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May I approach the bench?

January 22, 2013 - Michael Palmer
"When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty." This is one of my favorite Norm Crosby Malapropisms Quotes.

In my Sunday column about my stint as a juror I briefly touched on the experience of being a peer for a fellow American who finds themselves down on their luck.

Just to make it more ethically challenging for my conscience to "lie" my way out of jury duty, the first words we hear after our names being called are: "Do you solemnly swear to truthfully answer the questions you are asked about your qualifications to be a juror?"

Technically that is too simplified as a person must now be allowed to make an affirmation instead of taking an oath, by substituting the word "affirm" for the word "swear" and substituting the phrase "under the pains and penalties of perjury" for the phrase "so help you God."

So, I did what any person tied up by morals and a belief in doing one's civic duty would do, I told the truth.

Which, as I said, I thought was sufficient grounds to have me removed. Lawyers are "spin doctors" and as such they do their best to twist the evidence into the best case scenario for their clients. One of the state's attorneys stated most appropriately that it was a war of words.

Each side is trying to tip the scales of justice to their side and thereby establish a PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE.

PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE The greater weight of the evidence, not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact but by evidence that has the most convincing force; superior evidentiary weight that, though not sufficient to free the mind wholly from all reasonable doubt, is still sufficient to incline a fair and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other. This is the burden of proof in most civil trials, in which the jury is instructed to find for the party that, on the whole, has the stronger evidence, however slight the edge may be.

As jurors you are not to be swayed by sympathy.

One of the toughest is when the judge instructs members of the jury, "You are instructed to disregard...", Okay but how do I un-hear it or un-see it? I am sure that in a trial dealing with a crime of some magnitude that it would be more nerve racking to be a juror.

I watched a few seasons of Perry Mason episodes with my parents and must admit to watching a few Night Court episodes. I do not like the Judge Brown, Judge Judy reality shows.

I know most of the court decisions in the legal arena are even more BORING than my trial.

Every day they write more laws and the system gets more complex. From the opening statements to the final arguments it was obvious that I will NEVER consider representing myself in court, no matter how indigent I may be at the time.

The worst public defender they could scrape up would at least have a basic knowledge of what was going on, because forgive me your honor, I haven;t the foggiest.

Despite all of the hurdles, in the case of BWC verses John Doe, I am proud to say that each member of our little 6 person jury was dedicated to take the time and effort to reach an intelligent and well thought out decision.

We were all in agreement on the three sections of the case but one, which we had a single juror disagree with the verdict. Since we needed just 6 of 8 for a decision, this one was a virtual slam dunk.

No matter that as an attorney I could bill a client fro one-third of a settlement for writing a few letters. Collecting 33.3 percent for never filing a single document or entering a courtroom based on the supposition that without the weight of the letter head a decision in favor of aforementioned plaintiff was made. Justified by the terminology that the law firm I represent had taken the financial risk by sending the letter I could grab a quick third from a person who otherwise would be at the mercy of the court.

But that is another story.


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