Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jury Duty Drama

Jury duty has been filled with drama--just like on Law and Order!

Every day there is crying, yelling, confronting, accusing, and lots of objecting, sustaining and over-ruling. I can't wait to give you all the specific details--in fact, it's killing me to be discreet.

But I can tell you this much: It's a wrongful death civil lawsuit. When the MIL of the deceased looked at a photo of her daughter and her dead SIL, she wept. She wept again when she told how she heard about the accident.

The lawyers object all over each other. "Will you let me finish my question?!" the attorney for the plaintiff hollered recently, when opposing counsel objected prematurely. They are constantly objecting, and I am learning all the acceptable reasons for objections: lack of foundation, asked and answered, argumentative, no basis for impeachment, beyond the scope, calls for speculation, hearsay, form the question, and leading. I think we've heard them all.

"Let him finish his question," the judge said mildly. He finished the question; opposing counsel reiterated his objection, and the judge immediately and hilariously sustained.

"Your honor, can you instruct the jury to disregard the highly inflammatory line of questioning from the plaintiff's counsel?" said defense.

"Disregard the last sentence," instructed the judge. "I'm not saying it's inflammatory; just disregard it."

The attorneys demanded sidebar after sidebar, to shut down a particular line of questioning; to decide whether a witness is being fairly represented; to debate a point of evidence. Sometimes we can hear them yelling in the judge's chambers while we sit in awkward silence in the jury box, with the witness still on the stand and the plaintiff listening from his side of the courtroom.

We have even heard testimony from beyond the grave. A man who had been directly involved in the accidental death had given a sworn deposition a few months before his own death. The plaintiff's attorney had hired an actor to read the witness' answers from his deposition, while the attorneys read their own questions. It was a little strange and creepy.

The last witness for the plaintiff was the plaintiff herself, the widow of the allegedly wrongfully dead guy. At times during her testimony, there were tears rolling down the face of the juror sitting in front of me, and I don't think she was alone. Sympathy won't win their case--but it sure doesn't hurt.

When the widow was asked to read from page 86 of deposition testimony, we waited and waited while she looked for the page in question. Finally, confused, she handed the document to the judge. "It's not there," she told him.

The judge took the document and paged through to the end, and held the document up in the air toward the attorney. "This document ends at page 63!" he said. There were audible snorts from the jurors--who are theoretically supposed to suppress their emotions and reactions.

The first witness for the defense was an expert who essentially testified that [large company] could not have done anything different in order to prevent the accident. The plaintiff's attorney, IMHO, ripped his testimony apart. If the guy had a tail, it would have been between his legs as he stepped down from the stand.

Of course, it ain't over 'til it's over. After four full days of plaintiff-side witnesses, we've only heard one witness for the defense. The other jurors and I are guarding our objectivity fiercely until the last syllable of testimony has been uttered and the last molecule of evidence has been presented.

Because we are the Best. Jury. Ever.


DWM1034 said...

Best. Jury. Ever............

I am so glad you are doing this....I would be dying up brain would be screaming...."just cut to the f***ing chase!!"

can't wait to hear the gory real details....

check out new Orson pics at:

enjoy your 'duty'..........

E. Peevie said...

I checked out the Orson pics. You and your bride look like two very happy grandparents. Lucky you, lucky Orson. Cute Orson, too.

Yes, there's lots of ostensibly mindless repetition and going over of what-seems-like minor details--but then, things start to click, and you think to yourself, Oh, hey, THAT's why they drummed that point across!

And the high emotional level keeps things interesting, too.