Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting paid to judge people

I don’t know if I mentioned my intentions to cut down posting to twice a week (likely Tues/Thurs) but that’s the plan from here on out! And now, for something completely different, my experience with jury duty!

Okay, first of all the process itself was relatively smooth and efficient. I was told by my paperwork to arrive by 8:30am and I did (well, a bit earlier!) and I was sitting in the actual courtroom awaiting whether I'd be chosen or not by about 10:15. I'd estimate at LEAST an hour of that was waiting for lame ass jabroni late people to show up (A WHOLE BUNCH) or for people that didn't either mail in their paperwork OR fill it out online ahead of time to do that. LAME. 

I get my assigned court and wait about 15-20, maybe, to go into the courtroom with the other 23 people. Introductions were made and the Defense had Grumpy SMU Big Cheese, Nervous Noob, and the Defendant. It was announced upfront that Nervous Noob was not yet an Actual Lawyer and this was his very first trial experience!!! Prosecution had ADA and Slightly Flustered Firstimer. We did not find out until later that this was her first trial (after verdict had been reached and we were out of the courtroom) but I guessed as much. She was confident and less flustered than Nervous Noob but she still made quite a few "mistakes" that made it pretty clear that she didn't have a lot of experience. 


Defense side I'd say about 60% was handled by Nervous Noob. His mentor spent a lot of time loudly whispering in his ear what to say or do, even when it seemed clear that he already did. From my position I could clearly hear Big Boss loudly whispering, despite the fact that I was closer to the Prosecutor. Which is to say he wasn't given a chance to speak first in a lot of cases. On the Prosecution side it was more like 90% Flustered Firstimer. When the ADA did have input he would quietly give her an aside and despite being as close as possible to both of them, I couldn't hear a word. All 4 participated in closing arguments. 

Now, as for the case itself I won't get too specific more out of respect than for any legal reasons. I will say that nearly two years ago a man (I'll call Dennis) was pulled over for speeding and ultimately arrested and subsequently charged with a DWI and that's what we were there for. After a couple of hours of back and forth, the police officer on the stand, a defense expert called up, and watching the entire 45 minute dash cam we were sent to the jury room where we found him guilty.

Random Thoughts
* I exited the area with him RIGHT BEHIND ME and held the door open for him without noticing at first and then was like OH CRAP but he did not say anything to me or appear angry. 

*We had 6 people. 5 women and 1 man. One of the ladies originally jokingly suggested the guy be the foreman (because foreMAN har har har) and he demurred so I said bitch I'll do it. (Did not say bitch)

To start with we all wrote down our verdict and placed them in the middle. 4 guilty, 2 not guilty. 1 of the not guilty people honestly I don't think, um, well. She agreed with our assessment that he should be found guilty but was quoted as saying "he deserves a second chance" which is totally irrelevant. The other person was Not Guilty but leaning towards undecided. The 4 of us (mostly myself and another lady) laid out our justifications based on evidence presented.

Leaning Lady made some counterpoints, we discussed those, sort of batted the ball back and forth on this and that. Very civil and logical. After maybe half an hour Leaning Lady decided that she agreed with the Guilty verdict and Second Chance lady (apparently) realized that oh wait this is a court of law and we were deciding Innocence vs Guilt not la la la this person deserves a "second chance" for whatever bizarro reasons she was thinking. She did some thinking out loud, basically, and determined that there was sufficient evidence to declare him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We then all verbally confirmed that our verdict was guilty, multiple times. I signed the paperwork stating as such and pressed a button to summon the bailiff. 

* Turns out, in the county of Dallas (and possibly state of Texas) you do not need to prove a BAC of 0.08 or higher in order to arrest/prosecute someone for a DWI. In fact, at the time of the arrest (nearly two years ago) they were moving away from performing breathalyzers in general in favor of doing actual blood tests. Additionally, at the time of arrest you could refuse a blood sample (the defendant did) and the officer could CHOOSE whether to request a warrant for said blood. Now, it is standard that the officer will request a warrant if you refuse a blood draw, but at the time it wasn’t.

So yes. You can be convicted of a DWI even without having BAC evidence. He was, based on the 45 minute arrest video we watched, incredibly intoxicated and he admitted on tape repeatedly that he had been drinking. Out of a possible “drunk scale” (my words!) of 0-18 (based on the field sobriety tests) (I think it’s 18, I could be off on this) he received a 16. It’s either a 6 or an 8 that is considered intoxicated. Dude was super wasted.

*We did discuss that the Defendant admitted to drinking 80 ounces of beer (He was a shorter man of average build, for the record and that's just what he had admitted to!) in no more than 45 minutes. (Based on the time he was pulled over and the time he says left work.) We also had an extensive discussion on whether or not his incredibly slow and yet very slurred speech in addition to his inability to properly perform any of the 3 field sobriety tests could entirely be due to nerves. It was very interesting and a lot more difficult than I expected!


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