Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The verdict is in

I have been absent for a good reason. (okay, laziness too)

I received an invitation from my county court system to grace them with my presence and to decide the fate of one of my peers. Not actually a person I know, but a peer in the sense of "jury of his peers" kinda thing.

BigD laughed at me when I excitedly told him. He said no way would I be selected because I am married to one who detects things. BULLSHIT I cried.

So, with my response questionnaire indicating that I did in fact receive their invitation, I also included a note to the judge. (One, who by the way has known BigD for about a zillion years). BigD's reaction when I told him I wrote the letter, well, I wish I had a camera. His face froze in that --oh shit, what did you say--look.

I very respectfully explained that just because I put a check in the box on the form where it asks if we are related to anyone in law enforcement, it certainly DID NOT mean that I was unable to make an intelligent, well informed, decision based on the facts of a case. I could have elaborated and said that I have known many an officer to screw up a report, or evidence or, whatever. I did hold my tongue (or pen, as the case may be).

So, on the reported day I sat in the potential jurors box with 59 strangers and we waited as questions were asked of the initial 8 chosen, then as they were dismissed for various reasons, they started picking from our reserve box. Since this was a civil case, I had a better chance that I would be one of the 8 finalists (I like to think of it as a competition), and I was, and I was elected the queen...I mean the foreperson.

They instruct you not to make any opinions or decisions until ALL of the facts of the case were presented. Okay, now, if you are human, this is probably not possible. What person doesn't check out the defendant, and the plaintiff? We all do. I had a very open mind, but a quick glance at each, showed a stark difference in their appearances, probable educational opportunities completed for each, and mannerisms that seemed to yell out loud. Once each took the stand, these impressions became even more pronounced.

Then a funny thing happened. Each lawyer started talking. The plaintiffs attorney was soft spoken, but passionate. I didn't think I liked him, but by the end decided that if I ever needed a lawyer I would look him up. The defendants attorney was slick. Very well dressed in an expensive suit, handsome, and had it all going on.......until he opened his mouth. He talked down to the jury like we were 4th graders, he kept losing his glasses, repeated the same inconsequential information over and over. Maybe in his experience that is the level of intelligence of juries he has known, but it wasn't the case in our pool. So, while the defendant was a wormish guy with , he had a slick attorney. The plaintiff was a well educated professional woman, with a lawyer that started out being a weenie but we all agreed in deliberations that he was actually a far superior lawyer than the expensive suit.

Lost yet?

So, the case. D (defendant) ran a light, hitting two cars, including the P (plaintiff) who was sitting at a stop light. She stated that the collision (as the attorney kept calling it) caused her considerable back pain, spasms, and had altered her lifestyle. For a year she was unable to pick up her kids and had to spend considerable time in physical therapy, having injections (which were vividly and dramatically described as being ENORMOUS needles injected into the spine, and her insurance didn't cover her medical bills, with a deficit of about $7000. The attorney asked that we consider her loss of life enjoyment and recommended that we find in her favor for about $25,000. He stated this would help her become whole again.

Medical records were produced to show the testing, therapy, medications etc that she endured since the collision. This was interesting because where some in the courtroom were confused or unsure of the terminology and what it all meant, for me, it was like brushing my teeth. None of it was foreign and I explained a few things during deliberations that were stated to us in a manner that would (and did) make a few jurors feel that her injuries were horrendous. Actually, the medical records played a big role in our decision too. She admitted that she had back problems in 2000, but none since. While reviewing her PT records, the therapist (who by the way, had fabulous detailed notes....much better than any physician) mentioned that the patient told her that she had "flares" of her back issues during both of her pregnancies. These actual records were not shown to us, in fact were were told "the plaintiff hadn't seen a doctor since 2000" but she obviously had to see one a few times during pregnancy. Things started to not add up.

The real deal breaker in deliberations though, were the details of the damage to her car. With all of her debilitating issues, and the descriptions of the way her life was altered, we expected that at the least, her car would be a mess. In reality, the only, ONLY damage was a broken driver side mirror. Yep. This life altering accident hadn't even scratched the side of her car, it merely knocked off the mirror. $198 repair.

All of us agreed that while the defendant was a goofy weirdo, and did cause the accident, the accident most likely did not cause of the plaintiffs back pain. She had it in 1998, 2000, had it during two pregnancies (her youngest was 2 at the time of the accident) and could have hurt her back doing something as simple as getting out of a chair. The evidence was simply not here.

We found the defendant was guilty of causing the accident by running the light (at one point he couldn't tell the difference between 10 feet and 75 yards.....yeah, like I said he was goofy), but we didn't award the plaintiff any damages.

So, going into the trial with opening arguments, my first impression was that this was going to be a fairly simple case, and by the end I just hoped that if I were ever a defendant or plaintiff, that the jury was actually awake and paying attention.

Things are not always what they seem. I know people make jokes about jury duty, and lie and connive to get out of reporting, but honestly, I would do it again and again.


tz said...

i have never been called to jury duty and i can't tell you how much i would love, love to do it!

love the
'queen, i mean foreperson' that's awesome!

The Hopkins Fam said...

I would love to serve jury duty! I have just been having kids since I was 19. Stinking kids. One of these days they'll be grown up and I'll have a life again. :)

Anonymous said...

You were born to be the queen and you know it!!!!! They were lucky to have you!

Gaston Studio said...

Haven't served on Jury Duty in a few years but the case I had was an interesting one, for sure.

Glad you guys did the right thing and recognized someone was trying to milk the system.

Raquel's World said...

I love Jury Duty! I find it entertaining and love court when I'm not a defendant.

Dr. Deb said...

Most people hate being called for jury duty. But once you serve on an actual jury, most people say it was a meaningful experience.

Unknown Mami said...

I wish more people like you would do jury duty.

Nico said...

really interesting summary! I would also love to serve on a jury at some point. I got called three times before I was a citizen and never since, go figure!