03 October 2012

Trial by Jury

Please, no.
It struck me the other day that as new residents of this corner of New England that a jury duty summons can't be far away.  This thought does not make me want to make a beeline for the mailbox every day to see if the summons has arrived. Rather, it makes me want to curl up into the fetal position and weep uncontrollably.

I should feel like serving on a jury is an honor.  In my experience, it is not.  It is, instead, a parade of the damned and that's just the collection of society's flotsam and jetsam in the jury selection room.

When we lived in the barren wasteland that is Arizona, I got called to jury duty with disturbing regularity.  I almost always managed to get out of it.  My best excuse was to simply mention that I was my father's eldest son.  My late father was a pretty well known attorney who had done much to champion legal ethics and attorneys and judges knew who he was.  That typically got me out.  Also, saying that the defending attorney was so attractive that I would not be able to focus on the trial worked once.  Although that nearly got me a psych referral because said attorney looked like the sister of JoJo, the dog-faced boy.

It was while were in Arizona that I was selected for my first jury.  I did all I could to get out of it, to no avail.  Here's the skinny on that case (and beware, it's going to get unpleasant) - it was a civil case, involving an injury on a worksite. As the case was being explained to us, the prospective jurors, we learned that it was a most delicate injury.  A cement truck driver was delivering cement to a site and, long story short, he'd gotten out of his truck and jumped over an area where cement was being poured.  He slipped, or something, and was impaled on a piece of rebar.  Said rebar penetrated one of his testicles and kept on going up through his abdomen.  Can I get an OUCH!? Suffice to say, he was a mess.  The instant the defense attorney described the injury, every single of us men in the room, slammed our knees together and gasped audibly.  I hadn't even been selected yet for the jury and I was already prepared to award this poor soul $10Million for pain and suffering.  The wife was suing for, well, loss of services.  So this case was going to be a good time all around.  Until two yentas in the jury pool started asking about workmen's comp. The judge had made it clear that this case NOT about workmen's comp.  This mattered not an iota to these two idiots.  They kept asking questions about the intricacies of workmen's comp and they kept being admonished by the judge to shut it, basically.  This led to a couple of other prospective jurors asking aloud about the comp issue.  At this point, the judge called for a recess, asking the attorneys to follow him.  I knew this wasn't going to end well.

It didn't.  A very irritated judge returned to the bench and announced that he was declaring a mistrial before the trial had even begun.  Laying the blame squarely at the feet of the two women who would not shut up, he said he had no choice but to declare a mistrial because of their actions.  The poor plaintiff and his wife were crestfallen.  They'd waited so long to get to trial and now it was time to set the clock back.  I feel quite certain that if the judge could have ordered the summary execution of the workmen's comp yentas, we would have seen them eviscerated.  That would have been a powerful lesson to foolish jurors everywhere.

That would not be my last jury.  I would get a chance to serve again.  This time in California.  That's a story for another post.

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