I, The Sort Of Juror
Today, I spent most of the day as a prospective juror -- it's been awhile since I've actually had to go through this process, and to me, at least it was quite interesting.
Here then, are my uber-salient observations:
- Roughly 80 of us piled into one large courtroom - after taking roll, they randomly called up people as the first potential jurors - 12 jurors, two alternates, and then five subsitutes. Who was the very first person called up? Yep, that's me.
- The case was a DUI misdemeanor case - perhaps I'm naive, but I actually had never even thought about such a thing going to court. To me, there are breathalyzers and whatnot and you are either drunk or you are not, and that was that. Nope! In this case, the defendant was pleading innocent.
- The incident in question happened about 14 months ago. That's a really long time for a court to wait on a misdemeanor case like this. In related news, our judicial system has some flaws.
- After listening to some of the questions, the potential defense seemed clear to me - they were going to argue that while the breathalyzer did show a 0.08 blood-alcohol level or higher (which is the legal limit here in California), that while he was driving he wasn't actually above that line. (I'm assuming they took the test somewhat after pulling him over.) This seemed very flimsy to me - so I asked a question that said, in essence, that I thought that when you drank, as soon as you'd digested the drink in any way, your BAC was whatever it was and then it went down. The defense attorney, of course, didn't get into the details of the case but asked if I'd be willing to hear about how different people absorb and digest differently, etc. -- and I said that absolutely I would.
- It was at this point that I was sure I was going to serve and, quite frankly, was sort of looking forward to it. This is yet another piece of evidence that I cannot read the room at all, as I'd sealed my fate with that question.
- After thinking about the defense - again, that he hadn't digested the alcohol while he was driving - it occurred to me that the defense would rest on the conceit that the defendant essentially drank some alcohol and then jumped RIGHT into his car, getting pulled over immediately. And that this might not actually be illegal even if it is poor judgment.
- Of the 19 original prospective jurors, there were only two of us that had a post-graduate degree (myself and a doctor), while only three others in total had finished college. This isn't particularly surprising for the entire country - but I was surprised to see this in Marin County, a very prosperous area that I would have thought would have a higher rate of college graduates. Just an observation.
- After a LONG time -- almost a full day - I was dismissed by the defense as one of their challenges. In reflection, it was probably a good decision. What also struck me is that of the five folks with college degrees or better, at least four of us were dismissed. Clearly, we could have been replaced by others with degrees, but I do wonder how coincidental that was.
- Again, with all the folks being dismissed at least a few new people were going to be pulled up from the pool - meaning at least one full day will be spent on getting jurors together for a misdemeanor DUI. And I get it - and if it were me asserting my innocence, it couldn't take too long to get the right jury. But ... wow, that's a lot of time and a lot of lost productivity.
So, it turns out I won't be on the jury - and quite frankly, that's a good thing for me in terms of work. But the process was interesting - at least to me. In two years or more, perhaps I'll get another shot...