Monday, July 1, 2013

(empo-jooryst) The analogy mashup

While I have been known to write blog posts in advance of their publication, I don't think I've ever written one three months in advance. As I write this, it is March 14; I am scheduling this post to appear some time in July.

Allow me to explain.

As I write this (back in March), I am an alternate on a jury that is hearing a criminal trial. While the trial is in session, I am prohibited from talking about the specific case with anyone (including my dog). I am also prohibited from researching the case on my own. While many of these prohibitions will be lifted once the case ends, I am also unable to talk about the case in exchange for money - at least for a period of 90 days after the case ends. (I'm reluctant to research the particulars of this prohibition at this time, due to the other restraints that the judge has placed upon me.)

Since this blog includes advertisements, the regulation could be construed to prohibit blogging about the case during that 90 day period.

Therefore, if the case ends by the end of March, then this prohibition will be lifted by the end of June. Hence, the delayed nature of this post (and any other posts, with the exception of my March 27 post).

Jury selection began on a Thursday afternoon, then continued all day on Monday, and then continued some more on Tuesday morning and into Tuesday afternoon. For those who have never been involved in jury selection, it consists of a brief interview of each potential juror followed by the judge, followed by questioning from both the prosecution attorney(s) and defense attorney(s). The attorneys are trying to determine if a potential juror would be favorable or unfavorable to their side of the case. After the interviews and questioning, each set of attorneys may choose to remove a potential juror from the panel. This continues for some time (in my case, over three separate working days).

In my particular case, the attorneys used a couple of analogies to determine how the jurors would make decisions regarding guilt or innocence. Again, I am prohibited from researching these analogies online at this time, so I'll reconstruct them from memory.

One analogy discusses a driver who is approaching a yellow traffic light. As the driver approaches, he or she can either go through the light, or stop at the light. The driver only has a split second to do this. The question that the attorneys posed - is this a conscious decision by the driver, or is it a reflex? At this point (March 14) I cannot surmise why this particular analogy was presented, although I have a sneaking suspicion that I know why the question was asked.

The second analogy discusses a hypothetical case in which walking on the beach at night is a crime. In this particular instance, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt (since this is a criminal trial, not a civil trial) that all of the elements of the crime are in place, namely (a) that it was night, and (b) that the person was in fact walking on the beach. It is not sufficient, for example, to say that the person was walking on the beach without noting the time that the person was walking on the beach.

These analogies were used in questioning the potential jurors.

Dozens of potential jurors.

Over the course of three working days.

Eventually, by Tuesday afternoon, both the prosecution and the defense had agreed on a set of twelve jurors. But now they had to pick two alternate jurors, so that in case one of the twelve jurors had to drop out for some reason, the court could just plug an alternate juror into the original juror's place and continue with the trial or deliberations or whatever.

I had been waiting for three working days, and had not yet been called. Finally, I was called as a potential juror to fill the second of two alternate juror slots.

The judge asked me if I had any concerns about anything said by the attorneys or by the dozens of potential jurors who had been interviewed previously.

My response: "Well, I don't know what I'd do if I ran into a traffic light on the beach."

The entire court burst into laughter, since this relieved some tension.

I will need to remain silent for the rest of the trial - unless two jurors drop out and I end up in deliberations - so this will probably be the only utterance of mine that will be heard in court. I guess it was worth three days of waiting.

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