Nov 19, 2006

Five Feet Of Pregnant Scorched Earth Justice

I've been summoned to jury duty for the City of Troutdale's court starting (and hopefully ending) tomorrow. This is the fifth time I've been on jury duty over the years.

My first time on jury duty was in Clackamas County. I don't know how they handle jurors now, but then you had to call in every morning to see if they wanted you to show up that day. Eventually I was selected for a criminal trial.

I remember specifically the sweet, 5-foot tall, very pregnant Clackamas County prosecutor who sliced and diced the defendant on the witness stand, but not before impeaching the testimony of one of her own witnesses- the arresting officer. The officer "slightly" exaggerated what happened, contrary to previous testimony of other witnesses and his own partner. He got caught in his own words, big time. Boy, was that fun to watch.

During one lunch during that trial, I went to a restaurant down the street from the courthouse in Oregon City. After I ordered, I looked around the restaurant, and uh-oh, who was sitting at the next table but the defendant! We recognized each other from the courtroom and nodded at each other. I was freaked out! But I told the judge what happened when I got back to the courtroom. He asked if I talked with the defendant, I said I didn't, and that was that.

I don't remember much about jury duty episodes 2 and 3 in Multnomah County. Except how boring it was in the jury room, day after day. And how old the magazines were. Oh yeah, I now remember that I showed up for the first day of jury duty episode 3 totally exhausted. I was working on some project and had pulled two all-nighters. I dragged myself into the jury room with no sleep for nearly three days. Fun.

Jury duty episode 5, a few years ago, was the best. It was in Federal court. A former Coast Guard armourer was on trial for illegal possession of a machine gun, silencers and ammunition. . We got to handle all sorts of evidence- .50 caliber machine guns, rifles with home-made silencers, ammo belts, guns, guns and more guns.

The prosecution showed us several pictures taken at the time of their "raid" on the defendant's farm. The guy's house was filled with literally tens of thousands of rounds of ammo, not to mention the weaponry I've already mentioned. Those pictures were convincing.

It was a good thing for the prosecution that those pictures were taken. The FBI and ATF agents that testified at the trial were pompous, arrogant jerks who acted as if they were too important to have to fly all the way out from the east coast to testify. They stretched the truth regarding the evidence and the defendant's statements when it was not necessary to do so (they had the defendant cold!). They made a very poor impression on most of the jury.

The other great thing about the Federal courthouse was the jury box. There were monitors in front of every other juror so we could get close-up real time pictures of the documents and photographs that were used as evidence. And get this! Each juror had a CUP holder built right into the jury box in front of them!

We voted unanimously to convict the guy. The evidence was too overwhelming. But here was the other great part about service on the Federal Court. Right after the trial was over, the judge came into the jury room and asked us if we had any questions about the trial, procedures, objections made by both sides, or anything else that came up. We had a great conversation with her.

Juries are funny, though. You'd be surprised at how many people ignore the facts of a case and just vote their personal opinion or prejudices. Overall, though, every jury I've served on has done a great job of sifting through evidence and testimony while at the same time showing their fellow jurors respect for differing opinions.

It's also surprising to see the diversity of attorney competence in the courtroom. It's obvious who is prepared and who isn't. I remember specifically one attorney who came into court in a wrinkled suit, papers flying this way and that. He wasn't prepared, didn't know what he was doing, and was given a lecture by the judge. I felt sorry for his client.

I remember another attorney who seemed as if he had memorized every deposition, the contents of every piece of documentation, and also somehow was able to read the minds of all the witnesses. I wish I remembered his name. He was a super lawyer.

But I'll always remember that first prosecutor in Clackamas County. Five feet of professional, businesslike, focused, and very pregnant courtroom scorched earth.

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