Interstellar Adventures

July 11, 2006

The Verdict Is In

Filed under: Rants & Opinions — by InterstellarLass @ 9:55 pm

I’m out of court, fingers and toes all accounted for. The case wrapped up today, at the very end of the day, and our verdict is rendered, so now I can share the details with you.

The case I was selected for was a DWI. After waiting almost half the morning on the prosecution and the defense arguing legal technicalities, the 20-person jury pool came in for the voir dire and the case type was displayed on a projection screen. I immediately thought that I would, for sure, get struck from the jury pool.

Right off, two guys were dismissed for the jury. One for his mother-in-law having surgery that day (I call BS) and the other for a family funeral today. Then the prosecutor spoke first, explaining the burden of proof that the state would have to meet, and to determine if we felt we could be fair jurors. After several questions, she then asked us all if we ourselves, family members or others we knew had any experience with DWI. Starting with Juror 1, who had herself been convicted of DWI, and then me. My Ex had two DWI’s while we were married. Several others in the pool had also either had spouses convicted or arrested, or some other manner of experience with DWI. One woman was especially upset, as her husband had been convicted the previous year, and she felt he hadn’t been given fair treatment.

Then the defense attorney got up. True to stereotype, he was a good ‘ol boy, named Tex, a disabled Vietnam vet, and lawyer for 32 years. He explained more things, asked more questions, and again, I thought I would be struck from the pool, probably by the prosecution, because I’ve been through the battery of field sobriety tests. I’ll have to tell you that story tomorrow.

After over an hour of questioning, we were released while the prosecutors and defense made their selections. The judge had said, barring either side striking us from the pool, the first six jurors seated in the pool were the jury that would be selected for trial. I was juror 5. I had a chance.

We waited another 15-20 minutes before we were called back in. My name was the third called. I was on the panel. Then, as soon as the six of us were sat, we were dismissed for lunch.

After lunch, we listened to the arresting officer’s testimony, followed by an hour-long video of the traffic stop, field tests, arrest, drive to the station, and the intoxilizer room. Part of the audio in the tape had been muted so I knew some of the evidence had been blanked out. At the end of the day, I was pretty sure that I was going to go for a not-guilty verdict, based on the testimony that had been presented. But, I had pieced together based on other parts of the tape that she had probably taken a prescription anxiety drug in addition to drinking. I had also pieced together that it was the lead prosecutor’s first trial.

Today, we got an “expert witness” along with a learned treatise. The medical examiner came in to read from a book about the effects of Xanax on the body. Then we got to watch the evidence video again, with all the audio intact. I came to find out later that unless the State was able to present an expert witness to explain the effects, the Xanax evidence would have been inadmissable. The defense also presented an expert witness to counter some of the State’s Expert’s opinions, along with poking holes in the arresting officer’s administration of the field sobriety tests.

After another break for lunch, the State cross-examined the defense witness, then the charge was drawn up (uh-pre-planning people, would have saved some time), we were sent to discuss a person’s fate.

The evidence: The officer pulled her over for speeding, failing to indicate a lane change, and having a broken license plate light. He then smelled alcohol on her breath and administered the field sobriety tests. He determined that she failed two of the three. She then refused the breathalyzer and was immediately arrested. She was observed in the intoxilyzer room, while the officer completed paperwork and questioned her further.

The defendant had worked a 12+ hour shift at a restaurant opening. At 7 pm she had taken a prescribed Xanax, .5 ml, the lowest dose. At 10 pm she had 1 glass of champagne. At 1:40 am she was pulled over, and shortly thereafter arrested. On the video, we couldn’t determine the eye test results as the camera was in the police car. She passed the one-leg stand test with flying colors. The walk-and-turn test was borderline. In the intoxilyzer room she was stable, steady, answered all questions, never wavered, and was never confused.

At the end of it all, I felt sure that the drug and alcohol was all out of her system, that she smelled of alcohol after having tended bar all night, and that even if she had a drink right before she left work, her actions on the video were those of a normal person with no intoxicating effects.

My vote was not guilty still. One guy on the jury thought she was guilty at first, but after discussion, he too came to the same conclusion. We were all in agreement.

My first time through was definitely not as exciting as I would have imagined. The lawyers were very cut-and-dry, but the defense attorney did get a little excited at the end. For her first time, the lead prosecutor did alright, but she definitely needs to work on her delivery of her opening and closing statements. Much of what she said didn’t make sense. Also, both sides mis-stated facts throughout the case. I was disappointed that they weren’t a litte more spot-on with their information. I liked serving jury duty, and I feel like I’ve contributed to my fellow citizens. I will gladly serve again if selected. I hope I did right based on the evidence that I saw and how I interpreted, but I feel fairly certain, as five others came to the same conclusion. It was a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, and we would get sent back to the jury room for legal wrangling away from our ears. I think it was a fair trial. Just got with a good book if you ever get picked.


  1. Way way back in the day, when I was a cocktail waitress, I worked all day (10 to 6) at the Chinese restaurant. Then I went to work that night at the bar (from 9 to 2). I wasn’t any more tired than normal. I pulled out of the parking lot at 3:10 a.m. (because it was a complete shit hole to clean that night) and as soon as I pulled onto the road, I saw a police officer pull out behind me. Then I turned right and so did she. She flipped on her lights and I pulled over.

    I was pissed because I knew she only pulled me over because she saw me pulling out of a bar. She asked for my license, registration and insurance. I said “why are you pulling me over?” and she said, “have you had anything to drink tonight?” I laughed and said “Um, no. I just got off work. I have to work again at 10 a.m. so I’d appreciate it if we could hurry this along.” She said “where do you work?” and I just stared. I said “probably at that bar you just watched me pull out of. Ya know this one right here on my name tag” (and I pulled my shirt forward so she could get a good eye full).

    She chuckled and told me to have a nice night but I was down right irritated. She was just doing her job but I was tired and cranky and didn’t make a lot of money that night. God help me if I’d have had a beer before I left like we usually did. My ex-psycho-fiancée was behind me and he was shit faced. She should have pulled his ass over. Gah!

    All in all, I’m glad you had a good experience. And I’m still jealous.

    Comment by Keb — July 12, 2006 @ 12:32 am |Reply

  2. Would love to do jury duty, good on ya.

    Comment by The Wisdom of Wislon — July 12, 2006 @ 3:02 am |Reply

  3. Seems pretty cut and dry. I’m glad you found her not guilty. Seems silly to even had arrested her in the first place.

    Those sobriety tests are crazy. I have a hard time passing them while I’m sober.

    Comment by R. Robyn — July 12, 2006 @ 3:43 am |Reply

  4. I’m glad you found her not guilty too. I always wonder if that jury system works, but that’s probably because I’ve only witnessed it on TV. Everything seems warped. But, I think I would like to be on jury.

    Comment by Jolynn — July 12, 2006 @ 9:44 am |Reply

  5. What an interesting experience. I was on the Grand Jury once.

    Sounds like you all made the right decision.

    Comment by Nancy — July 12, 2006 @ 10:18 am |Reply

  6. Damn, I wanna be on one too!!! lol

    Comment by KaraMia — July 12, 2006 @ 1:45 pm |Reply

  7. Ugh, this really isn’t the same thing, but you just reminded me that I have to fight a bogus ticket tomorrow morning! WIsh me luck 🙂

    Comment by Twist of Kate — July 12, 2006 @ 4:06 pm |Reply

  8. Luckily your trial went quick. My mom was on jury duty once and it lasted for weeks.

    I got called for jury duty for the Scott Peterson case but I had already moved from CA – so I was off the hook.

    Comment by MommaK — July 12, 2006 @ 6:21 pm |Reply

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