Jury Duty

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Jury Duty

Postby Haggis@wk » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:42 pm

I was on a jury this past Monday through Wednesday night, finally ending at 19:00.

The case was assault, a misdemeanor punishable by no more than 1 year in jail. The father, a legal Mexican immigrant, was alleged to have assaulted his 15-year-old daughter, using unreasonable force to discipline her. He maintained that the daughter has attacked her mother, grabbing her by the hair and pushing the mother down on the floor where they continued to struggle. When the father could not get the daughter to release her mother, he struck her, once, with a open hand on the daughter’s left side of her face.

She released her mother and her mother escorted the daughter to bed.

When the daughter returned to school her teacher noticed the marks and called the police. The daughter told police that her father had beaten her up.

This all began at 23:00 on a school night when the father noticed that his daughter was sitting in a car parked in front of the house with a strange man who turned out to be a 19 year old boy

The father told her to get out of the car and return to the house. When the daughter refused he forcibly removed her and forced her into the house when she began attacking her mother.

There were many extenuating circumstances, the family and their six children are highly thought of by the school and the local community. The daughter, after being diagnosed with epilepsy three years ago, had become sullen, withdrawn and refused to help at the house or at her father’s business, a landscaping service. She would skip school, sneak out of the house at night to meet with her boyfriends. Even her teacher, the one who reported the incident, had to admit under oath that the daughter was a liar (but the teacher really, really believed the story about being assaulted b her father)

We heard all this before we saw the photos of the injuries…..My first thought when I saw them was “Collin County just wasted (at that time) 16 hours of my life!”

The teacher testified that the daughter was beaten “black and blue.” While there was, indeed, some bruising but not the amount I was expecting based on the testimony.

After an hour of deliberation we determined the father was not guilty. Actually, the first vote was 5-1 not guilty and most of the hour spent convincing the hold out.

This case was emotionally draining to me. This is the second time I have served on a jury but the last time was a civil matter. I have spent hundreds of hours (unfortunately) in court rooms in my life but never have I felt so drained. When I mentioned this to the other jurors they said the same, they wanted to listen to everything so as to not miss anything important.

After we delivered our verdict we met with the judge and the lawyers to discuss the case and what we liked and didn’t like. The judge told us that he thought we’d done the right thing and even the prosecutor alluded to the same thing.

I went to bed and slept through until 10:00 the next morning (I normally get up at 07:00.

I really hated being chosen but once on the jury I wanted to be as impartial and attentive as I could be. I enjoyed the experience as I would a root canal; after it’s over I knew I did the right thing.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby Shapley » Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:43 pm

Sounds like one of those cases that should never have made it to trial. Long ago, a preliminary hearing would have resulted in the charges being dropped and the daughter being given a severe scolding by the judge. Alas! Times have changed.

Thank you for doing your civic duty. From the sounds of it, you did do the right thing.

Keep in mind, you can't really fault the teacher. They are 'mandated reporters' of domestic violence. If they see evidence of abuse or violence, they are required by law to report it, and face dismissal or even jail time if they fail to do so.
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby jamiebk » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:15 pm

Shapley wrote:Keep in mind, you can't really fault the teacher. They are 'mandated reporters' of domestic violence. If they see evidence of abuse or violence, they are required by law to report it, and face dismissal or even jail time if they fail to do so.


I agree Shap...but they need to use some common sense as well and not simply throw gas on the fire. "Beaten black and blue" doesn't seem to fit the accurate description here.
Jamie

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Re: Jury Duty

Postby Shapley » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:59 pm

jamiebk wrote:I agree Shap...but they need to use some common sense as well and not simply throw gas on the fire. "Beaten black and blue" doesn't seem to fit the accurate description here.


True, but it is subjective terminology - one persons definition of 'beaten black and blue' may be entirely different than that of another. 'Eye-witness testimony' relies on the memory of the witness, which we know to be faulty. Her recollection of the girls appearance may be entirely honest, in her own mind. I know from experience that my recollection of things has been at odds with photographic evidence later presented.
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby jamiebk » Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:01 pm

Well, for that matter...photographs don't always show what the eye can see.
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby Shapley » Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:30 pm

jamiebk wrote:Well, for that matter...photographs don't always show what the eye can see.


I am always reminded of the Colombine shootings. The non-stop news reports included interviews from policemen who had entered the scenes and reported seeing 'dozens of bodies' inside. Of course, when the smoke cleared the final number was only about a dozen, not 'dozens'. We've had similar reports from other natural and man-made disasters. 9/11/01 was typical - we were told there were probably 10,000 dead, then 8,000, maybe 5,000, before we arrived at the final figure of around 3,000. I'm not sure why this routinely occurs, but it implants such figures in people's minds. I believe most of suffer this type of 'crisis exaggeration'. We see things as worse than they are. When confronted with evidence to the contrary, we commonly hold to our beliefs: "Well, I know what I saw".

Sometimes, false memories creep in, as well. We transpose things we've seen on the news or in photos, and we place ourselves into the midst of them. I'm sure you've met people who could tell you, with absolute certainly, about things they've done that you know they could not possibly have. They'll even change the circumstances of real events to fit their recollection: Hurricane Katrina struck the East Coast or President Nixon was on the air telling lies about Vietnam in 1968.

In the end, it requires a serious effort by the jurist to weigh the testimony and decide what is and what is not factual, beyond a reasonable doubt. The juror may hear a dozen conflicting testimonies, and not one of them entirely factual, yet they may be factual in the mind of the witness.
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby Haggis@wk » Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:49 pm

Shapley wrote:Sounds like one of those cases that should never have made it to trial. Long ago, a preliminary hearing would have resulted in the charges being dropped and the daughter being given a severe scolding by the judge. Alas! Times have changed.


This case should have never gone to trial. The father could not accept any plea deal since it would have jeopardize his immigrant status and he believed he was innocent. As the trial began and I saw how little evidence the DA was presenting I thought there was a history that we wouldn't learn until after we found him guilty (earlier evidence of abuse, etc) But even that thought was quickly overruled when both the defense and DA's witnesses all confirmed that there was no previous evidence of abuse. The state should have walked away from this one. The offense happened in June 2009 and the state didn't even bring charges until Nov 2009.

As for the teacher, she did her duty properly. What I and my fellow jurors found offensive was her belief that she was the only arbiter of truth (she wasn't, we were) Several time the defense had to get the judge to instruct her the her "beliefs" and "opinions" were immaterial to her testimony, only to have her say "I wasn't there but I know what happeed!!" The defense attorney was able to highlight her crusading nature and we based our evaluation of her evidence accordingly.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby analog » Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:36 pm

The daughter, after being diagnosed with epilepsy three years ago, had become sullen, withdrawn and refused to help at the house or at her father’s business, a landscaping service. She would skip school, sneak out of the house at night to meet with her boyfriends. Even her teacher, the one who reported the incident, had to admit under oath that the daughter was a liar (but the teacher really, really believed the story about being assaulted b her father)


Raising teenage girls can be rocky. They know they have that power to call child services. It is often used by the kids to control the parents. When mine were teens they were amused by it - "so-and-so turned up HRS positive today....."

It's got to be tough for teachers and social workers to separate the wheat from chaff.

Sounds like you did the right thing and a wise old judge knew it. Pray that crusading teacher grows wiser too.

but never have I felt so drained.

dealing with potential child abuse is wrenching. it strikes right at our primordial instinct to protect and nurture.

good on ya, friend.
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby GreatCarouser » Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:48 pm

Sounds very much like the system worked and did exactly what the makers intended in the finest sense. It (and you jurors) protected the innocent.
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby jamiebk » Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:03 pm

GreatCarouser wrote:Sounds very much like the system worked and did exactly what the makers intended in the finest sense. It (and you jurors) protected the innocent.

True, but putting innocent people through such an ordeal is not good.
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Re: Jury Duty

Postby Haggis@wk » Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:12 am

I see I forgot to mention the one, truly amazing person in this trial; the translator. This woman put every pause and "uhmm" and unfinished sentence al the while assuming the tone and almost the facial expression of every witness. Even when the witness answered the question in English she would repeat the same phrase in English again. When the lawyers asked witnesses questions she took on their personae. Quite amazing talent.
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Alexis De Tocqueville 1835
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