Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jury Duty: Day 4, Part 2

The story continues...

We then went back to the jury room while they worked out our "instructions", which ended up being a packet of papers explaining the legal definition of assault and intent, explaining what we needed to do, and laying out the charges. The final page was the description of the case which once again illustrated the court's competence as it listed it as the District Court rather than the Municipal court, and listed the wrong city! During closing arguments, the prosecutor did a reasonable job of talking through all the reasons why the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense attorney offered a confused argument where he again wasn't clear as to whether the incident had happened at all and offered no better reasoning for Hans' actions than that he was asleep. We jurors then went back to deliberate. I was chosen (well okay, I volunteered, but no one who knows me would expect anything differently) to be the principal juror and lead the discussion. It didn't take us much time, perhaps thirty minutes, to come to a conclusion. Reading this now it seems much more foregone than I felt during the trial - I was never unsure that if Hans had done it, it had been intentional, but I questioned whether it had actually happened at all or whether Cara just thought it had. We all said we thought it was sad that the two hadn't been able to just talk about it - we were convinced that if Hans had just apologized Cara wouldn't have pressed charges - it was clearly not something she wanted to do because of her close friendship with him. The attorneys were apparently surprised at the speed at which we came to a verdict, since we had to wait another half hour for one of them to come back to the courtroom. We went in, I presented our findings, the bailiff read them, and we left. We heard the judge begin to discuss sentencing and he said something about being inclined to be lenient, which was a relief to us because we didn't think Hans deserved a long sentence, although we didn't have a say in that.

This would have been the end of the line, except I stayed to chat with one of the women on the jury who I'd made friends with over the past week and someone who'd been watching the trial approached us and asked us why we'd made the decision we had. It turns out she's a victim's advocate who'd been assigned to help Cara go through the trial. We explained why we'd found Hans guilty, and she told us that apparently when Cara had called Hans' brother after the incident, he'd said, "I'm not surprised". She found out that apparently he'd done this to other women as well, and that's why she had pressed charges. I'd felt comfortable with our verdict initially, but this extra information made me feel even better about our choice. I was really glad to have an opportunity to hear it, and it was interesting to think about how our law system allows facts like that to be suppressed to make sure we're trying to defendant without prejudice. I wonder if that's really fair - in this case we ended up with the right verdict, but what if we hadn't?

The day ended with us giving the jury coordinator some feedback on things she could improve on (the website, the jury summons etc). We learned a lot about how people get summoned - apparently they usually summon 200 people with the expectation that 20 people will show up but in our case they had a full docket of 9 cases for the week so they summoned 400 and were shocked that 50-60 people showed up! The coordinator told us that our state gets good enough attendance that even though theoretically you're in trouble if you don't serve your jury duty, realistically no one gets prosecuted at all, so you can just not show up. We also learned that apparently our courthouse had had zero cases for the first ten months of last year as everyone adjusted to a new judge and new district attorney and that's why their system still has so many kinks to iron out.

All in all, my time at jury duty was definitely interesting, plus I got paid $13 each day! I hope I don't have to repeat it again for a long time.

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