Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two days at court - or - how I made $34.40

Disclaimer: Uh, this is probably going to be one incredibly long and disjointed post. Read it or not, I don't give a shit.

Well, it finally happened. I was picked out of that giant hat the State of Illinois calls the "registered voters/driver's license having motherfuckers... uh, hat".

It was a standby summons, so I didn't officially have jury duty until the day before the court date... well, as long as it was after 4:30PM.
Sure enough, I called and had to go serve the state.

Arriving shortly before 9AM in Skokie (battling stupid traffic on Montrose/Edens for just over an hour), I entered the jury waiting room. Relatively comfy chairs, end tables, vending machines, at this point I was thinking "hey this is alright".

I began reading my book when I was interrupted by Lester Holt (judging by his epic mustache, it must've been circa 1986) explaining what a jury does... At this point, I was pretty confident that I'd be whipping through my book (Top Gear's Richard Hammond's memoir) for the unforeseeable future, I began to relax.

30 or so pages in, they called my group number. Fuck.
I joined the (surprisingly large) group at the front of the room and was escorted into a courtroom. I managed to survive the first interview panel (in so much as I wasn't called off the bench). I'll admit, I was a little surprised at some of the questions that were asked of some of the potential jurors (what's your favorite TV show? do you have any bumper stickers on your car?)

Long story short (too late) I ended up on the jury for a criminal battery trial.
A Korean teacher was accused of 'hitting' one of his students on the head with his knuckles and leaving a lump.

I was on a jury with an ex-lawyer, a high school physics teacher and a teapartier, to name a few.

I can honestly say that I've now heard someone legitimately say "I used to watch the other cable news channels, but they were all so biased, now I watch FOX and I appreciate how there isn't a bias." It took every fiber of my being to not scream "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Anyway... holy shit this is fucking long, I feel bad for all you assholes reading this. (who am I kidding, nobody reads this shit)

Y'know... I'm going to keep this short, even I don't feel like reliving all of this.
The trial lasted two days. The defendant didn't speak english, so his entire testimony was relayed through a translator. I'll tell you one thing, translations are difficult because you lose all inflection and all that shit.

Also to note, the one state prosecutor was so goddamn cute, it was unbelievable. If they told me I had to sit in a court room and yell at a Korean dude for a month, I would've gladly obliged.

So the thing about the witnesses, none of em were super credible. I mean they all had some valid testimony and we all felt that something occurred in that classroom that probably shouldn't have happened, but there was nothing compelling one way or another.

The defense has spun it one way and the prosecution the other (I mean, that's the point, right?) but the reality definitely was somewhere in between the two extremes.

When we went to deliberation on the second day, the initial vote was 10-2 in favor of not guilty. It didn't take too much longer before we were unanimous. Basically, we all felt that he definitely did something wrong, but in the scope of the law and the (shitty) evidence we were given. Take, for example, that the kid who allegedly got hit waited 2 months before coming forward, so there was absolutely no physical evidence.

BLARGH! The verdict was not guilty. The prosecution simply didn't prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was guilty.

Now the really cool part... or at least I thought so.
After the verdict was rendered, we retired to the deliberation room and the judge came in shortly thereafter. She thanked us and all that, explained that given the circumstances in the evidence provided, we came to the most logical decision.

But then the lawyers came in. It was fascinating to be able to speak candidly with the council from both sides about the case. They explained their process and we were able to tell them what we would've liked to see. It was way cool.

That was my experience. I apologize for the length of this particular post, even if nobody reads it, it was one of those things that I really just needed to verbalize it... it's like venting.

TL;DR Verdict: Not Guilty, jury duty was fuckin cool.


Unknown said...

Hooray for participating in the legal process! Does this do anything for your faith in the system? Also, how much peer pressure is there in jury deliberations? Do you think that many came up with own opinions or followed what other people were doing?


Ian said...

Honestly, in my experience, the system absolutely worked. I'm sure there are instances when it doesn't work, but it certainly improved my faith in the system as a whole.

We were very careful to not pressure any of the other jurors to change their votes. However, we had to make it clear to them that we need to base our decision on a very specific law with very specific restrictions using only the evidence presented to us.

In no way could we speculate or make a decision on our personal feelings or moral compass. Once everyone understood the restrictions set forth by the judge, the vote became easier to control.

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