Experience it Once
Listen to the audio version – Podcast.
Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to post anything, but I was summoned to Jury Duty and was actually chosen for a case for the past four days. It’s funny, I have been called 22 times to Jury duty over the years, and have been chosen twice as far as jury service. Now, I have come close to being chosen for other cases on many occasions. I am not sure how this whole jury selection process works, but do know it is supposed to be random, but I was summoned last year and went all the way to the courtroom, but was not selected. Then two years ago I was summoned, went all the way to the courtroom, went in, got questioned by the lawyers, and dismissed. As I said, I have been summoned for jury duty 22 times, and several people I talked to this past week, said this was the first or second time they have been summoned, which makes me believe this process is not random – just saying. Anyhow, I wanted to share my experience on Jury Duty and more specifically about the whole deliberation process. I was not too happy about the deliberation process this time around and I think I would have handled what happened towards the end a little differently if I would have caught myself doing what I did which I will explain.
So, this past Monday, September 27, 2021, I was summoned for Jury Duty and was one of the first 33 or 35 people that were called for the first case, and I am saying there were at least 300 people that day – I happen to be in the first group. We got to the courtroom, they called the first 12 jurors by name and had them sit on the twelve seats. Then they just asked the rest to sit in the chairs that were in the audience, but there is a specific order because from those seats they chose the next juror if any of the original 12 get dismissed during the questioning and the alternates. I happen to sit at seat 17 which was 5 additional jurors before me. In this courtroom they gave us a piece of paper with 5 questions to read out loud; occupation, spouses occupation, have you ever served on a case, were you ever in a lawsuit or participated in a lawsuit, and is there anything that you think might not allow you to be impartial in this case. Anyhow, you read the questions out loud, then answer them. Now, what follows next is the lawyers begin questioning the 12 original jurors. It is a long drawn-out process, and the questions usually, at least these last two times in my experience, are related to the type of case. Oh by the way the judge does explain at the beginning what the case is about and what the Jurors will need to do, briefly so you get an idea.
After the questioning, the judge asks the lawyers to begin choosing the jurors. The plaintiff seemed to be ok with the original 12 and accepted. The defendant’s lawyers dismissed the 9th juror and 1st juror. So, two people to my left got up and took their seats. Then the plaintiff dismissed the 1st juror, and one person to my left took the seat, but before the new juror was able to sit, the defense laughed and said sorry I don’t want seat one to be bad luck, but they wish to dismiss juror 1 again. The judge laughed and ask that they allow the juror to sit. Well, only to have the first juror stand up and leave. So, one person to my left got up and took a seat. I was thinking that was close, but it seemed that I will at least have to be an alternate. Well, just before the final acceptance the Defense dismissed juror 8, and of course, they got up and walked out. I was called to take seat 8 and I was like what just happen. Anyhow, after the 12 jurors are selected, they move on to select the 2 alternates, which they go through the same process and eliminated people as they question them, and the 2 alternates were finalized.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I think if everyone has the chance to participate as a juror, it is a great experience, nothing like the movies or TV shows, trust me. I participated in a case, I was actually elected the head foreman, or presiding juror in that case and it was interesting. I think because it was a criminal case and as jurors, we had to go through all the evidence made that experience fun. Actually, that case lasted for 26 days, it was a long-drawn deliberation, and the way we deliberated was quite different from this one. In my first case, it had to be a guilty or not guilty verdict and it had to be unanimous, meaning all 12 jurors had to agree. So, what happened was that one of the jurors was not in agreement with the verdict so that took us 28 days. Unfortunately, the juror had to give in unhappily, but still, in agreement – I know it sounds bad, but it was an accurate verdict. Now the deliberation for my first experience was all the jurors reviewing the evidence, talking about the points of each piece of evidence, and giving our opinion, it was a lot of back and forth, but it was good and it made sense. In this last case, I went through, the deliberation was not at all what I would have liked to happen, but maybe that was the only way to come to a decision, who knows, but I ended up compromising on something I did not agree on and I should have stood my ground.
The decision we had to make was how much to award the plaintiff for past medical bills, future medical bills, previous and future damages, suffering, humiliation, loss of use, etc. The plaintiff’s lawyers gave a number they believed to be acceptable which was a total of $2,750,000.00 and the defendant’s lawyers said it should be $15,000.00. So, we had to come up with 4 numbers ok, and of course, it was only about the evidence, and of course, sympathy could NOT play a factor, and we were told not to think anything about any insurance playing a factor. We were simply deciding how much the plaintiff is to receive after listening to the evidence. Now, I know it is near if not impossible to put a price on someone’s way of life, pain and suffering, loss of use, etc. what you might think is worth maybe 1000 dollars another person might think it is worth only 500 dollars, right. I can’t give you the full details of what we did as we deliberated, otherwise this post would be enormous. Keep in mind that we had all already decided that the plaintiff was not entitled to the full $2,750,00.00, the evidence was clear and if you had seen it, you would have agreed.
The thing is that we ended up using Mean and Average of numbers to come up with these amounts – not sure if that was the best approach, but we did it. We had to come up with an amount for (1) past medical bills, (2) future medical bills, (3) past pain and suffering, and (4) future pain and suffering – so 4 amounts. We attacked the first by each one of us giving a dollar amount we believe was fair. In the first decision, we happen to take the average which somehow came out to be $85,000, which not everyone agreed on. Let me clear something up. In this case, only 9 of the 12 jurors had to agree on an amount for each item. From here we voted and we went up or down $5,000 and voted again, we eventually got to 61,000 dollars. I had voted higher, almost to cover all the previous medical bills. The original amount on previous bills was $124,350.00, so as you can see the plaintiff got about 50%. We moved on to the next item which was future medical bills, this time we used the Median for the amount, and voted either up or down. The plaintiff was asking for $1,450,000.00, and we ended up with $33,500.00 for future medical bills. We moved on to the third item which was previous pain and suffering, loss of use, etc. The plaintiff was asking I believe for $750,000.00. We once again provided a number we each believed was fair and did the mean again, and we came up with $6,000 – quite a difference. Now the last number we had to come up with was for future pain and suffering, loss of use, etc. I think at this point some of the jurors were getting tired or irritated because this is the time, I ended up giving in when I know I shouldn’t have after the fact. You know what I mean when there is a decision to be made between two or more people and you have something in mind, but others are pushing and pushing, and somehow you end up having to give in, but later you tell yourself, why did I do that, and you play out the whole situation in your mind and wished you would have spoken up – well that happened to me. I believe the plaintiff was looking for somewhere in the 1,200,000.00 range. If you based the decision on the evidence only, trust me you would have agreed that this was a bit much. Anyhow, we did the same process, but this time we had 8 jurors that were extremely low on the amount and 4 jurors that had a higher amount in mind. To be clear 8 were in the 0 to $10,000 range and 4 of us were in the $25,000 to $29,000 range. We couldn’t really do a median or average, so we tried to vote on 5,000 increments, either up and down, but we could not agree. Later someone that was saying $5,000 was willing to go to $20,000, and for some reason the other 7 jurors jumped in. The 4 jurors, me being one of them, were sticking to $25,000 since we did come down from $29,000. So, we were at a standstill, and we only needed one more of the 4 jurors to agree with the majority. Each of the four jurors, including myself, gave their reasoning of why it should be $25,0000 – we had to calculate using 29 years which is the estimated lifespan of the plaintiff. Then that juror got upset, clearly upset, and for some reason looked right at me and said that we 4 jurors needed to “Compromise” since they went from $5,000 to $20,000 and why couldn’t we go from $25,000 to $20,000. One of the 4 jurors tried to speak his mind but was shot down, which I immediately step in and clarified what he was trying to say. It got a little heated, but that same Juror kept pushing, so eventually, I gave in and voted on the $20,000. I looked at the other three jurors and apologized, but they all looked at me and smiled and understood.
So, 9 out of 12 jurors agreed on $20,000 and we were done. This is where I think I understood the aggressiveness of that juror. As soon as we came to a decision, we contacted the Bailiff to let them know we had come to a decision. This is where the juror stood up and was wandering around the room, she rang the bell, knocked hard on the door, and spoke to the Bailiff. It seems the juror was claustrophobic; the room was small and did not have any windows. I realize then that she had asked the question at the very beginning if that was the room they would be in, and why there weren’t any windows – she did not look happy. I did not realize that until I played back the entire day’s event that she was not happy being in that room and that she wanted to get this over with quickly. She was even one that suggested we postponed our lunch and finish where we were, so it was clear she wanted out. I realized on the trip back home that I should not have giving in when she mentioned we had to compromise, but this was not about anyone compromising, but instead, it was about the case we were given, the evidence, the decision, and what was fair. I should have stood my ground and I do regret it now, but let me tell you that will not happen again, whether in a case as a juror or in life. I wish I could give more details, but I could see this is a bit long. At the end of the day, the experience was ok, it was different from the last one I did, but I would highly recommend that if you get the opportunity to get on a case or trial, you should try it, it is eye-opening. I know it is not your choice to be chosen as a juror, but I think what I really trying to say is that have a positive attitude about getting chosen, some people that I talked to there never were a juror and they never wanted to be on one – I think you would enjoy the experience, at least once.
I wanted to once again say thank you for stopping by, and I leave you with this thought, “I know that we all have to compromise each day, whether it is cereal or eggs, sugar or no sugar, but when you feel strongly about something don’t simply compromise to end a fight, argument, get out for juror duty, or a project or assignment, stick to your belief and make yourself heard – believe in yourself”.