Dem 51
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GOP 49
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I, The Jury, Part IX: In the Jury Room, Continued

More stories from readers about their experiences once they got into the jury room:

G.A. in Carnation, WA, writes: When I was on a jury, I decided ahead of time to volunteer or lobby to be foreperson if necessary to ensure an efficient deliberation. I have attended many terrible meetings with meandering agendas, tangentially related personal stories, overbearing personalities, unending discussion without conclusions, etc. When we convened in the (Seattle) jury room, there were many smart people with better social and leadership skills than I have, and we elected a good foreperson and were done in 4 hours after a thorough examination and debate of 3 days' worth of evidence.

A.U. in Seattle, WA, writes: I was on a jury in a criminal case when I was in my twenties (a loooong time ago). The perp climbed up to the roof of a bar, opened a vent, dropped down, rifled a cash register, stacked tables and chairs to reach the ceiling and climbed out. Police on patrol happened to look in a window and see what was going on, waited 'til the perp climbed off the roof and arrested him. He was charged with burglary and I was on the jury for his trial. With burglary, you have to prove intent (he did all this with the intent to steal), not just the fact that money or goods were taken. The perp, it turns out, when rifling the cash register, took some souvenir foreign currency in addition to "real" money and this was sufficient to prove he didn't just happen to have cash on him anyway.

I was the youngest person on the jury and for some reason the rest of them decided I should be the foreperson—lucky me. Talk about herding cats! There were a couple of folks on the jury that seemed convinced "reasonable doubt" meant the cops could have planned a fraud on this person, staged the robbery, planted the foreign currency, etc. It took a surprising amount of discussion to deem this not reasonable. And—I am forever grateful I watch TV—I knew that we might be polled back in the courtroom, so we practiced this (and we were indeed polled).

Sorry for the long story... Why did the defense even go to trial? It seemed like such an open and shut case! The only conclusion I can come to is that the two folks might have convinced the rest of us or hung the jury. Maybe this happens enough to be worth rolling the dice? Could something like this happen with Donald Trump? Not jurors who are in the bag for him, but jurors who are basically idiots gumming up the works?

D.S. in Chicago, IL, writes: I did serve on a jury, for a trial for an accusation of intent to commit larceny. A Black teenager, who had been upset when he was required to stow his backpack when entering the store when white teenagers were not, made some comments to the cashier that were interpreted as a threat. I did not feel there was sufficient evidence and was the only one of 8 jurors who was voting not guilty. But after two days of holding out, I gave in and voted guilty. I'm not proud of it, but I did. I share this because I think that even if there is one Trump supporter on the jury, it takes a very strong-willed and strong-minded individual to hold out for very long against the peer pressure of the group. Indeed, in my opinion, the majority of Trump supporters are such because they have gone along with their peers.

E.C-R. in Helsinki, Finland, writes: Many years (and moons) ago I served on two civil-case juries, one in California and one in Oregon. The first was a workplace injury fraud case with the insurance company as defendant and the plaintiff having allegedly hurt his back on the job. One of the witnesses called by the plaintiff was a neurosurgeon who had done a non-surgical consultation about me when I was a teenager. During voir dire I disclosed that I had been treated by said doctor and one lawyer asked if he had done surgery on me. When I said "no," they moved on to the next potential juror without asking my opinion of the doctor. As it happened, in my 20s I had found out from competent doctors, plus a medical textbook, that the drug he recommended to my regular doctor had not been the preferred treatment for several decades, and so I took his testimony with a cup full of salt. So much for voir dire. Despite this, I worked hard to treat the plaintiff's claims objectively and to treat him fairly. In the end we awarded a small amount to the plaintiff because we lacked proof of fraud. I objected to the low award and I also felt that the plaintiff was being milked by his counsel and the doctor who was way outside his area of expertise. C'est la vie.

The second case was more fun for me since I work in (V)'s field. A car purchaser was suing the dealer, claiming his car had an undisclosed cosmetic repair involving "bondo" (whatever that is). The plaintiff had worked on the flight deck in the navy and apparently planes get scraped a lot and touched up with this substance. For more complexity, although the car had been in an accident on the way to the dealership to return it, the defense never challenged the fact of the damage, only claiming that they didn't do it. We heard all sorts of unusable evidence about damage that can occur while shipping cars on trains and trucks. I let the jury deliberate for a couple of hours until it was clear nobody had any idea what to do, and everyone just wanted to go home to dinner. I then offered that I had a 5-minute solution and everyone looked to me as a potential savior. I pointed out that the defense had never contested the plaintiff's claim that the damage had actually occurred before the accident. I then asserted that we hadn't heard any evidence about when, where or how the damage actually occurred. I then stated that therefore the damage was equally likely to have occurred on any of the 90-odd days from the day the car left the factory to the day of the "separate" accident and that whoever had possession for the largest number of days was most likely at fault. We immediately and unanimously awarded for the plaintiff and against the dealership and went home to dinner. Whether justice was served is another question entirely.

My moral is that seemingly innocuous oversights during voir dire could well matter even in a closely watched case like Trump's. Also, never underestimate the desire of a jury to find a superficially logical reason to decide a case and go home. Lastly, always remember that logic can be a frightening tool in the hands of both juries and children. Possibly students too, but I'll leave that to (Z).

G.D. in Round Lake, IL, writes: I served on a federal jury a little over a decade ago in Chicago. The trial was of a former Chicago police lieutenant who was being charged with torturing people under arrest to obtain confessions. The trial lasted about a month and was one of the most interesting events I've ever been involved in. They take everything very seriously and make sure we are fair. One day I accidentally saw a news story on the case and self-reported to the judge. After a 30-minute interview, the judge and both sides' counsels decided I was still unbiased. When it came to deliberations, I was fairly confident the defendant was guilty but must admit I had to think it over a lot to make sure I was 100% certain. I always thought when watching the news how obvious people's guilt is, but it's another feeling when you have to make the final decision.

Now for the fun part. Our trial was at the same time as the corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. When we would have our lunch breaks, we would see him in the cafeteria. Even though he was facing more than a decade in prison he was still shaking hands and pushing himself for future reelection. At one point, a court officer had to warn him to leave the various juries alone. I can see TFG doing just the same during the trial, trying to make friends with the jurors he thinks will support him. I hope they really sequester this jury to keep them safe and away from him and his minions!

We'll have another installment on Friday. Tomorrow, it will be the reports on the upcoming elections in the U.K. (Z)

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