September 25, 2006 (Monday) – Jury Selection Day 4
This is the fourth entry in a series of entries on my role in the jury in a double murder case in the county of Contra Costa, California. You can see a more detailed view of the case including links to these posts and other items at this page.
8:30 am – It’s Monday morning. We’re back here in section 28 again. Joy. They start up with more excusals from last week. I have a feeling those people just love the fact that they came in for 15 minutes to be told to go home but are probably also glad that they aren’t going to have to sit on the case.
They quickly finish with a few more questions on the new people that replaced those that were excused and we have 25. Some of us wonder if they’re done. My thoughts were that maybe they’ll just pick 16 from these 25 randomly and we’ll be done or they have some other means of picking the 16 from these 25. But I turned out to be wrong. Now, the preemptories start. I was expecting the lawyers to excuse us openly but they do everything in sidebar so you don’t know which lawyer didn’t like you.
People start getting dropped a lot from this group. They run through the folks in 17-25 pretty quickly so they start to refill the spots from 17-21.
10:00 am – My name is called. Damn. I know I’m in trouble because they’re almost out of preemptory challenges from our estimate. The bailiff told someone each lawyer had 10 preemptories and we’ve been counting the total that we think were pre-empts and it’s getting tight. They ask me about my hardship request and I tell them although I don’t qualify under the hardship guidelines I wanted to let them know that I still had to work and I can’t just stop working. The judge seemed a little annoyed but they go on. The prosecutor asks me if I understand that the jury is my first priority and I tell him yes but that it doesn’t change the fact that I will have to work nights and weekends (sounds like a cell phone commerical) to keep up with work. He asked me if I would tell them if it got to be too much while I was on the jury. I said yes. The defense attorney doesn’t ask me anything. I’m quite shocked (more on that later).
I could probably have pushed the whole thing a bit more, been more obnoxious to the judge but that really wouldn’t be right in my opinion. I know I can look at the evidence fairly and intelligently. Especially more than some of the people I’d seen in the room. And the fact that someone’s life (well, there’s no death penalty but I’m guessing it will be a long time if he’s found guilty) is essentially on the line it’s important that the jury actually cares about the process. If I feel the evidence is enough to convince me without a reasonable doubt then I will also have no trouble voting to convict him. I am still somewhat surprised that I wasn’t excused because the other folks that had similar work issues as me got excused. I think I was caught somewhat in a numbers and timing game. If I had been in the hot box earlier in the day I probably would have gotten much more scrutiny but we’re a week from initial jury selection and they wanted to get this trial going. They’ll never tell you that, of course, but that’s just my opinion. It’s no big deal, though. Most folks at work were surprised that my opinionated self didn’t get ejected but I am less openly opinionated with people I don’t know so that probably didn’t help me there. There is a part of me that thinks this will be a very interesting process so I am pretty intrigued. I’ll see how I feel after doing double duty for 4 weeks, though. 🙂
I think everyone was still a little surprised, even though a lot of folks probably knew by the time we got to the oath, that it was going to happen but I had been up there maybe two or three minutes when the judge said to administer the oath. I think I was in a little bit of “oh my god, this is really happening”.
Oh yeah, how do you swear to the tell the truth if you’re an aethiest? Being one it’s always a touchy subject to bring up in such a religious society that I can’t in good conscience swear anything to god. Of course, I’m not going to lie or what not but still, I never will be comfortable with the fact that almost all oaths end in sentences such as “so help me god”. It’s completely unnecessary.
We’re told to report on Tuesday morning at 8:30 am for the reading of the charges and the opening statements by the prosecution and defense attorney. I was a little surprised here again that we were going to start tomorrow. With such a long trial I would have expected them to give us at least a day to get everything in order. They were pretty casual in getting this trial going and to not give us a day is really kind of crappy in my opinion.
This process was very slow. You can tell that lawyers are paid by the hour. Okay, these two aren’t but you can tell the process is driven by people who don’t care about efficiency. This really frustrated me. I understand that the process needs to be extremely detailed and thorough because people’s lives are affected by this but I think they could find ways to make it smoother.
No ID cards for long trials? I’m going to have to come to this courthouse for 4 straight weeks and they’re still going to make me go through the metal detector line? They should give me an ID and let me come through either an expedited line or something. I know they can’t do background checks on all of us but it’s the least they could do for those of us on long trials. Which brings me to my next comment…
They’ve NEVER checked our ID. Seriously. No one has ever asked me for identification since I got here. I could be paying someone to sit in my place and they’d never know. Can you say jury compromise?
Why doesn’t the courthouse have a separate entry and assembly area for jurors that is separate from the areas that witnesses, lawyers, observers, etc. use? If there was say a private entrance, hallway and gathering rooms per courtroom you could be much more confident that the jurors wouldn’t be influenced either on purporse or by accident.
Tomorrow – The fifth day of jury duty and the first day of the trial