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Jury Duty February 25, 2010

Posted by aggrogahu| in Essay, Life.
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Two weeks ago I got a jury summons in the mail—and I proceeded to bawww accordingly. To be honest though, I only did so because that seemed the natural course of action: jury summons arrives in your mailbox > complain, but my story is a bit different in that, even with the considerable amount of regrets I’m left with (or going to have) after missing one and a half days worth of classes, I came out of it with a fun little experience that I felt the need to blog about.

First off there’s the jury selection process. To establish a little background on me, I’m a full-time student at the University of Oregon (obliga-GO DUCKS). With that said, any registered voter of Lane County is essentially a candidate for a jury. The option to defer to a later date is there for those who are busy at the time (like a full-time college student). However, me being a full-time college student of the lazy variety, neglected to send in the request to defer in time, so there went my first level of defense. Secondly, the evening before the trail, you call in to double-check if you were indeed needed for the jury summons—and indeed I was: second level of defense was gone, time to go to the front lines.

From there I had to appear at the court house. All the potential jurors that showed up (lady at the desk said 50% of who are summoned actually come) were divided among the cases taking place that day, eventually the attorneys select the final jury from the pool given to them. We filed into the court rooms accordingly, and this was where it started to set in. People in suits were sitting at the council tables, there’s the jury box with 12 empty seats on the opposite side, and in the middle was an elevated place for the judge. The bailiff/judicial clerk came in and said, “All rise,” while the judge made her entrance. Bailiff/judicial clerk hit the mallet and we were seated. At that time they started calling people to fill in the jury box. First name: ‘Leonard Madarang’. In my mind: ‘Fuck me’.

Attorney for the state actually resembled Steve Carell

Unfortunately this was not the judge

Once the first 12 selected people filled up the box, they asked us to introduce ourselves. I gave them a life-sketch, “I go to U of O… CIS major, Multimedia & Chinese minor… involved with my church…” and that was it for me. Then it was the turn for the dude next to me. “I hate the judicial system… I don’t want to be here… frankly I’ve already arrived at a verdict… I don’t want to be here…” and I thought to myself, ‘oh, this is the part where we’re supposed to complain.’ I don’t actually recall much of the rest of the lulz that was everyone else’s introductions and interviews, but that dude next to me was pretending to be a fucking psycho (he was excused obv). Some lady said she had dance classes to teach and was excused on the basis that she wouldn’t be able to focus on the trial as a result. In my mind: bawww. I thought I could use that excuse if it came down to it, but the other half of me didn’t want to be a pussy and complain so I thought to wait until it was my last chance. Unfortunately, that was my last chance. Before I knew it, the judge said we have our jury. All the people sitting in the back who never got a chance to sit in the box got off the hook and won’t receive a summons in another two years. Fuck me again. Now it’s on to the trial.

The defendant was accused of the following:

  1. Dealing Marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school
  2. Dealing MDMA within 1,000 feet of a school
  3. Possession of the controlled substance meth-amphetamine

These were felony/criminal charges so the defendant was innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To be honest, the defendant looked pretty sketch and in general just really sad kinda like he was guilty, and his attorney was an old guy with a monotone voice.  The side representing the state, on the other hand, had a strong presence and the attorney had a great speaking voice. The trial began with this bias in my head (I’m such a good Catholic).

Here’s a rundown of the accusations. On Count 1, the defendant indeed had marijuana on him at the scene of the crime (less than the amount that you can charge someone over). Evidence, such as a scale (maybe for weighing drugs?), a baton (maybe for protection against bad deals?), and text messages on a phone retrieved from the defendant (maybe to arrange deals?), was offered to suggest that the defendant was a dealer. Count 2/3, one of the text messages on the phone said something along the lines of ‘Come over, I have some X.’ Moreover, a pipe that was received from the defendant was examined in a lab and resulted positive for MDMA residue.* Lastly, the defendant’s apartment is indeed within 1,000 feet of a school.**

That old fart of an attorney for the defendant responded horribly during the cross-examination, making me question how he made it through law school, but despite his inability, there really wasn’t a case against the defendant. The state presented quite a bit of well-organized yet ultimately irrelevant evidence to the charges at hand. All the evidence used to say the defendant is/was a dealer was solely suggestive at best. The other text messages on the phone were just exchanges like ‘I’m waiting for you’, ‘Where are we meeting’, etc. The cell phone itself, according to the witness, was used by the rest of his house mates, and the particular text message pertaining to X did not involve him. As for the pipe with the X residue, that was also said to be a community pipe of the apartment. At this point, it was word against word, which in this case was not enough to constitute unreasonable doubt.

Closing statements: the state’s speech was well spoken, but parts of it seemed to almost acknowledge that the evidence really didn’t hold on its own to prove unreasonable doubt, essentially admitting he was going to lose the case. The defendant’s attorney goes off on a passionate spiel (almost like what you see in movies), saying do what is right, suggesting we examine our ‘intellectual honesty to ourselves’ in making the decision. At this point I’m thinking, you’re a horrible lawyer, stop talking before I go against your client out of spite.

Now comes the time for the jury deliberation—the light at the end of the tunnel. I volunteered to be the presiding juror, mostly for the lulz. Mainly I wanted to read the verdict like a badass and then go home and blog about how badass I was when I read the verdict. Deliberation was quite short itself, with the vote being 10 out of 12 for not guilty on each count. Sadly, I only got to hand the verdict to the judge with my signature and confirm the answers on the verdict  to the judge with a few “Yes” responses.

The look on the defendant’s face was quite rewarding when the judge read the verdict. At this point, I felt a little happy inside knowing that I was partly responsible for the huge feeling of relief that guy had—proud to fulfill my civic duty, if you will.

From this experience, I can say that real life court cases are somewhat like court dramas on TV. You have your fair share of Objections!—sustained or overruled. Attorneys pace around and interact with the witnesses and jury every now and then. Big difference is that there are long awkward pauses while the attorneys think of what to say next and there are more boring testimonies that may or may not prove relevant to the issue—a lot of waiting time in between everything in general.

With that story out of the way, here’s a glimpse into the lol that went on in the case.

*So lab report says that the pipe was positive for MDMA, hard proof for the existence of MDMA, yes? The fact that MDMA is said to leave a white residue when you smoke it was then brought up. Fucking baka defense attorney for the defendant on the cross examination proceeds to asks the lab tech to look into the pipe itself and testify if she can see any white residue at that moment. Well, it’s in a plastic bag because it is evidence so that makes it a little hard to see anything. Moreover, defense attorney is stupid enough to say “Well, I don’t see any white residue in there.”

**So the apartment is within 1,000 feet of a school, no reason to contest that, yes? Well the state calls to the stand a map analyst or something to point at a map to say that it is within 1,000 feet of a school. Baka defense attorney on the cross examination asks, is it 1,000 feet if a crow were to fly from the apartment to the school or is it walking distance while using streets and sidewalks. The following day, the state attorney calls to the stand a police officer that measured out the walkable distance after the first day of the trial. The officer traced out the route he took from the school to the apartment on the map with a marker during his testimony. He was talking us through while doing so, and I quote him, ‘we asked to go through this lady’s yard…’ ‘we hopped this fence…’