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How long will the jury be out?

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( – promoted by lowkell)

They (including all of us) also serve who sit and wait. That would include the intrepid reporters from all media who have covered this thing like hawks, and are now sitting.  This likely will take a while.  I think the first Blago jury spent close to two weeks before being hung.  Close to that amount of time before they convicted him.  

Others have other views and opinions, including my husband of 42 years, who once was sequestered in Alexandria on a drug case, because persons operating, apparently, on behalf of the “defendant” had called up another juror and made threats.  Sadly, they didn’t sequester the family left behind:  I got a couple of creepy “heavy-breather” and “hang up” calls.

My point is that jurors, even in simple cases, make sacrifices.  In long, complicated cases, the sacrifices are much greater, both for them, and their families. The McDonnell case is long, complex, with considerable conflicting testimony spread out over five weeks, much of it on points of law that no person who isn’t an attorney, a crook or grifting politician in the Old Dominion has any knowledge of.

This could take a while.  They had to listen, get the instructions, retire to the jury room, get to know one another, at least a little, so they could pick a foreperson, whose main jobs are to send out messages, referee, call for votes, and I believe, sign off on the verdicts.

None of this is easy.  

Years ago, I was a juror in Fairfax County.  I was “called” for two cases.  The first was a drug case, for which the prosecutor seemed to have the defendant cold.  That would have ben until said prosecutor tried to introduce evidence that had not been shared with the defendant’s attorney, who jumped up promptly and asked the judge to dismiss the case “for cause” which he did. Whoever was guilty in this case was, in my opinion, dangerous, and didn’t belong on the streets.

Lesson learned:  there are rules that “civilians” don’t know, but most judges try to follow them.

The second was a civil case which had been percolating thru the insurance companies for at least three years, with ever increasing settlement offers, all rejected by the complainant, who wanted more money.  (I found out all this later, thank you Yahoo!) Now I don’t blame the complainant for wanting more money, it is after all, the American way. From his point of view, he was “damaged” and couldn’t work. He appeared to be in his late 60’s.  As I recall, he claimed “whiplash”, and showed up in a neck brace.  This was at least three years after the incident, which didn’t even make a dent in his truck.  

What I did blame him for was gumming up the courts with his piss-ant case. People’s lives get ruined every day, sometimes by accident.  That stinks, but that is also the way things operate.

Somewhere in the middle, I made the mistake of “partaking” of the Fairfax County Courthouse cafeteria’s excuse for tuna salad.  That evening I became violently ill.  When I contacted the court to try to beg off, the judge told me that if there was any way I could finish the case, I should, otherwise he’d have to declare a mistrial and start over.

He arranged for me to be seated on the “exit row” of the jury box, with a big, plastic lined trash can, just in case.  My hero, and I do mean it as a statement of admiration, not snark.

So we the jury listened to a little more testimony, mostly on the part of the complainant.  The defendant (in this case the insurance company) admitted “fault” such as it was.  Their insured (driving a rental car) was driving under the limit somewhere near Tysons Corner (is it possible to drive the limit in the Tyson’s area?) in a drizzle, hit a greasy patch of street, and slid into the back of the defendant’s truck.

The way I saw it, from the perspective of a layperson, it was a regrettable accident. However, and this is a take-home message, just because a normal person sees something one way or another doesn’t mean the law does.

The case went to the jury.  The other jurors, possibly because by this time they knew in real life I was an economist with a calculator in her purse, made me the foreperson.  We took a straw vote, and every single one of us found in favor of the complainant.  The law was clear:  if you get rear-ended, (at least in those days) it is the “fault” of the person doing the rear-ending.  

We did ask the judge a couple of questions, which he refused to answer.  “Make up your own minds”  We asked about a piece of evidence which we all thought should have been there (medical examination of the complainant) but we must have missed.  We didn’t miss it.  He didn’t introduce it.

So we came to the damages part of the case.  The award was every dime of the complainant’s medical costs (he didn’t have any medical insurance as I recall) that hadn’t already been covered by the insurance company (which had already paid every dime).  We also added on, at twice the then minimum wage, time for missed work.  

And that was all.

Lesson learned:  juries work hard, are incredibly honest, and most of the time are fair.  Attorneys take note:  never, ever waste a jury’s time with bull.  It won’t pay.