Sep. 15th, 2010

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One of my all time favorite movies is 1957's 12 Angry Men (not to be confused with the horrible 1997 remake). Starring (among others) Henry Fonda, it's a taut telling of a jury's deliberations while onsidering the guilt or innocence of a young man accused of murdering his abusive father.  In classic dramatic style, Fonda, as the only juror voting innocent (at first), forces his fellow jurors to examine each bit of evidence.  The entire movie takes place in a single room.  It's an amazing example of a thrilling story that doesn't need CGI and gore to draw you fully in.

This movie always comes to mind whenever I'm called for jury duty as I am today.  I'm always impressed by the mix of folks that arrive in the Jury Lounge.  San Diego is a relatively diverse community with a broad spectrum of cultures and backgrounds.  Yet some of us will end up on a jury together.  Based on the introductory comments, the crowd today is small enough and the court load sufficiently heavy that we'll all be called for jury selection at least once.

I've served on two juries over the years, once on a criminal case, the other a civil trial.  Both were fascinating experiences.  That 12 people can come to agreement on anything staggers the imagination.  Yet in both of those cases, we did, except for one of the criminal charges.  I suppose this says that the jury trial system does work.

I've just been called for jury selection.  Wish me luck!
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And so my day in the San Diego court system has come to an end. More with a whimper than a scream.

I was called to jury selection in a group of 40 for a criminal trial. A woman was being taken to court by the City with four counts against her, all related to use of PCP. We were told that there was a huge potential of witnesses including many police officers.

The court had elected to draw names for the jury. I was selected a juror #4 and survived the judge's qualification questions. We broke for lunch and were told to return at 2PM. To my surprise, we were not allowed back in the courtroom at 2PM. As the minutes ticked by, curiosity mounted, at least in my mind. Around 3 we were finally escorted back to our seats. "Good news/bad news" the judge announced. Bad news was that there would not be a trial. The opposing sides had come to a deal at the eleventh hour. We never learned what that deal was. But the good news was that we were done for the day and for this round of jury service.

Frankly, I was disappointed. I wanted to serve on a jury. I enjoy the trial process. Funny how I came away feeling cheated.


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