Archive for July, 2010

I fought the law and the law won.

July 1, 2010

Well, I didn’t really. Some other guy fought the law and neither he, nor the law, won.

As a lot of people know, since I made it my Facebook status, I had Jury duty on Tuesday. However, unlike 14 other people who showed up that day, I actually got picked to be seated on a jury. This entry is probably going to be really long, but I’ll describe the process, the case, and the drama. Oh, my friends, it would not be my life if some serious shit did not go on during this deliberation.

I arrived at the Woburn Courthouse (in the center) bright and early at 8:30. Sitting in a room awkwardly with a bunch of strangers is extremely unsettling. Thank you A Rumor of War for keeping me some quality company for a few hours. We passed in our sheets and got assigned a number. We had a coffee break before we got interviewed by the judge in the courtroom, but it was so hot I didn’t even want to be outside! The interactions between people seemed very limited. A few middle-aged women seemed to bond, but that was about it.

We were seated in the court room in numerical order and had to swear we would tell the truth. Then, each of us was asked if we knew the defendant, if we or anyone we knew had been involved in a drunk driving case, and if anyone we or anyone we knew was/is in a group such as MADD or SADD. When he called me up (Juror #18) I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous. These people were so official and I’m some awkward 20-year-old who has a very limited knowledge of how these things work. The judge was very cordial (one of my fellow jurors said he looked like Dumbledore hehe) and he asked me a few questions. He re-hashed that I didn’t know anyone in a drunk driving case, nor did I know anyone in MADD or SADD. He also asked me what I studied, and then if I knew about alcohol disorders, which I didn’t. He then told me to sit on the jury. After everyone had been interviewed, the judge turned to those of us in the jury box, smiled, and said “We now have a jury.” I just about pooped myself. He dismissed the other jurors and the guy next to me, in the jury box, got up to leave because he thought he had been dismissed as well. This information is vital for my later rant.

The case began immediately after. The defendant was charged with an OUI (Operating Under the Influence). I’ll be brief with the details since the deliberation was the good part! Both sides were very convincing. We knew he admitted to drinking after work (3/4 beers around/ending at 10:30), smoking marijuana before work, his tire crossed the yellow lines, he was pulled over at 2:30 AM, his field sobriety test was kind of good kind of bad. I got to hear from three police officers, one sergeant, which was pretty cool. I had to contain my giddiness when “OBJECTION!” was said. However, it was more like “objection.” But I could pretend, right? We were then informed we got an hour lunch break, so we headed out and I got my coffee I so desperately needed. We weren’t allowed to acknowledge anyone involved in the case (the prosecution was in Dunks with me haha!) and then we headed back to the court.

After lunch, we got to see the booking video. This is where I started feeling bad, since you all know I’m a big softie. The defendant wasn’t belligerent in the video, nor did he seem drunk. He seemed very tired since the video took place from a little before 3 AM to around 3:30. The defendant was very polite, nervous, and conscientious of his friends. He didn’t want to call them to get him since it was very late. He mentioned that he was trying to get his life together (there was an ounce of marijuana in the car and a “pipe”) and sometimes he did silly things like that. I. Felt. So. Bad. He seemed to be a good guy. We all make mistakes, if he was even impaired at all, and I wanted to forgive him. I wanted to stand up and be like, “Hey, being here sucks, right? You won’t do this again because clearly this entire situation blows.” I looked over at him and gave him sympathetic eyes when we made eye contact ahaha. Me.

Oh, a few times the jury had to be excused so they could talk about stuff without us there, so we got to know each other before deliberation.

So, it’s around 3 PM and we get through all of the evidence and we can finally deliberate! Here’s the cast of characters/fellow jurors. I’ll give them nicknames so you can follow the story. There was a man wearing a polo both days who I will call Polo, a woman with a daughter at BHS who I will call the Mother, a guy who worked with kids in speech therapy who I will call Therapist (he knew Henna and Jessa’s moms! Just throwing that out there! lololol), the Head Juror (a lady), and the Issue…who was an issue. We also had an alternate who couldn’t sit in on deliberations.

Now, we had a nice grown-up conversation for an hour. We went over the facts. Talked. Listened. Respected one another. It was a very positive experience…for the first hour. Essentially, we decided that since he had smoked marijuana early in the day, he’d be feeling a little more tired/relaxed. Then, he worked a long day at work so he’d be tired as well. After these beers, whether he was drunk or not at the time of the arrest/encounter, he would still be even more tired since alcohol is a depressant. Under the influence actually doesn’t mean drunk (which I didn’t know!). It means the alcohol affected him, which made him tired later. We decided that all of the factors together made him very tired, which caused him to drive poorly. Well, five of us agreed on it anyway.

This is where Issue comes in. I understand that some people won’t agree or understand. Everyone’s different. We all tried to verbally convince him since honestly, the evidence was, well, evident and pointed to one thing. We all ended up getting frustrated since we wanted to leave and Issue just kept plodding on about nothing important. I ended up writing on a white board in the room so he could PHYSICALLY SEE he believed all of the criteria for guilty. He agreed WITH EVERY POINT of guilt. Then, Issue tries to say that we don’t know the Blood Alcohol Content. We were never given it and he insists he needs it, and we all insist that it’s not necessary to be drunk to be impaired. Now, frustration is mounting because Issue apparently can’t make a decision without water in the room, which he spilled everywhere. We also weren’t allowed to leave the room (there were two bathrooms there) but he insisted on leaving multiple times to use a bathroom. The bailiff was pissed. Issue tried to get me to call for more water. I felt bad for Head Juror because I think he kind of latched on to her and tried to make her agree with his decisions/actions/choices because at one point she wasn’t absolutely positive on supporting guilty.

Eventually, we try to satiate Issue by asking the judge a question on a slip of paper. Polo has been silent, Mother has been helping out, Therapist is flustered, and Head Juror tries to remain courteous (which she was!). Right as we try to scramble to get the question, we are dismissed at 5:00 and asked to come back the next day.

We all remain calm for a little while when we come in at 9:00. Issue needs to know what impaired/OUI means even though it was clearly outlined. Mother very patiently jots down his question in eloquent wording. The bailiff took the paper, gave it to the judge, and we came back. We received the definition. He then claims he didn’t understand it or he didn’t get the right definition or some bull.  He also says he needs to know the type of car (which we were told was a sedan) the exact size of the tire, the weather (which we were told NUMEROUS times was clear), the BAC (which we were  never going to get), and all of these other stupid criteria that were either outlined or impossible to get. He was just saying things that didn’t make sense. He said “on my conscience I can’t…” and Therapist and I tried to explain how your conscience has to go out the window in a case like this. Head Juror agreed with Therapist and me when we said we’re sorry about this whole ordeal because the defendant seemed like a nice guy. Issue then claimed we were impartial. Ugh. Later he talked about how we was pulled over for drunk driving, and then I jump down his throat about being impartial.

He then says that without knowing bullshit things like the width of the tire, he can’t say “guilty” so he chooses “not guilty.” We make the judge aware of this, but the judge encouraged us to make a unanimous decision. Polo started losing his cool (which he kept very well), Mother kept her composure extremely well, Therapist got exasperated, and Head Juror was getting very annoyed as well. Issue kept asking things that just were not relevant, or things we already knew. At one point he said, “How do we know he drank that night?” Issue, the defendant admitted it. This is when I lost it. I had to say what everyone else was thinking.

I said, “If we’re gonna be real here, you clearly do not have an understanding of this case. You did not listen at all during the trial.” He claims he only listens to “important things.” Whatever. I wrote on the question sheet if we could trade out one incompetent juror for the alternate. Shit started getting sooooo real here, guys. Issue snaps at me because I’m 20 and I apparently don’t know anything. I also don’t have a degree, so clearly he and his psychology degree from Northeastern (which we all found questionable haha) make him a more valid juror than I. So he tells me “What do you know? You’re 20 and I have a degree.” Oh bitch please. I go off on him and tell him “The court selected ME. I am an ADULT. I am JUST as qualified as you are to be here…” etc. etc. Then he started being like “LISTEN, BABE” and called me babe. Twice.

Oh. Hell. No.

I lost it. I absolutely lost it. I was so appalled and offended that he would first be ageist against me but then use this condescending gross almost kind of sexist word against me? I know it seems stupid to get PISSED at being called babe, but the jury is a place of mutual respect. I was just saying what everyone else didn’t want to say to him. I went off. I waved the finger. I yelled. I was like, “Don’t you DARE call me babe. You have NO RIGHT.” And he was like crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out? Really Man-Child? Really? After I was done yelling, I was so mad, I couldn’t hear. I know Polo yelled, Mother Yelled, Therapist yelled, Head Juror yelled. Everyone was yelling at him because they, just like I, did not appreciate an unwarranted personal attack on me. I appreciated them for having my back. Issue runs off to the bathroom and SLAMS and I mean SLAMMED the door. Therapist said, “There were puffs of ceiling!” So we’re all kind of terrified. I added “belligerent” to the incompetent juror question to the judge. Head Juror calls him an idiot, we seethe. Mother tells me how brave I am, haha! Issue comes back in and is silent. Bailiff takes our paper and we’re called back. The judge declares a mistrial and says he will see us back in the deliberation room.

The judge meets us in the room and says he is honestly disappointed we couldn’t make a decision. Everyone knew in that court room what was up. Everyone. I’m sure the judge knew what happened, the Bailiff, the attorneys, everyone. It was a real shame.

Issue left us, and Therapist, Polo, Head Juror, and I heatedly discussed in the parking lot. Something was wrong with this guy. We have no clue what. He treated it like it was a murder case on Law and Order. We’re like, buddy, it’s not that serious. This isn’t TV. Mother and Alternate Juror came over a little later. We asked Alternate what her thoughts were. She said, “Oh, not guilty, for sure.” We’re all kind of like “Oh….” and then she said, “Nah, he was totally guilty are you kidding me?” We rehashed all of the details and she was shocked as well. No one in that courtroom thought this case was going to see a second day. There was no reason it had to.

In closing, though, I don’t want to discourage anyone from jury duty. I’m upset my experience had to be a negative one. Honestly, this one juror ruined it for everyone. It could have been a great experience! The trial itself was a little boring at times, but it was really cool to be a part of it. It is truly an interesting experience, and enlightening, because I had no idea the technicalities of the OUI law. I enjoyed listening to the different lawyers spin the tale to their side. The videos and the inside glimpse into the legal system was a unique and interesting experience!

I’m saddened, though, that this is how the system works. Incompetent Man-children like Issue are allowed to make these decisions. Luckily, everyone else on the jury was sound of mind enough to give the opposite verdict. It’s so moronic that this defendant has to get re-tried in possibly November because of a verdict that was so obvious.

Oh, the life. Oh the times!

Sadly, there was no gavel! 😦 Haha

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