This week I had the pleasure to be called for the 6th time and serve for the 5th time on a jury at the San Diego Courthouse. Usually when I tell my friends or co-workers that I have been called to jury service the reaction is not good. They act like they are going to the dentist to get teeth pulled or some other task one would totally like to avoid. They usually continue to tell me all the ways they use to get out of jury service. I for one like it when I get my summons and look forward to being part of the process.
Now I’m not going to agree that our legal process is the best it could be, but it’s a lot better than many others in the world. I would rather be judged by a jury of my peers then some judge that is having a bad day. I believe it’s every Americans duty to willing fulfill their service when called, just like voting. If you aren’t part of the process, then you have nothing to complain about.
The case I was on was my second criminal case. You might be wondering why I was juror 14 when there are only 12 jurors on a jury? Well I was alternate number two which means I do everything any other juror has to do during the case, but unless another juror can’t fulfill their service, I don’t get to decide if the defendant is guilty or not.
This case was a DUI case that happened about a year ago here in downtown San Diego. I’m always very interested in the jury selection process. This time it was different than the other times I was called. Usually the judge and attorneys ask their questions to only the 12 jurors in the jury box. This time they did this process to all 50 people in the jury pool. So this took awhile (almost an entire day including the orientation in the morning). Since I was the last person picked for the jury, I sit there trying to figure out who the attorneys will let go from the jury. Most of the time I’m pretty dead on, but sometimes they do surprise me.
During this question and answer process to the jury pool there were a few questions like if we had a DUI or have been personally been a victim or know someone close to us that have been a victim of a crime that was alcohol related. Now I know that DUI’s are on the rise, but to my surprise almost half of the people there raised their hand and had one or more stories (some really horrible like a death).
The prosecution put on a good case. There were only three witnesses who were the policeman who pulled over the defendant, the person that took his blood and a very cute CSI woman that tested his blood. After we were told that his BAC was .19 (over double the allowed limit in California) it was pretty much over for me. The CSI did such a great job at not only proving that fact but also proving that the machine she used was calibrated correctly. The policeman told us that the defendant failed (some because he did not follow directions) every field sobriety test.
Unfortunately I found out that one does not need to possess a very high IQ to be a Phlebotomist (someone who draws blood). Not much school needed (think of that the next time you are getting sticked). But this one was exceptional! About two months after the blood draw of the defendant she was fired from the company she was working for (that contracts with the San Diego police department) and banned from working for the San Diego police department for life! When she was asked when she was fired, she asked the judge to plead the 5th amendment! I had to do everything I could to not burst out laughing. So if you happen to be getting your blood drawn at Kaiser hospital and a large woman with a very bad home blonde hair dye job is about to stick your arm, I would run away!
The defense put on a pretty poor case. The attorney seemed to be distracted and didn’t seem to be prepared. This was very different from the prosecuting attorney who was prepared and had all of his questions typed out for every witness. The defense attorney spent way too much time on where the blood was drawn for the BAC test. Both expert witnesses who spoke on this subject said it did not matter… it’s the same blood. He also spent too much time on how the field sobriety tests were given, trying to discredit them. Dang, the guy failed all six! Plus he was pulled over because he almost hit a car, a median and straddled the middle of two left turn lanes. Isn’t that enough to pull someone over?
The defense also put on the stand the wife and son of the defendant who were in the car with him and also at dinner with him before he got pulled over. Both of them could not seem to remember much of anything of the evening. So either they were just playing dumb (so why put them on the stand) or they were as drunk or more then he was. Both them and the defendant tried to convince us that during a two and a half hour birthday dinner celebration for his son, they only ordered two bottles of wine. The defendant said he only drank two glasses of wine. Sure, I will believe that, but what else did he have? If this was true, why didn’t the defense produce the dinner receipt from the restaurant?
It only took the jury less then two hours to return a verdict of guilty of both charges (driving under the influence and having a BAC over .08). I found out from one of the other jurors that this was the second time this case went to court. The first time resulted in a hung jury because there was a crazy attorney in the jury that refused to make a decision. In criminal cases, every juror has to agree on the verdict.
I kept thinking why did he bring this to court let alone twice? If it’s his first time just take the punishment and be done with it since his BAC was .19. I can see fighting it if he was .08 but not at the level he was at. So it got me thinking this was not his first. If it was possibly his third time he could be looking at 120 days in jail.
I found out he was being sentenced the next day, so I called back and found out the he got what he would have gotten if he pleaded guilty in the first place! This pissed me off that he wasted so much of our tax dollars to take him to court twice! Now I know he doesn’t care on his end because he is rich, but when San Diego is in such a financial crises, this seems pretty stupid.
Getting To Jury Duty
If you are called to jury duty I really recommend taking the bus, Coaster or trolley to get downtown. Parking is $16 or less depending how far you want to walk. Starting the second day you can trade your mileage payment of $.15 per mile in for a pass for one of mass transit methods. I choose the Coaster and it was great. Only took 30 minutes from where I live, was on time and the downtown station is only three blocks from the courthouse.
Experience Jury Duty
So the next time you get a summons to do jury duty I hope that you will take part with the enthusiasm and conviction that I do. Because if you are ever in the position to be judged by your peers (not saying you will be part of a criminal case, but how about if you take a doctor to court for medial malpractice etc.), would you rather have twelve people like me judging you or twelve people that hate being there judging you?