Saturday, August 27, 2011

Do you swear to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth?

I served on jury duty for two days this week. It was my third summons for duty. (I think a jury duty summons is like hemorroids or cold sores, once you get them you are prone to get them.)  I knew i was going to be chosen from the panel of 25 people, because it seemed obvious some were trying to get out of it by their answers.

This was a DUI and hit and run case.

For example: one guy answered a question with saying his very best friend got a DUI and he hasn't spoken to him since and that the defendant shouldn't be comfortable with having him on the jury. Maybe that's true too. But i felt he wanted out. Another woman, a nurse, kept interrupting and talking and sounded a little bit wack actually. 

The jist: A young woman left a bar at 2 am. This bar is notorious in town. There was a gang related still unsolved murder a few years ago. (My husband worked with the father of the kid who was killed and we went to the funeral.) As a result of that reputation, the bar hires Lakewood Police officers as 'rent a cops'.

The woman drives out of the parking lot. She actually sees that he is parked there, and as she drives out, her rear view mirror scratches the side of the officer's car. Very minor. But he feels it, but she is unaware that she grazed him. She pulls out into the street. The copy puts on his lights and follows her and she pulls over immediately. (To this police officer, this constitutes as hit and run. She is so close to the bar that you could throw a heavy rock and hit it.)

He, by his own testimony, came on strong with her, that he was 'agitated'. He approached her and was yelling at her about 'what the hell was she doing?' etc. etc. and ordered her out of the car . She swears she didn't know that she clipped him. (Her music was loud.)

The cop calls for backup from a state patrol officer. This guy is nicer and comes and gives her the field sobriety test (FST) even though he testifies that she does not appear to be drunk or swaggering. She walks a complete straight line, but fails to do it to instruction of heel/toe. This nice cop testifies that the defendant is totally cooperative.  He does say she smells like alcohol. She admits to having one vodka/Coke in the bar about an hour and half before. She has been there since 8:30 for her cousin's birthday party and now it's 2:00 am. He thinks her eyes are wiggling when he does the test with the pen, but also admits under cross examination there are 40 other variables that could cause this, not related to drinking. (Strobe lights and being tired for one thing.)

The defendant is a young African American woman. The first mean officer looks like a Nazi kind of cop - he was intimidating on the stand and seemed pissed off about being in court and even admitted that he was 'agitated' that he had to be there. He never once looked at the jury when he spoke. In a word, the guy was an asshole. (Later the defendant told us that he wouldn't let her get her coat,  yet it was near freezing outside.) I had to wonder about his attitude after what happened when four of his colleagues were killed in a coffee shop here two years ago here by a black man and his family helped him escape. Not saying he was racist, but i could see how SHE could be scared into believing so and so nervous she cannot pass the FST perfectly.

to be continued....


jojo cucina cucina said...

The prosecution enters the video of the stop. I thought, here we go, now we will hear it for sure that she is indeed drunk but when i watched it was astounded he entered it because she sounds totally sober! She's respectful, she sounds scared near the end when they put handcuffs on her, but in the beginning she sounds like someone normal.

Near the end we find out she blew a .081 blood alcohol. level. This is .001 over the legal limit. She had been there over five hours, but that's what she blew.

Another technician who ran the machine got on the stand and had to admit under oath that the machine could have been reading it as a 'high 7' which is legal, because the machines are not infallible and there is a margin of error.

The defendant takes the stand which i thought was amazing. She was so calm and told us that it was the first time she had ever been stopped by a cop in her whole life. (She is young, maybe about mid-20's.)

The jury deliberates. I know already we have a problem from our breaks with one very conservative and odd woman. (I had no idea yet about the young kid. )

Right away we find her innocent on the Hit and Run. Unanimous. I'm thinking maybe i'm wrong and this will be easy. But nooooo, we discuss the DUI. The woman and the kid are rigid in their belief that the number .081 is the law and the law is the law.

They don't take into consideration that she had a possible racist cop scare the shit of her very first stop ever. They don't take into consideration her clear voice when speaking. They don't take into consideration that neither cop testified as to her demeanor being drunk, only that she missed heel/toe and her eyes flickered somewhat. And she smelled like alcohol. (Though i know one vodka drink can do that to anyone, cause i tested it later.) They don't care about the margin of error on the machine.

I tell the kid. 'Do you mean to tell me that you have NEVER broken the law? Because if you have ever run a red light or stop sign but didn't get caught you need to drive yourself to the police station and turn yourself in. He said that did happen to him ....and get this....he DID turn himself in. ( I realize then we are not dealing with a normal person. Did i mention that he brought the book The Hobbit and read during the breaks instead of talking to the rest of us?...And that he was ungainly looking?)

The odd woman is backing him up. She's not very bright, you can tell from the few breaks that we had. We all give our first names but when it comes to her, she says her name is 'Juror Number Five'. When she is asked what her job USED to be (she's a stay at home mom now), she says she would rather not say. I want to slap her and tear out every hair off her head from her very bad haircut. She is so fricken smug. be continued.....

jojo cucina cucina said...

In the end the four of us could not convince them. We tried. We tried hard. Especially the foreman and me.

I spoke to 'scientific uncertainty' which is what the public defender mentions. I spoke about the 'high 7' possibility that the tech mentions and reasonable doubt. I spoke of over-morality and judgement and being a stickler for the law by a minute margin. I spoke to her actually being a responsible drinker since she was there for five whole hours. I spoke about her never having been stopped ever and anyone for the first time would have a hard time following the FST instructions because they would be too nervious. In the end because they the kid won't respond to any of it and just sits like a fat Buddha i am starting to yell. Another juror starts to yell too. The foreman gal, who i really liked, added her own stuff but in a much more calm way. That kid would not budge, nor respond.

So then i said, 'all right fine, we're a hung jury, but no way is case going to be retried for a .001 possible over the limit so she will not be convicted. And so we can sit her all night because i will never change my vote, even if the other three decide she is guilty. .And she's going to be okay in the end. The kid said he wasn't budging either. So it was four against two. We call the bailiff to say we are not able to reach a verdict.

They line us back up in the jury room. I really want them to not think i was one of them voting for conviction so when the judge asked if we had some questions i spoke up. And then others did too. In the end i said to the prosecutor that he did a good job, but that i hoped he would never retry this case and could we tell them the numbers in favor of acquittal? The judge said yes. (I liked her ALOT and i think she really wanted to know.) So we told them the numbers 4-2 and i added, please do not waste the taxpayers money on this case by retrying it. This is not what drunk driving laws are all about.

I also said to the prosecutor that his video didn't help his case because it seemed to prove that she was not drunk. The judge smiled and said that the video was discussed at length. And the defense attorney said she would admitted for that very reason had the prosecutor failed to use it. They were all smiling at this point.

I also brought up the scary cop (without saying he is racist) but may have been the reason the FSTs were not perfect. At that point tears rolled down the woman defendant's face and behind her - i think it was her brother there to support her - he had tears rolling down his face too. The foreman spoke up about how bad a witness that cop was and how he factored into our decision.

jojo cucina cucina said...

And we were dismissed. I went and shook everyone's hand. And two other jurors who voted for acquittal hung around to talk. We were so pissed at the other two. As we're talking the woman public defender comes over to ask if she could have done anything better to get an acquittal. We told her she was great and had done a wonderful job for her client. But that she needed to pick a better jury. Those guys actually perjured themselves because one of the voir dire questions was about not being hung up on absolute numbers and those two should have raised their hands as having an issue about that because they were not open to anything but the number.

In the end the judge knowing that we requesting not having a re-trial said we could call in after a few weeks to see the outcome of what this woman's fate would be. So I have a case number to refer to to see if this goes away for her.

And that was my jury duty experience. It was amazing. We were so invested in our service. And that foreman gal was so great i almost wish i could run into her again. She and i spent quite awhile in the parking lot talking. I told her if she ever got to serve again that she should volunteer right away for the foreman duty.

If you ever get the chance to serve, i hope you do. But i hope you don't want to actually beat the crap out of anyone while serving as i did.

Maybe i SHOULD retire and become a professional juror....! LOL.

I know this is a long post, but i just wanted a record of it. I'll probably change this very soon.

jojo cucina cucina said...

This is a wake-up call and reminder to me about driving. I would imagine that it's probably not hard for me to blow a .08 with my size. I don't think even two glasses of wine can be legal for me now that i think about this. I wonder about one!

I wish there was a way to know. But it's something to think about each time i go out anywhere....not that i go that many places and Brian drives most times, but yeah, i'm sure that i've been driving around here with that Nazi officer in our vicinity when i would be driving just fine, but would not be passing any test. Especially a field sobriety test. I doubt i could pass it stone sober i would be so scared!

The truth, i believe, is the really bad drunk drivers have never been deterred from drinking in bars because of the .08 limit. And i would someone who has driven with a .20 is still driving around with a .20 and hasn't changed any behaviors since the .08 law.

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

I read the daily paper online from the town in WI I grew up in. In the police reports, it's not unusual to read about people being arrested for their 4th and 5th, and even 7th DUI's. They are not deterred by the law, they are going to drink.

I got called to jury duty not at my home court, but to Santa Monica. It was a medical malpractice suit and they had gone through more than 75 jurors trying to seat a jury. I was chosen and then booted as one of the two final challenges. The funny thing was the next person up slept through most of the proceedings before being chosen, said she couldn't hear what the judge was saying. I didn't stick around but I bet she was gone too. I was glad I didn't get chosen. The plaintiff was suing a well known neurosurgeon at UCLA and the plaintiff was the epitome of a man in pain.

I think on a DUI like you had, I'd vote for aquittal too. I'd also tell the judge about the behavior of the woman juror. She sounds like a born again Christian who will chastise anyone who doesn't believe the way she believes.

jojo cucina cucina said...

amulbunny, your voir dire must have been a VERY long one with 75 jurors ! I was amazed at some of the answers that prospective jurors were giving out. I'm sure it's because they didn't want to be seated and i wouldn't blame them if it's because they have to lose pay from work. I get paid no matter how many days i serve.

The thing about the two hold out jurors was how irrational they were. The kid told us that they didn't believe anyone ever should get behind the wheel of the car after just even one drink. I replied, 'you mean you think it would be illegal for someone to go out to dinner, have one glass of wine and then drive home?' I asked the woman too and they both said yes. No one should ever do it.

What's also interesting is that the foreman told us she doesn't drink and that she is not a recovering alcoholic either, she just doesn't like it. Yet she did not hold to a hard fast judgement like these other two.

I wish i had thought of telling both of them to turn themselves in because perjury is also against the law and they did indeed perjure themselves during the voir dire. I didn't think of that until my drive home.

The other thing is by their rationale, cops should be posted at EVERY restaurant and bar everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the story of your jury duty. The last time I went had to bow out because I was still involved with helping baby
sit my Grandkids (and lived with them part time.) It was a child abuse case. I am so proud you all held your ground and were not swayed by those other two jurors’...who thought they were doing the right thing by doing the WRONG thing!