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Discussion: Jury duty

in: kissy; kissy > 2019-03-12

Mar 13, 2019 12:26 PM # 
A couple of summers ago, I spent the better part of two weeks in court or on call. When it was time for a verdict, we had to bring an overnight bag, and I just missed spending my birthday in a hotel with strangers.

You’re the only other person I know who found it as interesting and important as I did. The court staff, lawyers and judge treated us with kindness and respect. It was challenging and rewarding to discuss the case with people who were all different from the people I know. The jury was 100% female, mostly white (defendant was a young black man) and mostly over 40 - but no orienteers! We acquitted him but it wasn’t straightforward. I came away feeling proud of our justice system, and I’d be happy to do it again.
Mar 13, 2019 1:13 PM # 
I enjoyed my jury experience; I agree, it's great to be part of our citizen justice system! I actually was foreman of our jury (I think they went alphabetical ;-). Our case wasn't a long one, just an afternoon. It was a really interesting experience.
Mar 13, 2019 1:30 PM # 
My one experience serving on a jury was a very long time ago, but I found it rewarding and wouldn't hesitate to serve again. The two times I've been called since, I did not get empaneled.
Mar 13, 2019 1:55 PM # 
Great to hear! I was so disappointed by the number of people who made excuses to get out of it.
Mar 13, 2019 9:10 PM # 
I've been on a jury once. I wasn't dreading the experience - it felt like an important civic duty. It was a criminal case related to a drunk driving crash. I remember being amazed that people had so little skepticism of police. Seeing how people make decisions was also a bit scary.

I testified in one criminal case and that was much more interesting. A young woman was shot and killed. I found the handgun apparently used to shoot her while I was out doing some O' training. The entire situation was sad and depressing.
Mar 14, 2019 12:04 AM # 
Spike - I remember when you found that gun.

Well, my case is going into the third day, but I think that will be the last one. We just have closing statements and then jury instructions and then we deliberate. Hopefully, we start out pretty close so there isn't too much to debate. Fingers crossed.
Mar 18, 2019 1:02 PM # 
Well, what happened??
Mar 19, 2019 12:37 AM # 
I know...I realized I should say what happened! :-) The trial took 3 days -- 2 for presenting the case and 1 for deliberation.

It was a case where a girl had sent her boyfriend some naked photos when they were together in high school, and then 9.5 years later, he started posting them on Reddit and various porn sites. At one point, he posted her Snapchat handle on a site titled "Snapchat hoes." She started getting all of these requests on thousands in one day, and she figured out what was going on. She called the police, who couldn't do anything, and then she called a lawyer.

The guy had already admitted to posting the pictures, so our job was to determine if (1) she should get compensatory and/or punitive damages, and (2) if so, how much of each. Part of #1 was deciding if his actions met all 5 of the given criteria, which I can't remember all of right now, but the two sticky ones were if he had consent and if it was done with malice.

The consent one took us a little time because we debated about if, by sending those pictures out, what was her control over them. We got through that one and moved to malice. That was tougher. He said he started posting them one night when he was working the overnight shift, analyzing drone footage, and he was bored. He said his marriage wasn't going well and he was looking for a diversion. But, he continued to post them over 3 months and then gave that identifying information. We debated that one for a few hours.

Finally, we all agreed it was done with malice, so we had to decide on the money. We did all agree that she shouldn't get too much for compensatory damages. It had come out during the trial that she had sent nude photos to other boyfriends, too, so maybe she needed to learn about consequences. She also tried to say that her job was impacted and what if her future children found out, but the defense brought in the head of HR from the NRA (where she worked) to say her job was fine and they also had a digital forensic expert testify that it would be very difficult for a regular person to find the photos.

The thing that took the longest to decide was the punitive damages. The maximum was $350K, and that's where I started. But a younger guy on the jury started at $30K. A few others were at $100K, so I agreed to drop down to that. It took the longest to convince the young guy to move up from $30K...he was convinced that anymore was too much. We talked about how we couldn't assume the defendant's financial situation since we had no idea what that was. It had to be amount that would make him, and any normal person, not want to take the chance to post photos again.

In the end, we landed on $5K compensatory and $80K punitive. I watched both sides as the clerk announced it, and neither one reacted, so I guess that was good. I have to say that it was a great experience. Everyone on the jury was smart and thoughtful and had conviction about what they were doing. And the judge was so great! He was kind and patient and considerate and explained everything to us. I can't wait to do it again, but now I have to wait 3 years.
Mar 19, 2019 11:17 AM # 
RadioLab this week is about juries, including a discussion with one legal expert who thinks they should be abolished. Interesting (and at times disturbing) episode.
Mar 19, 2019 12:05 PM # 
Interesting case! It must have been difficult for jurors to keep their personal moral judgement out of the equation.
Mar 20, 2019 12:16 AM # 
Thanks for the story.
Way more interesting case than mine was (insurance & accident & compensation, as far as I recall).
Mar 20, 2019 2:30 AM # 
Ours was drug dealing. Backpack full of drugs found in the trunk of a car driven by the defendant's friend while the defendant was in the passenger seat. Each guy said the drugs belonged to the other guy. Neither was a shining citizen but there was reasonable doubt about the defendant's guilt.
Mar 20, 2019 2:32 AM # 
Mine was a drunk driver. Guilty guilty guilty.

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