As I arrived in the courtroom, I was forced to grapple with the prospect of losing the productivity of my next few weeks while I served out my civic duty as a juror in a jaywalking trial or some other inane violation. Despite the full fledged belief that I am a balanced arbiter of justice, I have a preponderance of immediate objectives and was determined to get out of this predicament immediately. To this end, I put on a stern daytime suit and went off to the courthouse. As I sat in a waiting room with 29 fellow hapless gladiators, wondering who would be fed to the lions of indolence, I went over my checklist of bold strategies for getting deselected.
- Appealing to the Judge’s business sensibility by telling him that I had a chance to close a deal for a company that would bring jobs to Travis county, but I only had one week to do it.
- Claim that I was clairvoyant and could determine innocence or guilt by 5 seconds of uninterrupted eye contact with the defendant.
- (Particularly in a drug or prostitution case) Inform the judge that I was aware of the juror right to veto, also called “juror nullification”, in which case the juror may enter a plea of ‘not guilty’ should he determine the law in question to be unjust. As Harlan F. Stone, 12th Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, said in 1941,"The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided." This would most certainly get me de-selected by the prosecution!
When finally we got called into the courtroom I saw a shrewd elderly defense attorney with a broad shouldered mid 20’s caucasian defendant. My first thought, “assault”. This dude probably got in a fight on 6th st. and punched someone mouthing off to his girlfriend right in the offending organ. At this point in time, option 3 was still alive. I believe that a fight entered fairly and willingly by two grown men does not constitute a crime, and I was more than happy to inform the court of this belief. How quickly my opinion changed however, when they announced that the case at hand was “domestic violence.” This motherfucker probably hit his girlfriend! (So much for innocent until proven guilty in this case!) As the accused scanned the throng of people who would decide his fate, I glared at him. I put out the vibe that said, ‘pick me you coward, and I’ll make sure you get fucked in the ass by a gorilla for the next 2 years’. This seemed to be working reasonably well until he diverted his gaze and refrained from looking in my direction.
When the judge began addressing us, he informed us that this Jury Duty Selection was more of a “de-selection” process, something I was already aware of based on my research. He described that both the defense and the prosecution have a certain amount of ‘strikes’ and I was determined to be one of those strikes. With the amount of available jurors, I knew that if I played the cards right I could avoid perjuring myself with one of the bold lies above, and get struck by the defense or the prosecution. It was going to be like a game of Hi Lo poker… I wouldn’t declare my hand until I knew which side was most likely to de-select.
As the questioning of potential jurors began, I quickly realized there were quite a few players in my midst. The hand was dealt and the game was on. My turn to speak came quickly. “Do you have any personal experience with issues of domestic violence that could get you emotionally involved in this case?” came the question from the Prosectution. I raised my hand.
“I have two your honor. My brother’s wife used false allegations of domestic violence as leverage in a custody situation, and I saw firsthand the devastation these lies had on the rest of his life. And also, my girlfriend was in an abusive relationship, and I believe there is no act more heinous and despicable than laying a hand on a woman. I believe these men should be punished to the FULL extent of the law.” During this truthful but embellished monologue my voice carried the tremolo of a man possessed with the spirit of vengeance. The courtroom was silent and she awkwardly moved on to the next question.
Without declaring my hand, I had made myself a noticed and dangerous player in this game of poker on both sides of the table.
As the questioning continued I noticed a pattern. Most of the female players were trying to get deselected by the defense, but the men, despicably were trying to get de-selected by the prosecution. They were saying things like “I think it should be left up to the family to decide these matters,” or “There needs to be at least 3 impartial witnesses before I could convict in a domestic violence case”. Pathetic.
I had neither the stomach, nor the lack of integrity to follow that path. I decided I was going to portray myself as the wrathful hand of justice–More executioner than juror.
I saw my opportunity when the prosecution asked, “ Is there anyone who feel s that the sentencing in this instance should be more lenient than what I described?” Channeling my inner Boondock Saint, I spoke up in booming and spirited voice, “How about more harshly?” The defense and the defendant turned and met my fiery gaze. My eyes begged them to let me put this case to trial. I knew at that point I was a free man, but all of the sudden this game started to get fun.
When the defense attorney came to speak (and I must say, the defense attorney was very good) hestarted describing the reasons why a defendant may not want to take the stand in his own defense. (In the jury selection you learn many things about the case. For example, the defendant was not going to take the stand, and the victim withdrew her statement and would not be taking the stand either. They tell you these things as generic situational examples, but it is clear that it pertains to the case at hand.) The defense talked about how devastating it could be to be convicted of such a crime, and the overwhelming gravity of the situation for the defendant. I saw an opportunity. “All the more reason to take the stand to clear your name,” I blurted out, interrupting his carefully planned monologue.
The defense attorney could not ignore this comment. He addressed me… “Perhaps so. Perhaps so. Now let me ask you, Do you go to the doctor?”
“Not as often as I should,” I replied with a half smile.
“I figured you for as much,” he responded with a sharky grin. “But when you do, if he tells you to get on a medication for a week, do you do so?”
I didn’t feel like playing his game. Obviously he was pointing out that the defendant would not take the stand, because he, the lawyer (or the doctor, in this matter) was prescribing a no-witness-stand treatment for his sick, scumbag defendant.
“For the first two days, maybe, and if it didn’t work, I’d stop it.” There were a few chuckles in the courtroom and the attorney smiled. It was time to change the subject… which he did eloquently and smoothly. I had won the little skirmish, but he was not going to lose sight of the war.
As can be surmised, I did not get selected to serve on this trial. My freedom won, and valuable lessons learned, I lived to blog another day. I believe that with a bit of conviction, you will only have to serve on the trials you want to serve on, and that is a humble gift I hope to bestow upon you, my dear reader.