Thursday, October 9, 2008

Doing My Civic Duty - Part 2*

They took 237 eight by ten color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one to be used as evidence against us.
--Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant Masacree"

I just spent six long days in the jailhouse
for the crime of having no dough,
and now I'm back out on the street
for the crime of having nowhere to go.
--The Band

Yesterday, I posted my experience with being impaneled on a jury. If you read it, you know that it involved a lot of waiting around and many repetitions of the word "crap".

If you think that might have been a dull, boring experience for me, then obviously you've never been on a jury and had to listen to lawyers speak. You know those great lines from the movies?
You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

You're out of order! You're out of order! You're out of order!

It just doesn't work that way. You know all those Perry Mason moments where he spins around and pins the blame on the person you least suspect? Doesn't happen. Watching grass grow is more exciting, believe me.

It goes like this: There's a judge, a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, a witness, a court clerk and a bailiff standing as far away from the action as she can get.

PA: I have here a 574-page document that basically restates everything that's been said in this trial up to this point. I'd like to enter it into evidence.
[The bailiff ambles across the room, takes the document from the attorney, walks the three steps to the court clerk who puts a little sticker on it and hands it back to the bailiff. The bailiff then takes one step to the right to hand it to the judge, who's sitting two feet away from the court clerk, and then ambles back across the room.]
Judge: Entered into evidence as exhibit 9.
PA: I'd like the witness to look at exhibit 9 please.
[The bailiff ambles back across the room, takes the exhibit from the court clerk, walks three steps to her left, hands it to the witness, and then ambles back across the room.]
PA: Ms. Hapfenflufel, do you recognize the exhibit?
Witness: Yes.
PA: How would you describe the exhibit?
W: It appears to be a 574-page document that basically restates everything that's been said in this trial up to this point.
PA: So you would say that this is a document?
W: Yes.
PA: And how long would you say the document is?
W: [Flipping to the last page] 574 pages.
PA: So to be clear, you're saying that this is a document consisting of 574 pages.
W: Yes.
PA: OK, let's read the document starting at page 1, right at the top, where the words begin. Do you see the words?
W: Yes.
PA: What is the first letter you see in the first word?
W: It's a "T".
PA: And is there anything special about that "T"?
W: It's a capital "T".
PA: And what does a capital usually mean?
DA: I object to the use of the term "usually", since a capital can mean the beginning of a sentence, an initial, part of an acronym, or a symbol on the periodic table of elements.
Judge: Please restate the question.
PA: Ms. Hapfenflufel, what do you believe the capitalization indicates in this particular case?
W: I think it's the start of a sentence.
PA: OK, let's move on to the next letter. What is it?
W: It's an "h".
PA: And is it capitalized?
W: No.
PA: OK, so now what's the third letter?
W: It's an "e".
PA: And is that the end of the first word?
W: Yes, I believe so.
PA: Why do you believe that's the end of the first word?
W: Because the next character is a space.
PA: And a space indicates what?
W: It's a separator between words.
PA: So the first word is what?
W: "The".
PA: And what does "the" mean?
W: I believe it's a definite article indicating exclusiveness.
DA: Objection to the use of the suffix "-ness".
PA: Could you restate that please?
W: I believe it's a definite article indicating exclusivity.
PA: OK, let's move on to the next word....

And so it goes. For two. Full. Days.

We had a doctor as an expert witness that said the plaintiff was injured. We had a doctor as an expert witness that said the plaintiff was not injured. We had a psychologist that said the plaintiff was depressed. The plaintiff's mom said the plaintiff didn't used to be depressed. We had photos. Lots of photos. We had diagrams. We had receipts. We had a DVD to watch of a deposition. We heard about lost wages. Interrupted PhD programs. There were tears, and not just from the jury who had to sit through all this.

Then it was all over. The judge gave us our rules, which basically were: "You're on your own. We won't answer any questions so don't bother asking. Go into your little cell and don't come out without a verdict. See ya."

This particular case had nothing to do with guilt or innocence. The defendant had already admitted negligence. It was up to us to come with an amount to award. The prosecution was asking for an award in the 6-figure area. The defense indicated that the award should be in the lower 4-digit area. We deliberated for 3 and a half hours. "I think we should give the plaintiff a billion dollars." Did you hear the same case I did? "I think the plaintiff should give us ten dollars each." Did you hear the same case I did? As 5:00 approaches, though, it's amazing how compromising you become. The only thing we could eventually all agree on was that the plaintiff deserved something. Slips of paper were passed around the table, we each wrote down the amount we thought the plaintiff was due, we added it all up, divided by 7, and ended up awarding a very, very strange number.

So the way I've got it figured, if I can find some way to donate my $60 juror compensation to the big bailout, the government will only be on the hook for $699,999,999,940.00. Who's with me?

Oh, and if you get called for jury duty, take a book. Take several.

* Apologies if this showed up in some Google readers multiple times in various forms. I was entering a ^B to do bold followed by a capital P, and I kept hitting ^P which, as you types may know, is "Publish". Why the hell did they create a hotkey for "Publish"?


lacochran's evil twin said...

Hapfenflufel was set up. Invisible ink! Bastards.

Gilahi said...

Do you know the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is a slimy, bottom-feeding, ugly, cold-blooded animal and the other one is just a fish.

They use every dirty trick in the book.

PA: And when did you stop performing experiments on puppies?
PA: I withdraw the question.
Judge: The jury will disregard what they just heard.

Ya. Right.

nutmeg96 said...

I did jury duty in Fairfax in May. I had a heck of a time finding the place. And I didn't even get on a jury. I got to sit in the room for two hours and then on the floor outside a courtroom for four hours and then go home.

I'm trying to remember the name of the judge in the video. Judge McWeeny! I think that was it. Cracked my sh!t up.

Herb of DC said...

1. I'm very sorry you had to go through this. I feel your pain.

2. Oh no are you saying that publishing the same item several times messes up Google reader? I always publish first and then have several more publishing rounds of creative spelling corrections, optional grammar editing and "facts" checking. Sometimes this is even done sober. But mostly not especially when at work.

brian said...

I sympathize, my first experience with Jury Duty was *just* before the one day, one trial thing came into effect. I'd never been called for Jury Duty in my life and I was completely lost. As you can imagine, DC employees weren't the friendliest then either, so I was sure I'd go to the wrong room or end up on trial myself for screwing something up.

Thankfully I missed being on a jury, but from the stories others have told of waiting and/or serving, it doesn't sound like its any more fun now.

Gilahi said...

nutmeg - You're right! The Honorable Michael McWeeney, Chief Judge, Fairfax County Circuit Court. GOD I wish I had remembered that when I was writing this blog.

herb - 1. Send me a pumpkin, I'll feel better.
2. Not sure if it messes up anything, it's just that I published the article when it was only about 1/3 written, and then did it again about halfway through. I suppose it's possible that nobody could tell the difference.

brian - I found that once inside the courthouse, everything was well-labeled and easy to find. It was just finding it in the first place that was a pain. The best thing about the experience is that there's a Hard Times Cafe literally across the street from it. A lovely bowl of veggie chili for lunch (no beans, in deference to my fellow jurors in the tiny little jury room).

GreenCanary said...

Your recount of the trial was perhaps the best bit of reading I've done all week. Oh, the humor. It makes my sides hurt :)

Gilahi said...

canary - Glad you liked it. As Homer Simpson says, "It's funny because it's true!"

fiona said...

I'm exempt from jury duty here...thank god.
In Scotland I was never called in 35 years...they knew better!!!

Gilahi said...

I'm part Scottish! Where do I apply?

brian said...

Gah, now I need Hard Times chili. YOUR FAULT!

Gilahi said...

Ha! I figure I owed you for the sunburn.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Gilahi said...

Sarah - Wow. What's it like to have nothing at all to do? Glad you're enjoying it. By the way, I need to have a large, very heavy treadmill moved from an upstairs room to a downstairs room. Any recommendations on who could do that for me?

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