Rejected by the American Legal System

… for jury duty.  Geez.  I got a series of ominous notices over the last couple of months telling me to appear at the district courthouse:

Waltham District Courthouse – grand in 1938, but now not so much

So I appear at 8 AM per request.  This being an important civic duty, I wear a tie.   My 14 fellow jurors are in T-shirts and shorts, perhaps because it’s 90 degrees and 90% humidity outside.  One guy is in a lime-green shirt with a cartoon character sprawled on it saying “I’m not drunk, I’m just wicked tired from drinking all night”.

We hang out until 11, when the judge appears and thanks us effusively for showing up.   He had already resolved four cases that morning, but one was determined to go in front of a jury.   The others chickened out.   We filed into the courtroom and he introduced the defendant, a young guy up on a DUI, then the lawyers and the witnesses.  He then asked if any of us knew any of these people or had been affected by drunken driving.  About half the people raised their hands, including the guy in the green shirt.

The judge then interviewed each of them individually, grilling Green Shirt especially hard.  I could only catch a little of what he was saying, but it was something about “Do you feel that your judgment would be affected by what you’ve experienced?”  Eventually they all returned to their seats, and the clerk starts choosing jurors.  Green Shirt gets impaneled first.  The judge had not been amused.

They pick seven jurors (six regular and one alternate), and then a couple are excused.  The clerk called “Juror 15!”  and I stood and went to the jury box.  Some invisible sign passed among the lawyers and the clerk said “Juror 15, please return to your seat.”

Rejected!   How come Green Shirt gets to sit in judgment on a fellow citizen and I don’t?  Was it the tie?  Maybe they thought I was a Mormon.  I did say on the juror questionnaire that a lot of my family was involved in medicine, or maybe it was being an engineer.

After being dismissed, I went back to the courtroom to hear about the case.  The morning was shot anyway.  The defendant had driven off the road at 1 AM and crashed into a fence on a snowy night, even though it was an all-wheel-drive SUV.  When the state trooper showed up, he said “Honestly, I may have had a few beers.”  He could not recite the alphabet in order from F to Q.  The trooper took him back to the station, where his blood alcohol level was measured at 0.14%.  And that was over an hour after the accident!  0.08% is the legal limit in Mass.

The only defense his attorney (or more likely, his dad’s attorney) offered was “The state has not proven that my client was intoxicated at the time of the accident.”  What, he started drinking after he crashed his car?  Then this guy really does not belong on the road. He did have a witness there, a woman who came from Wisconsin to testify on the accuracy of breathalyzer tests.

I couldn’t stay to the end, but I think the verdict would have been pretty clear.  The guy’s dad must have figured that since no one was hurt, the state wouldn’t pursue a DUI all the way up to a jury trial.  A bad call.  The jurors in my pool were not happy to be there, and probably squashed him flat. The judge said beforehand that he only oversaw 30 jury trials a year, even though hundreds of cases came up before him.   I hope his other cases weren’t as lame as this one!

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One Response to Rejected by the American Legal System

  1. Paul McD says:

    Since you are an engineer, you are taught to be specific. So when you wrote “This being an important civic duty, I wear a tie”, I have to assume that you wore nothing else except the tie. This is generally frowned upon. Hence the peremptory challenge. Q.E.D.

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