One of the first times I had been assigned to jury duty, the case actually came to fruition and that was that. Great! Days, if not weeks, of losing my salary to schlep in and out of courtrooms (which have never had a good image for me) only to listen to bloated barristers (sorry Mark) pontificate and debate over things that would best be left to the Gods or Karma to decide.
This case was the rare exception only in that it exceeded my dreary expectations of pedestrianism by being the prototypical example of stupidity. The guy was drunk and fell asleep at a stop light while attempting to make a left turn on Veterans Blvd. It was 2:00 AM (duh) and time that all good CHP’s were returning to their base (two blocks from where this Rhodes Scholar was exhibiting his mastery mental flatulence) for a long winters nap.
After actually praying for deliverance, running out of reading material, and several cups of coffee the jury was summoned to the sacred halls of justice and made bare for scrutiny. The urge was strong to begin chanting “kill the bastard” or “my mom was killed by a drunk driver while she was still pregnant with me” but for some reason the sense of civic duty prevailed. Try as I might it just was not in my fate to be able to will myself out of this one. The selection process completed, my arse was still firmly planted on the bench. Yippee. Nothing like some sterile room high atop the abysmal plainness that constitutes the county seat of San Mateo. We had a rather historical dome over the courthouse at the time, but due to supposed earthquake damage in 1989 and the burgeoning renaissance of downtown Redwood City the structure that actually had a modicum of character was abandoned in favor of a 6 story effigy of a housing project in the former soviet bloc. This was “home” for the next few days and I planned to take full advantage of it.
As the evidence was brought forth it was absolutely obvious what this sap had done. It was as daft a move as was ever encountered by those that frequently spent their Sunday evenings watching He-Haw. Buck Owens could not have orchestrated this in his wildest Clearasil Spattered fantasy. The guy was so messed up he fell asleep in front of the Highway Patrol office. If we had internet then he would have been highlighted in Facebook, YouTube, Hotmail, Blogs, google.com, Markets, Websites, Products, WordPress, LinkedIn, YouTube videos, and general Twitter mockeries.
Unfortunately, the prosecution was a bumbling lump of a man that immediately raised ire in my very core. Having little or no compassion for the accused, there was far less empathy for the accusers. It is a course of action that will forever live in infamy in my mind, but such as it was at that time, it was made up quickly. This son-of-a-bitch needed to be taught a lesson.
Every point that they made against this obviously guilty man, was a challenge. It was up to me to bend every one and break that little maggot. In the jury room there were people far more qualified than I, and certainly more objective, but for some reason my name was raised for acceptance as foreman and that offer was quickly accepted.
From that point on the little dreary room became my stage. Every juror that had an argument against mine (there were only eight of them) was allowed ample time to express themselves fully so that notes could be taken and discrepancies of logic noted. Every mistake in either the statement of, or act of, obtaining evidence and testimony was likewise duly noted. By the time we broke for lunch there was no-one in the room that didn’t just want to go home and escape my badgering.
Looking back, in shame, it is obvious to me that I was the cause of letting an obviously guilty man get away with a very dangerous act simply because it pissed me off that my week was infringed upon by my civic duty. It was accomplished by adherence to the strict letter of the law, and some embarrassing technicalities. That is the precise reason that I quit Law School. The fact that any person of average intelligence can twist words and sheer WILL into the decision of the fate of a person, guilty or not, is to me abhorrent.
This feeling was confirmed years later when O.J. Simpson was acquitted. Thank you God for saving me from that profession. The next offering in this miniseries will be one man’s victory over this kind of arrogance.