Well here it is, my experience as a Juror. It was such an adventure I thought I would write about it to share it with everyone. It was nothing like I thought it would be. You heard all the stories, but unless you experience it for yourself, don’t bother with any expectations.
It all starts with a letter “summonses” saying to appear for jury duty, which you can postpone only once within 6 months, which I did. That time went by fast and before I knew it I was in a large room with 20 or so other possible jurors called "The Jury Pool”. Everyone looked terribly bored and couldn’t wait to leave. I was lucky I saw someone I knew which seemed to help make it a bit more alive. The first thing that happens is that everyone is addressed by the court secretary “Miss Carey” who fills you in on all the details and responsibilities of being a Juror. She does this with a friendly smile knowing that most everyone there just wanted to leave. Not an easy job knowing that Jury duty is probably one of the least respected services that US citizen can do for our country. After that, if there is no case, then everyone gets to go home and you have fulfilled your duty. But if there's a case that needs to pick a Jury the court secretary will bring in the attorneys, plaintiffs and defendants of the case and will mention all the names and people related to the case. Then the court secretary will ask everyone if they know any of the people involved in the case. If you do you will be excused, but if not, you will be asked to wait to see if you are called to be interviewed or voir dire (question or inquire) as they like to call it, by the plaintiffs and defendants attorneys, which I was. The questioning is simple with one of the questions being if you were familiar with the case.
I was not. The other questions of course I answered honestly. Even though everyone tells you to lie so that you will not be picked. Of course I could not. That would be totally disrespectful to myself and my country. Plus the court assures you if you do have a good reason why you cannot fulfill your duty as a juror you will be excused. So after the questioning you wait to see if you are excepted by both the plaintiffs and defendants attorneys. I was picked with 8 others, 3 of them being alternates. There would be more jurors “12” if it were a criminal case. This was just a civil case. Now the fun begins. You are now involved in a case where you will decide the fate of others. This is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. First the Judge has all the jurors come into the courtroom to be officially introduced to the case and directs everyone on there responsibilities.
One of the responsibilities being, not to talk about the case with anyone not even among the other jurors until deliberation. That ended up being 4 weeks later. If you are working, your employer has to pay you for the first 5 days. If your not working, you get $20.00 a day. Then after the 5th day it’s $50.00 a day. I ended up getting $650.00 for my entire jury duty. 3 days a week from 9 to 5 with an hour for lunch. 16 days in all. I was told that was a bit longer then usual. That was cool because I had no job or income at the time. To start, the 8 jurors I shared this experience with were funny and we all got along pretty good. We found ourselves laughing a lot when we were together in our jury room. Mostly because we couldn’t discuss the case until it was over. So we made the best of the situation. I heard that this is rare that jurors get along so well, until deliberation of course, then things get serious and the differences seem more prevalent of what we heard and saw. But anyway, watching this case seemed so unreal at times, I was waiting for Candid Camera to pop out and say “You're on Candid Camera” but they didn’t of course. That shocked me even more because what I saw was actually real.
So I’ll just say a little of what I saw and heard. This will give you an idea just how incredible it all was without boring you with all the details that we were subjected too for 16 days. It was like being stuck between a squabble that had no end. I was also really disgusted by all the lying on both sides. It was so disrespectful to everyone that had to listen to it. Why people horribly abuse our judicial system is just shocking. But it's the best system we have so far.
Well, here it goes………………..With the constant "You wish to Voir dire?" Opening arguments. Preponderance of the law. Endless objections. The bases for the objection. Irrelevance. The 100’s of questions sustained. I object to the lack of foundation, the Judge “I’ll try not to crack a smile”. Hearsay and testimony. Evidence, charts, graphs, exhibits which were over 100 after 6 days, and all, you must remember because you can’t talk about it with the other jurors or investigate or seek out information on your own until it all is presented. Then the judge advises the jury on how all the evidence and how the law is applied and to what the law states on how to interpret it. It’s allowed for its weight not its admissibility. Butt hole and dead manhole. Exhibit PP. Show me your cracks.
The constant miss pronouncing of names, Dr. Bimbo for Bemben. The defense lawyer saying the bureau of prison instead of mines. No need to run after a train once you caught it. Rebuttal.
Way beyond the scope of rebuttal. Sir rebuttal. Injunction. Appellate court. The Bureau of Mines. Office of surface mining standards. OSHA. 207 explosions (some close to 10,000 lbs of explosives). Drilling and rock crushing noise, dust and the heavy truck traffic for over 10 years in a residential neighbor hood. Permits. Grandfather clause. Sandpit quarry whatever. Phone calls. The explosion warning call list. Who died. So called expert witnesses. Fresh cracked silica (silicosis).
Having someone on the town committee (zoning commission) on the payroll who worked for the Quarry. Seismographs. Photos which left you wondering what there supposed to show. The video that was irritating and sill left wondering. The defense lawyer who seemed to object to everything without saying why. Fix the chimney. Metal detector girl. Girls like bald guys. Who’s late this time? Cobwebs. Key chain cow. The jury sitting in the same seats. Bad tasting water. Keep your dog off me. A judge who seemed a little annoyed at the lack of experience and tenacity of the lawyers and gave evil stares to remind them who’s the boss. Just answer the question. Move on. The young marshal who looked so board and so lazy. The old marshal who sat with us only to make funny comments while we hoped that the judge didn’t think it was us. Poor old ladies. The bird (Cockatoo) scurrying. Car wash. No gavel. I motion to have that stricken from the record. But I already heard it. Code of evidence, Legal burden of proof, Ethics. Closing arguments. Deliberate. So many counts
( 5 and 6). Paper work! Was the quarry substantial (Fairly large) and unreasonable (Beyond normal limits). Nuisance (Something or someone that causes trouble; a source of unhappiness).
Ultra hazardous activity. Emotional distress. Property damage. Negligence. Nuisance per se.
The jury deliberation room had a window and we saw the Defense Lawyer puking outside after his 3 times a day walk across the street to the court house Bar. The 2 alternates who came each day of our deliberation. No surprise that the other one didn’t for he stressed how strongly he wanted out the whole time. Kind of sucks not being able to deliberate after all that, WOW!! And that’s just some of what went on which was enough to make your head spin.
But all in all it was an experience I’ll never forget. Only the other jurors know what I mean. Still I found a new respect for our judicial system that seemed a bit scary and slow at times. Our Judges with their incredible skill and patience that they must have to conduct a trial. Not just knowing the law, but being aware of what’s allowed so that the jury is not influenced by irrelevant facts or hearsay. Just because a lawyer can make testimony, evidence and a witness seem weak and irrelevant, it does not necessarily mean it has no value or truth to it. Don’t be fooled by some attorneys who disgust us with there lack of integrity, sell their souls for money and remind us of everything that’s wrong with this world (not to say all lawyers are bad, there are some really great lawyers out there that we should all be thankful for). So have an open mind and listen to the other juror’s opinions because they saw what you saw. But stand with your beliefs and be able to explain them openly and honestly. Your heart and head should be in agreement. Remember that there are no guarantees that your decision will be perfect.
When we left after our decision (Verdict), we were all amazed to be thanked by both sides in this case. So I guess we did a pretty good job? “Awarding $45,000.00 when they wanted 1.7 million". We didn't award money to everyone who was suing either. We split it up as best as we could.
After it was all over, one thing that disturb me was being contacted by one of the people who was suing. They wanted to meet me. I refused. That would have been just too weird.
Just think in four more years I could be a juror again…My God!!!
Well at least I’ve learned something about our legal system “You better have a really good lawyer and you better do all your homework before you go to court". Howard Polley
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