I follow the issues around being a juror.
I started with the most likely question people would ask – “How do I get OUT of jury duty ?” as a young man with a budding career. And as the years passed, that morphed a bit into admitting that it’s probably not a big financial/career killer after all, and how might the process go. I’ve been worried by what I’ve found out.
There’s the case of the lady who didn’t want to fill out her jury questionnaire completely, and was found in contempt of court, back in 1995. If you’ve never seen a jury questionaire you may think, what’s the big deal ? Take a look at the Conrad Murray trial questionaire, which just might make you nervous.
You sign this document, under pressure to just get through the whole thing, under penalty of perjury. If you’re involved in a high profile case, you can bet people will scrutinize every morsel of information during, and particularly after, the trial is over. You don’t want to be found to have made inconsistent statements, or heaven forbid, forget something.
In the age of Facebook, blogs, and tons of unintended information creation, it’s easy to see how searching for your name might reveal a lot about you, and give attorneys a way to attack you.
Dennis DeMartin is a 70-year old guy from Florida who claims to have forgotten that his ex-wife was involved in a DUI. His case is unfolding now, and he’s going to trial over that question. It irks me that this guy is dragged into court to move the justice process forward, he makes some mistakes, and gets prosecuted.
Now, if for whatever reason DeMartin is crazy and literally lied and ignored the legal process, he should get some kind of penalty. That may be going on here.
What seems more likely is he’s an elderly fella with not a perfect memory. I ain’t elderly, but I can sympathize with the imperfect memory problem. Imagine filling out some strange questionnaire and ultimately saying something that wasn’t true. And you find yourself stuck in court, facing time in jail over that. This is a good reason to avoid jury duty, for sure.
A lot of information is claimed to be kept secret, such as jury questionaires. Not in exact words, but in essence, all the forms say nobody is going to read this stuff. The problem is, that’s not true. You’re not just dealing with the judge who takes care of the case you sit on the jury for, you’re also dealing with the whole justice system – prosecutors, defense attorneys, the press, and probably people I haven’t thought of. All of whom will review every morsel of info you write down, and look for a way to nail you to support whatever it is they’re doing.
In a lot of ways, I sure hope I never serve on a jury. Just putting keyboard to blog here helps ensure I never will, I bet. Even with all of that, I hate the thought of normal people being caught up in the justice system which is a nasty vicious machine, and needing someone like me who will be fair and not immediately vote them guilty – or just let them go for no reason. I think that dichotomy is the reason I keep reading about this stuff.
And watching the mail, with dread.