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jury duty

Sunday, 6 December 2009

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photo, originally uploaded by [ecpark].

sitting in a jurors lounge all day, waiting to see if i get seated for a jury, stirred up some flashbacks from my last two windows into the criminal justice world.

back when I first move up to DC, I was seated in a jury for a possetion case involving two kids pulled over with drugs and a gun, and (maybe) intent to distribute. I don’t remember much, except it all happened right as tv legal dramas were becoming all the rage (season two of law and order) and it created chaos in the deliberation room.

everybody focused as much on what wasn’t said than what was … there was a gun, but where were the finger print results? there were drugs found on the persons, but did they test whether it matched the bricks in the trunk? why did only one of the two arresting officers show for court, did the other disagree with the prosecution? why wasn’t there dna evidence?

the jury convicted on the bare minimum (the clear-cut possession stuff) but acquited on anything that smacked of the prosecutor inferring intent, etc.

if i get seated again this time, i hope some of the Law and Order / CSI type faux sleuthing will have died down. to this day I wonder if there are more aquittals when tv is featuring legal dramas, and more convictions when tv is pushing gritty cop dramas.

anyway, i spent the next 10 years moving in and out of jurisdictions, so I was never one place long enough to get called for service … two years in Montgomery County, three years in Howard County, two years in DC, two years in Arlington.

i did, however, get my car stolen. again, i don’t remember the details … but something happened that I had to leave my car in the Greenbelt metro parking lot over Christmas — change of plans, and I was late for a flight from BWI, something like that. either way, the car got stolen the day after Christmas.

secretly I was excited (I’d been eyeballing a new car for a couple years) but the ever efficient Baltimore City police found the car (it had been involved in a traffic accident) and generously returned it.

turns out, two kids had lifted it to go joyriding (to their grandmothers house for Christmas supper, I hope) but got in an accident (did about $3k in damage) and were caught fleeing the scene.

I drove up to Baltimore three time for various court appearances, and twice the trial was postponed for some reason or another. during the third effort, they settled right befor the jury was selected.

man, i was ticked.

afterwards, however, the arresting officer came over and introduced himself to me … and I asked him if this (postpone, postpone, settle) happened much. he said that the reason for all the postponements were (essentially) because I had shown up for court.

apparently, the whole case rested on me testifying that the perps didn’t have permission to borrow my car. by the third scheduled appearance, the defendants’ lawyer decided that I would just keep showing up regardless of the postponements, so they better settle instead of taking it to trial.

crazy. sometimes it’s true that all you really have to do is show up.

UPDATE: I’m still batting 1000. I’ve been seated for a jury, and was in the very last group seated … i guess i need to work on my unbalanced, biased, vaguely menacing demeanor to ward off people thinking i’d be a good juror.