“False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.” Joseph de Maistre
I get summoned for jury duty a lot. And every time I show up for jury duty, I get selected. Fair-minded or feeble-minded, I don’t know what the lawyers see in me.
Back before kids, when the California laws on jury service were different, I got summoned for two weeks every other year and I served on juries the entire two weeks. I was always picked. I’ve been on criminal trial juries (grand theft auto, assault with a deadly weapon) and civil juries (mental competency, medical malpractice). I can’t even remember all the juries on which I’ve served. It’s practically my second (third?) career.
This isn’t like elementary school kickball teams where you’re sad not to be chosen. I’d prefer to be passed over for jury service.
Alas, I am not.
After kids, I was able to wiggle out of serving because I homeschooled the kids and had no back-up due to my ex-husband being an asshole. Okay, he was employed, but he was also an asshole.
This past summer, I received my almost annual summons for jury duty and had no legitimate reason to be excused. My last minor child is now in high school so I had to go. And my jury selection streak remains unbroken.
I was assigned almost immediately to a courtroom and despite my desperate prayers, I wasn’t dismissed. I became juror #11 on a bullsh*t trial for misdemeanor reckless driving.
Why does California have a jury trial for a misdemeanor traffic violation? It’s an absurd waste of time and resources. It took more than four hours to get 12 acceptable jurors and two alternates. I made a friend/lunch buddy with juror #2 and was damn near inconsolable when she was dismissed late in the game. She left the jury box, turned at the courtroom door and sadly waved good-bye to me. It was heartbreaking. I almost cried.
Juror #2 was my bright spot in a sea of boring, arrogant, and stupid.
We sat through a day and a half of testimony about the defendant’s reckless driving (he went 80 in a 30mph zone and didn’t pull over when the cop flashed his lights and chirped his siren). The whole time, I was thinking, “You gotta be kidding me. What are we doing? Why didn’t this guy just pay his fine?”
Then we went to the jury room and I got another lesson in humanity’s utter stupidity.
First, no one listened to the judge’s instructions. Jurors are triers of fact. Jurors are not investigators. But ya know what? These idiot jurors immediately started talking about the road on which the defendant drove 50 friggin’ miles per hour over the speed limit and they didn’t think it was reckless ‘cuz he didn’t hit anybody. But even if he had, it was late at night and only hookers and drug dealers were out. (Apparently, hookers and drug dealers deserve to be mowed down by some random guy doing 80.) And, hey, that street’s pretty flat and straight, so 80mph is a-okay.
Then the next day, a juror came back and informed us that she had driven the route and the timelines didn’t match up.
I lost my sh*t.
Jurors are triers of effing fact. Facts are what’s been presented in evidence in the courtroom. Jurors are specifically and repeatedly told not to go to the scene, not to investigate, not to diddle around. This jury ignored the judge’s instructions. Some members took it upon themselves to play CSI: San Diego and other members praised them for it.
Oh, but the cop’s testimony was torn apart. “He couldn’t remember when he turned the lights and siren on! He’s not reliable!” For the record, the cop couldn’t remember if he hit the button in the 500 block or the 300 block of the street. At 80mph does it really matter?
It was a complete goat rope. I fought for the law, reading the jury instructions out loud, repeatedly. No one cared. They were convinced they knew best.
I was in the minority on the verdict vote (9 not guilty, 3 guilty). I was bullied by the majority who based their opinions on personal experience, fantasy, and perceived punishment…not the law or the judge’s orders. “Hey, I speed, but I’m not reckless. Give the guy a break.” The other two guilty jurors broke and voted guilty within 15 minutes. Ultimately I caved, too. I changed my vote and got the hell outta there. The defendant got a free pass.
I’m ashamed of myself for being a part of this mess. I briefly considered asking the deputy to take a note to the judge about the juror misconduct that was running rampant, but the foreperson had to send the note. I wasn’t the foreperson. I wasn’t willing to throw down with the other 11 people for a misdemeanor traffic violation.
All I could think was that the other jurors were absolutely not following the law, but patted themselves on the back for “doing their civic duty.” I just wanted out of that room and away from these arrogant idiots who watch far too much television.
Because I “served” on this jury, I won’t be called again for three years. And when I’m summoned in the future, I plan to tell the lawyers I absolutely do not believe in the jury system anymore. I don’t trust my fellow citizens to follow the damn law. I’ve witnessed firsthand the rationalizations people make to justify illegal behavior while serving on a jury. I don’t think we can be trusted to do the right thing. And I was the bitch for trying to uphold the actual statutes.
All of us are stuck with the society only some of us deserve. But I guess I do deserve it because I let it happen.