I merely cringed when I received the summons for jury duty, since in the past I've usually been lucky enough to avoid reporting. On the one previous occasion that I had to report, it turned into a relaxing day of hanging out and reading, so I still wasn't all that worried. That sounded like a pleasant break after working what felt like a two week stretch without any time off.
But my lucky streak was apparently over, and after the group swearing in I found myself in the second group taken to the judge and I quickly heard my name and number being called for a jury. The temptation to try and get out of service is great although the judge was quick to explain the civic responsibility that being a juror entailed. Although a burden and an inconvenience, the opportunity to serve and fulfill my obligation was something I quickly accepted, and once I passed that hurdle I actually began looking forward to it.
Not everyone accepted it quite as easily, and a few people tried thinly transparent attempts to claim a lack of objectivity. Although they were dismissed quickly, they had to spend the rest of the day there and also come back for another day in the jury pool next week. It could have been worse, since those kind of shenanigans could result in a charge of contempt of court. Luckily nobody tried to recycle the excuses used by George Carlin ("I'll make a terrific juror because I can spot guilty people, snap, just like that."
) or the suggestions that David Letterman gave to get out of jury duty: ("Say you're looking forward to hearing judge sing — like on Cop Rock."
or "Ask if there will be opportunities to examine bloody undershirts."
and "Tell them you've already done jury duty on Matlock."
I immediately lowered my expectations, getting ready for it to be boring and tedious. Even though many aspects were as I had expected, much of it was dramatic and captivating. I was sympathetic to the plaintiff's plight, but unfortunately little compelling and credible evidence was presented on her behalf, although a great volume of material was reviewed. On the other hand, the defense presentation was simple, concise and seemed credible and convincing.
But putting the plaintiff on the stand to testify on her pain and suffering probably wasn't the greatest idea. Her lawyer was trying to show how the accident had caused the alleged permanent damage that she was seeking compensation for, and had ask her to describe her pain. He requested she rate her pain level on a continuum from 1 to 10 for various body parts, over various periods of time. To each question she consistently answered "9". A fellow juror was allowed to ask a follow-up question, which the judge said wasn't relevant but he would allow anyway. When ask to describe the pain of childbirth on the same scale, again the answer was "9". It was like the point in a football game where there is a sudden and dramatic momentum shift, really calling her credibility into question. The look of panic on her lawyer's face: PRICELESS!
Unfortunately, once the deliberations began I found myself on the outside looking in, since I was thrown into the alternate pool. It was a big letdown to have missed the final phase, although there apparently wasn't that much dissension or discussion. They called us back in 15 minutes to announce the verdict, which was in favor of the defendant. Too bad that in addition to placing the burden of proof on the plaintiff, they can't dump the cost of the trial on them as well when the cases are as frivolous as this one.