Reflections on Jury Duty

I know I have been pretty sporadic with my posting lately, but I have a good reason.  I was told last week that I was going to be in a jury pool for a trial that would take 5 weeks.  So the first three days this week were spent doing things at the office in case I did get on.  Jury duty is something that is very common in L.A. County, as they can only call you once every year.  They call something like 3,000,000 people a year, and only have a pool of a little over 6,000,000 people that actually qualify.  And it is not known how many of those speak fluent English.

Yesterday I had to report for the narrowing down of the jury, and was pleased to find about 50 people there.  I liked my chances of not being one of the twelve chosen.   So we went into the courtroom, met the judge and the legal teams, the plaintiff, and the defendant.  The judge read the case description for everyone, and it was a doozy!

The Case

This guy was fired from the MTA, and is suing for being improperly fired.  he claims that his supervisor conspired to get him fired because he had made a complaint that he had sexually harassed him.  From what I could tell, this seemed to have been a ragging and joking, but he had complained.  The supervisor supposedly got the guy fired over time card fraud, which the man claims is a lie.

So the plaintiff was suing for lost wages and future wages as well as the emotional distress that it brought to him.  He was suing the supervisor and the MTA.

The Process

The jury box was filled with 12 jurors who were questioned at length about their experience with the MTA, with time cards and overtime.  They were questioned about their view of sexual harassment and if it could happen between two men, as well as whether they saw that a supervisor could work to get someone fired with false accusations.  They were asked about whether they could give money for emotional distress and whether they thought that they could condemn a man based on the information.  They were also asked seemingly inane questions like favorite book, tv show, music, and if they had seen the movie “Sixth Sense”.  The defense even asked a USC grad if they could be indifferent, since the  plaintiff was also a USC grad.  (I don’t know how anyone was going to find that out, since it seemingly would have nothing to do with the case at hand)

So the rest of the jurors had to sit there and watch this for hours, and we couldn’t do anything other than sit and listen.  We couldn’t read, talk, eat, or drink.  It was interesting to see how the prosecution kept asking questions that basically were seeing if they would vote against the defense.  The judge kept telling the lawyer that he couldn’t ask certain types of questions, and then kept telling him not to explain the law to the jurors.  They got a little snippy and it helped the time go by quicker.

Observations

– People don’t read- before I left for jury duty, I saw a story linked by Tim Challies about how people don’t read anymore. The story says that 58% of U.S. adults do not read a book after high school.  That includes those who go to the college!   The US Censure Bureau says that 27% of people over 25 have a college degree.  So you would think that those graduating from college would most likely have to read a book, so part of the 42% are those college graduates.

I say this because one of the questions asked to the 12 was what was their favorite book.  Only three had an answer, one was “The Devil Wears Prada” another seemed to be a self-help/leadership book, and I can’t remember the other.  No one read books to really deepen themselves!  No one read to learn, other than an IT guy who read computer manuals (hardly counts).  This, combined with the next observations equals sadness.

– everyone’s hero is God.  They had to say who their hero was, and a few said their dad, a cousin, or a couple soldiers in Iraq, but the rest said “God” or “the Lord”.  That lead me to a couple of observations.

1. None of the people who said that their hero was “God” said that they read.  They all said, to a number, that they didn’t really read.  If God was your ‘hero’, wouldn’t you want to read books about him?  People don’t read about their hero?!

2. Can God be your hero?  I know what they were saying, but he doesn’t really seem to be ‘hero’ status.  I don’t know, but when I think of hero’s, I don’t think of people I worship, but admire.  You worship the Lord, you admire role models.

3. For those that did claim God as their hero, it is sad that they couldn’t point to Christians throughout the ages as their hero.  There is just so much inspiration there.  I happen to be reading through Piper’s fourth book in the “Swans are not Silent” series about Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen.  There are some worthy heroes.  Too bad i didn’t have a chance to answer that question.

– Real lawyers aren’t as good as the ones on TV.  Neither lawyer really spoke that well.  They both stumbled for words and had quite the difficulty forming clear, neat questions.  The prosecution had two minute questions to get a yes or no answer.  Then he had other questions that were so short and general that the judge yelled at him to narrow it down.

– People are very open minded.  Almost everyone on the initial jury assembled were very open minded and willing to hear out the evidence.  Even when there was a question about prostitution, one man said he didn’t really think it was wrong.  I don’t know if they were all bending over backwards to get on the jury, but they were very eager to convince people that they came in with no biases.

This leads to a question: are biases wrong?  I’m not so sure they are.  It is a very post-modern thing to say that you  have no biases or convictions.  You are a clean palette ready to be painted on.  If you came in to the room with any preconceived notion of what is right and what is wrong, then that is a bad thing?

– Everyone seems very willing to dole out a heck of a lot of money for ’emotional distress’.  I almost wanted to get into the box just so I could get asked this question. How do you decide what emotional damage deserves what amount of money?  At what point has money ever been shown to heal a deep emotional wound?

In fact, you could argue that money has often made the situation worse!  You see countless stories of people who have suddenly received a lot more money then they had and their worries and struggles only increased.

And how do you prove that someone is greatly abused emotionally?  I know enough about the court system to know that you can get a doctor to say almost anything that you want for the right price.  One doctor could say he was greatly damaged, while another could say it didn’t effect him too much, but is more of a personal issue.  There is no hard way of measuring this.

So not only can you not say that this emotional damage is worth this amount of money, but large sums of money hardly serve to make the person better emotionally in the long run.  Money does not heal the emotional scars.  I’d almost be willing to say that they can get money for use in counseling to deal with emotional problems.  Obviously the counseling they receive wouldn’t be ultimately helpful if its not based on the Word of God.  But at least it would go towards dealing with the emotional damages incurred.

Settlement

This morning I drove in to hear more questioning, and the judge announced that the case was settled.  I’m very happy with this decision as it allows me to go to a rehearsal party for Geoff and Charities wedding today.  But I’m somewhat regretful that I don’t get to follow how this is all played out.  It seemed like there had to be something to it, since it had gone to this point, and that seems to be confirmed since they did settle.  I guess we’ll never know, but now I can go back to life and concentrate on work!

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