Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jury Duty

I've never served on a jury and I don't want to.

This afternoon I saw a rerun of a true crime show that focused on a cop accused of murdering his mistress. The police department fiercely fought what appeared to be the evidence at first but finally gave in and arrested him. He was found guilty and sentenced to eighty years in prison. There were those who felt he should have been given the death penalty.

His mistress was found in a burning house. She'd been stabbed multiple times. The DA contended that in panic the cop first contrived the scene to look like a burglary and then decided to set it on fire. A good deal of the evidence rested on the local fire marshal's assessment of the time the fire had been set and how long it had been burning. The cop argued that he arrived at the scene when the house was on fire. A neighbor said he saw the cop rush in to save her but was too late.

The cop foolishly took a lie detector test without consulting a lawyer. He failed. I'm with Ted Kennedy on this one. Lie detectors are a joke, deadly ones in some cases. The cop also did something else foolish. When the DA got him on the stand the cop got sarcastic and belittled the DA and the oter cops he now saw as his enemies. Not exactly a good way to impress the jury. He was sentenced and sent off to prison.

A young woman who'd known the cop most of his life so believed in his innocence that she left her teaching job and went to law school just so she could work on his case and prove his innocence. This wasn't a romance. She was happily married. She just didn't believe her friend had done what the DA had accused him of doing.

Over nine years the woman has become a lawyer and gotten two highly regarded fire experts to help her dispute the tesimony of the fire marshal. The cop is interviewed throughout the hour and he struck me as beleivable.

This is why I wouldn't want to be on a jury. If I been impaneled on the first jury I'd have voted for conviction. But if I'd been able to hear the two fire experts I probably would have voted him innocent.

I'm not smart enough to make judgements on a man or woman's life. I'd want to hear a videotaped confession as well as a videotaped scene of the murder being committed before I made up my mind.

Unless the defendant was OJ of course. That one I could've voted guilty on without undue doubts.


Anonymous said...

Well, saddest part of the first Simpson trial was that the LAPD did indeed manage to fuck up enough to introduce doubt, even if it might not've been sufficiently reasonable doubt. I've managed to avoid jury duty myself, through the expedient of telling the truth--that I won't consider the death penalty (not least because of the conundra you dealt with here), that my job (such as it is) is one that others' work depends on and that our company is run in such a way that it would be at least a mild hardship if I was out, and that one of my uncles was a murdered policeman, and my maternal grandfather also a murder victim. Though you would've thought that I was frivolously bringing any of this up in at least one of the jury inconvienent for the various members of the selection committee (the often immature and usually pompous judges, the surprisingly-often clumsily ill-spoken counsel) that any of this was true.

With that, a happy new year to you and yours, Ed...

Cap'n Bob said...

I'm odd in that I like to get jury duty. I've been on five so far. I appreciate your concern about the potential unfairness of a jury's decision, but what many people don't realize is that the judge and lawyers decide on what you will hear and what you can consider as a juror. More importantly, each judge give you instructions detailing what to consider and what kind of decision that can lead to. There's almost a fill-in-the-blanks sense to it, and the freedom to play a scene from TWELVE ANGRY MEN is virtually nonexistent. Indeed, if a jury's deliberations had gone the wya they did in that movie, a mistrial would have been called.