Three Lawyers and a Judge
I just spent four days on jury duty. Now don’t misunderstand me. I don’t enjoy jury duty. I have issues with the hurry-up-and-wait situations. I read James Patterson’s 10TH ANNIVERSARY on the first day. That gives you an idea how much idle time we had. I also hate being away from the office. It just takes so long to catch up. That said we should be thankful for our jury system. Not many countries allow trial by jury. Most defendants or respondents will never know what it’s like to be judged by their peers instead of magistrates. As inconvenient as jury duty is, it is the best system around. It also provides some spectacular inspiration for a novel.
Take this case as an example. We were not hearing a criminal case. Ours was a civil matter, and the rules were different. The jury was comprised of 6 jurors and an alternate, all novices except me. In fact, my experience as a foreperson is what landed me on the panel. Instead of a reasonable doubt, we judged on the preponderance of the evidence. We did not determine guilt or innocence, but answered yes or no to the questions on the charge. A yes response was in favor of the State of Texas; a no vote favored the respondent.
While there were some characters on the jury, the real players were the judge and the three attorneys. The attorney for the state was knowledgeable but arrogant. He felt we did not need medical reports and tons of pictures; we should believe the witnesses because they were professionals from law enforcement, vets, and accomplished dog trainers. Never mind the fact the humane society left the property with all the pictures and the sheriff hadn’t seen any of them until closer to trial. We just had to believe the state’s case.
In contrast, the respondents’ attorneys offered expert testimony, but they had photos released on the internet, medical records, invoices, and pictures of all those lovely registered dogs. They were more low keyed, soft spoken and respectful. They appealed to our common sense and logic over emotions. It was only when the State’s attorney tried to introduce a statement from the respondent that I saw the fire from the lead counsel for the respondents. He and his attractive co-counsel demanded, “May we approach, Your Honor?” They covered the distance between the counsels’ tables and the bench quickly. The word mistrial was whispered before the judge asked the jurors to take a break.
Finally, the judge acted as moderator between the opposing sides. He smiled a lot, spoke softly, and continually thanked the jurors. He didn’t take sides, but effectively ruled on the objections, never favoring one side or the other. His judgments were based on the law. I respected him.
Now, let’s put the characters together in a totally different situation. In place of a quiet civil action we are in the middle of a high profile multi-count criminal trial. The defendant is the son of a mob boss. The state’s attorneys maintain their soft-spoken demeanor. The defense attorney hammers away at the state’s DNA expert. And then…
Now you finish it.