Jury Duty

Well, that’s over with. Interesting, and not that long.

I had jury duty for the second time in my life; the previous time was ~20 years ago, a civil case.

In WA it is “two days or one trial.” If you are not empanelled on a jury for whatever reason in the first two days, then your service is (usually*) done and you go back to life as usual. I was called in and questioned as part of a pool for a couple of cases. In one case, they didn’t get to me before being happy with their 13 choices. For another case (ten counts of identity theft and related frauds), apparently they didn’t like my response to the question “who deserves justice?” I said “If the state can’t prove its case, she deserved a heartfelt apology. If she’s guilty, she should be crucified. And I mean that literally, not figuratively.” Huh, go figure. (A couple of other people that didn’t make that jury said they thought it was a pretty spot-on answer.)

Anyway, I was empanelled for a straightforward assault case. Metro transit security gal handled a situation very poorly (guy smoking, told to put it out, then to pick up the flicked-away butt, he claims he was targeted because he was black), got slugged by a homeless guy who wasn’t doing a very good job of complying with her reasonable requests. It was caught on security camera, but no good audio of the thing escalating and getting out of hand. Both of them behaved so poorly that apparently the video has become a training video for the transit “security” folks on how to NOT handle a situation. The guy obviously has some mental issues as well as physical, and was charged with 2nd degree assault, with the lesser included charge of 4th degree assault. He claimed self defense because she was WAY to close, claimed she hit his cell phone away (video was a bad angle and we couldn’t be sure either way), and was yelling at him at a range where her saliva was getting on him (no proof of it, just his testimony). As soon as he knocked her down he backed off, sat down, and calmly waited for the cops to show up.

After about four hours of carefully parsing the details of the law and definitions of “substantial,” “reckless,” “intentional,” self-defense, and playing the video many times (and often pointing out all the things that would have made it a much easier case to decide) we decided we could all agree to 4th degree assault.

Basically that means “there are a bunch of specifics that a at least three or four people each have serious doubt about to prove all parts of 2nd degree (a different three or four for each part), but yeah he slugged her and he had WAY too many chances to walk away to allow a self-defense claim.”

So, sitting in the jury pool room for a two and a half days (* selection went into day three, longer than normal, because it started very late on the 2nd day and we needed a second group to draw from starting the next morning), a couple of days testimony wrapping up this morning, debate and decision handed down at just before 4pm. A total of 5 days on the courthouse. Guilty of 4th degree assault. Considering how many different ways both parties acted stupidly, I think but justice and the law were served fairly.

It was a pretty diverse group of jurors I sat with, who took it seriously; I was impressed at how well it went. I will likely never see any of them again, but it’s good to know good people are out there.

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