Saturday, August 8, 2009

Voir Dire

You know the expression--I think perhaps Dave Barry coined it--"too stupid to get out of jury duty"? Well, I think a more accurate description is "too honest to get out of jury duty."

As you know, I have the honor of serving on a jury for a Very Big Trial for the next two or three weeks. I'm totally going to lobby to be the jury foreman, because I love 12 Angry Men (both versions, although the original is the best) and my middle name is Process--and of course, process is what reaching a verdict is all about.

During voir dire, it was very clear to me when someone was lying or scamming to get out of service.

One guy was rambling and not answering direct questions about whether or not he could award the plaintiff a reasonable amount of money if the evidence showed that the plaintiff, a large company, was at fault. He was blathering about the scales of justice and how the whole thing is a crapshoot, and how people sue big companies to make easy money, and I thought to myself, "Scales of justice, my ass. More like scales of bullshit." He knew if he seemed biased against large monetary awards, he'd be excused; and he was.

Another woman, a suburban grandmother, was telling the judge that she cares for her granddaughter while her daughter works, so she really can't be available for jury duty. "Your daughter will have to make other arrangements, ma'am," the judge told her.

"Well, your honor," she tried again, "I'm just really uncomfortable taking the train downtown and getting around in the city. I live in the suburbs, and I never travel to the city, and I'm just really uncomfortable with it." Aww, poor thing.

"Ma'am," the judge said patiently, "I'm guessing many people in the jury pool feel the same way. I understand that it's uncomfortable for you, and inconvenient, but everyone has to do it."

Then they asked her questions about her ability to find in favor of the large corporation, sending the widow home with nothing. She saw her opening, and she took it. "I just don't think I could send a widow home with nothing," she said.

"Even if the evidence shows that [big corporation] had no fault?" the judge pursued.

"No, your honor," she said, shaking her head. "It's hard not to feel sympathy for the widow." The judge rolled his eyes.

"Your honor!" the plaintiff's attorney squawked.

"Dismissed," said the judge, and the bailiff walked Lying Grandma Liar out of the courtroom.

Why is it so easy for some people to lie? How do they justify lying to get out of doing something that they don't want to do? This really, really bugs me.

In the jury room we were talking about the voir dire process, and how we could tell when folks were lying, and one woman said, "I thought I could lie to get out of it, but when it was my turn, I just couldn't do it."

So our jury consists of a fireman, a dressmaker, a bar manager, a guy who just finished college, two office managers, a special education teacher, a trader, a freelance writer (me!), and five others, including two alternates. We have ten women and four men; ten white and four black.

We are going to be very tight by the time this is over. I can see a reunion in our future.


Anonymous said...

JRO: I wish I were a fly on the wall as you work toward your job as the foreman. You are hilarious. I wish I had made it so far as the voir dire! 3 times called and always excused. Boo hoo. I don't know why people don't want to be jurors... they are lazy or scared (unlike you) Enjoy yourself and your civic duty ... don't spend that $17/day all in one place.

E. Peevie said...

Oh, you know I will, baby. Enjoy it, that is.

And don't forget about the 20 cents--the jury stipend is $17.20.

I'm glad to know there are other people out there who would not be bummed by surviving voir dire and making it to a jury.

Anonymous said...

You're gonna be tight, huh? Too funny. Have you served on a jury before? I've served twice, one criminal, one civil. Both times I found the jurors didn't want nothing to do with one another and just lickity split during lunch and when the day was over. I enjoy jury duty. I used to get called almost every year and only got picked twice. I would totally volunteer.

E. Peevie said...

El, I served once before. Loved it then, too.

I don't really know if we'll be tight, but it could happen.