Monday, September 23, 2013

Jury Duty & the Duty of the Juror

This past summer I was called in for jury duty.  It was the first time in my life that I ever had to appear in the courthouse and I must say it was eye-opening.  Let me set the stage a bit.

I live in a small town in Alaska.  I affectionately refer to it as the most redneck town in the state.  The  residents of our community are hard working and conservative.  I love it here and fit right in..

The town in which I had to report in is the exact opposite.  It's an artsy, liberal town and it is a mystery to me on how it survives.  The only obvious source of income is tourism and fishing.  I would say it is solidly middle class and everybody drives a Subaru.  It is Alaska's poster child for Agenda 21.  People who live there seem to love it but it is not my cup o tea.  

The first case I was called on was a DUI and I was quickly excused.  Apparently the defense is not comfortable with jurors who do not drink.  The second case I was called into was a different matter.  It took a better part of a week to seat the jury and I did my utmost to get out of it but despite my efforts, I was seated.  As a side note, it was fascinating to see how competitive people are in wanting to serve.  There were actually people who starting crying when they were excused.  Crazy.

It was a sexual abuse against a minor case.  The abuse took place within the family with the plaintiffs and defendant being cousins.  It was an awful story but equally as awful is our justice system.  Most of the evidence of the case seemed to center on some taped telephone conversations.  Right away that got my hackles up.  I hate that our private conversations can be recorded and used against us. It gets worse, much worse.  I was horrified to learn that not only can an American be taped without his knowledge but the person calling is allowed to and encouraged to lie in order to illicit a confession.  The girls in this case repeatedly called the defendant and begged, coerced and even bribed him into confessing.

As soon as the case was handed over to us, my fellow jurors were ready to hang him and I mean within 5 minutes.  As soon as the foreperson was named, she called for a vote and I was the only holdout.  It wasn't that I didn't think he was guilty, but as a constitution loving American, I was offended.  My fellow juror were not impressed.  At all.

The jurors, with the exception of a great guy named George, were all typical of the town they lived in.  Each day they showed up with their Starbucks coffee, wearing their Patagonia vests and vegan shoes.  The would have endless debates about the latest sustainability project.  Not that I am per se against such things, but it doesn't take long to realize that there is not a single original thought among them.  The moment I enjoyed most is when the court clerk confiscated all of their smartphones.  There was some serious dysfunction among them without their lifeline.

For three days I stood my ground that I would not convict him on any of the phone conversations in which they lied.  As soon as I made that statement, for a brief time, George stood with me.  I simply stated that if I was on trial in there, I would hope that there was a juror like me forcing the issue.  With much rolling of the eyes, we settled in to look at photos and actually read the transcript.

As all this was going on, my husband decides that this would be a wonderful opportunity for me to buy some ammo.   We don't "go to town" very often, and the store that sold ammo  had a policy of one box per person, per day.   The teenager wanted to do some target practicing with his .22 and we needed some extra boxes.  The first day I went to purchase the shell all went well.  They even allowed my husband to place a phone order and I was allowed to buy my box and pick up his.  The following day I went back up to the store and asked for a box of .22 long rifle shells.  The clerk ignores me and walk away.  I go and pick up a few things we need and go back over when he returns.  He still ignores me but then the manager walks up.  The manager informs me that they have checked my records, and  I have been tagged as a high volume buyer and have been banned from any more ammo purchases.  High volume really?  Yesterday was the first and only box of shells I have bought in my lifetime.  I point that out, as well as the fact that I am within their store policy to buy one box per day.  Apparently, they don't really mean it, what they really mean is you can buy one box per decade.  I put down the items that I have picked up and inform them that I would not be customer in a store that would not stand by their policies.  At that point, they offered me the box of ammo, which I did purchase, off the record and with cash.  This did not bode will for my fellow jurors.  I am now righteously furious.

In the end, we did convict the man on all the charges.  There was enough evidence to do so without the phone conversations.  Please remember, I always thought he was guilty, I simply stood up for some rights that all Americans should have and pushed it.  Some kind of wonderful happened as I was leaving.  Many of my fellow jurors stopped me in the parking lot to shake my hand or hug me.  All of them thanked me for making them take the time and make sure of their conviction. 

Hopefully somewhere it was put on my record, that I am a difficult juror and am banned from jury duty.  

Lovin' life and the Constitution!

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