the scene also testified. The testimony was compelling - clearly something had happened. For some reason the defense attorney spent the whole cross-examination trying to show that the witnesses hadn't seen the incident so they were only reporting second-hand information. He missed the fact that the secondary witnesses were relevant for explaining Cara's state of mind. When it came to cross-examining Cara, he tried to get her to say there wasn't enough light for her to see whether Hans had his eyes open before she slapped him, and say that she couldn't have seen his eyes anyway because she was turned away from him. Then Hans went to the stand and it was clear that he hadn't been prepped; he was completely unemotional but confused. He contradicted himself several times while telling his side of the story which was - he might have touched Cara, or maybe not, or maybe he didn't remember, but if he had he was asleep. However, the prosecutor got him to admit that he hadn't seen Cara since the incident (Hans tried to argue that that wasn't unusual, even though she was his best friend) and that he'd avoided calling the police officer back as he was doing his investigation of the incident.

More tomorrow.

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