Monday, February 10, 2014

The Verdict Is In


























      As I mentioned in my last post, I was on jury duty. Note the past tense- was.  We finished up the trial last Friday. I've never been on jury duty before, so it was a learning experience for me. Now that it's all done I can speak about it, although there isn't all that much to say. There were four defendants and multiple charges regarding transporting big game across boundaries from the United States to Canada. We found all the defendants not guilty with the exception of one charge of falsifying documents. Believe me, it could have been much worse. The men got off, not because of any exceptional work by their lawyers, but because the government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes had been committed. I'm quite certain that the prosecutor was disappointed. There was a lot of time and money that went into this case to say nothing of the effort. I'm not sure how many of my fellow jurors were from out of town, at least four I believe. For me alone, the hotel bill was $1641.00. Then there was the per diem and of course my PAY of $40.00 a day. There were also three Wings of Alaska flights between Juneau and Hoonah and one ferry ride and another $31.50 for bus tokens.  Never let it be said that justice is cheap. All things considered, I would have to say that I was glad for the opportunity to sit on the jury. That's not to say that I would ever want to do it again. You might like to stick your finger in a light socket just for the experience, but unless you're a little strange, you probably wouldn't want to do it more than once. One of the things that made the experience interesting, was my fellow jurors. We were quite a diverse group. There were several young ladies in the group,one of which works with my daughter Liz, three or four more elderly ladies, two of whom were widows, two commercial fishermen, both from Hoonah, an inspector of sprinkler systems, and about three men who would probably be in their thirties. The foreman was one of those, an employee at Greens Creek mine.For one fellow, this was the fourth time he was chosen for jury duty. Talk about unlucky.There were two alternates who sat in during the whole trial until it was time to deliberate. The alternates were chosen by picking their names from a box, like a lottery. I was really  hoping to be an alternate, but I figured there was about as much chance of that happening as there was of me losing forty pounds overnight. Once we were in the jury room, it was interesting to see the diverse personalities. We had twelve different lifestyles with twelve different life experiences, prejudices and all the rest that makes up a person. Some folks were liberal and some conservative. Some people had very distinct feelings about what justice would look like. For myself, I entered the jury room with pretty solid opinions, but found myself swaying like a front porch swing, first one way and then another, depending on what argument was being given at the time, and argue we did. It's an emotional experience, being locked in a room with eleven other people, all of whom would rather be doing something else.Throw in the fact that there were two bathrooms in the small jury room, about two feet from the edge of the table where our fellow jurors were sitting. I was having heart palpitations fearing that the overwhelming urge to pass gas or worse yet, take a crap would fall upon me like the plague. I was on a steady diet of Shredded Wheat, Triscuits, fruit and yogurt hoping to somehow control the call of nature during the deliberations. How could you possibly face your fellow jurors and argue for or against an ideal knowing full well that you sounded like a fat man playing a tuba in a tunnel, then opening the door and having the stench waft out into the room where the windows don't open. You would never be taken seriously. No doubt you would be given the nickname Stinky and would be ostracised by the group. I'm happy to report that I was able to avoid any such unpleasant experience, but had the deliberations gone on much longer, the odds were in favor of me totally humiliating myself. Anyway, we all persevered, we hashed out our ideas and in the end, I think I can say that justice was served. If any of my fellow jurors should happen to read this, I would like to say, it was an honor to serve with you. I'm proud of you and glad that I got a chance to know you. After it was all over I think we all parted friends. It was a sunny Friday afternoon. The weekend was upon us, our duty was done and the rest of our lives were stretching before us. What more could you ask for?

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