After fifty-seven years of dreading the experience, I sat on an official jury for the first time yesterday. Thankfully, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d imagined it would be. In fact, parts of it were down right interesting! Would I like to go back again tomorrow? No, not really, but at least I won’t have to dread the experience anymore! By the way, I ended up being juror #2, seated right on the front row! Nothing like being up close and personal!
Our jury was made up of eight men and four women. I was the oldest woman. The rest of the women were young enough to have been my daughters! The men were of varying ages, some older than me, some younger. We appeared to be a diverse group.
The case was a dispute over “an estate”, which means money was involved. The deceased had passed away in 2008! Four years is a long time to be arguing over money!
The plaintiff was a niece and former care-taker of the deceased. She had also been named as a co-executor of the man’s will, along with two other people, until she withdrew as co-executor, and decided to file a claim against the estate for herself, claiming that she hadn’t been properly compensated for her services to her uncle.
The plaintiff’s lawyer made his opening remarks and his client spent the first part of the morning testifying. I had taken a small note pad with me, but the bailiff passed out pads and pencils to everyone. I took three pages of notes, as did some other jurors! Juror #1 didn’t even open his notebook! We took a morning break at 10:30, and I discovered that the court furnishes refreshments for jurors! What a pleasant surprise!
I had a feeling we were already headed for trouble, when during our break, a couple of the other female jurors stated out loud, “this lady needs to be “compensated”…We’d only heard the plaintiff’s testimony–no cross-examination or testimony from the defendants, and they’d already made up their minds!
Court resumed, and the cross-examination began. Let me stop and say, “all lawyers are not created equal”! I would have hated to have been represented by the plaintiff’s attorney, but I would have loved to have been represented by the defendants’ attorney! The difference was like night and day. It wasn’t long before the defending attorney had the lady sitting on the “hot seat”. About the time the testimony was getting really intense, we broke for lunch!
After an hour and fifteen minute break for lunch, we returned. One female juror came back late from lunch. When another juror jokingly made a comment to her about it, she replied, “They don’t pay me enough to sit around here extra time!” (All twelve of us were sitting for the same lousy pay.) She also later asked “What time do we get to leave here?” (like we were on a time clock or something) You should’ve seen her face when she found out that we had to stay until we finished or they decided to let us go! (By the way, this same female juror was the first one who spoke up during the break, saying “the lady definitely needs to be compensated”. Another comment was, ” This lady changed her uncle’s dirty diapers, I’ll bet none of those men (the defendants) out there would do that!) I also discovered this female juror is a high school teacher! (Heaven help us! )
After lunch, we, the jurors, sat in the jury room for about 45 minutes. We could hear talking in the courtroom, but we weren’t summoned back in. We sat there talking among ourselves, about the case, so far, and about various other things. Finally, after nearly an hour, the judge came in and told us the case had been dismissed, and he explained why.
Apparently, the judge decided, after hearing the morning testimony, that the lady didn’t have a valid case, according to the law. The cross-examination testimony showed there had been no written agreement between the lady and her uncle, and also that she had already received various forms of compensation throughout the months when she was caring for her uncle (some money and several items of value, such as a car), although she says she wasn’t compensated for the amount she and her uncle agreed on.
In my opinion, if the lady didn’t get properly compensated, it was her own fault. She was on the man’s checking account, and wrote checks for everything else, so why didn’t she pay herself? She paid herself some of the time (there were cancelled checks), why not all of the time? I don’t believe she cared for her uncle for twenty months without getting compensaated in return. I think the lady simply got greedy in the end.
With the judges’ decision made, we were free to go home at 2 o’clock. I was relieved because at the end of the day, I was afraid some of us jurors would have been there arguing until the cows came home! Several of us had very different opinions. I was also a bit sad, because I really would have liked to have heard the defendants’ case! I think their lawyer may have put on a good defense/counter suit, judging from the preview he gave us before lunch. ( The defendants dropped their counter suit, when the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.)
The most valuable thing I learned from having “Jury Duty” is this–never go to trial unless there is no other way out! There are some “strange-minded” people in this world, and you never know what their opinions of the case are going to turn out to be! Other things I learned are–if you are selected for Jury Panel One, and you are seated in the first two rows of the courtroom, there is a strong possibility you will get chosen to serve! If you do get chosen, it’s not a bad way to spend the day, they treat you well, and give you frequent breaks–along with refreshments! However, the pay is lousy…. It cost me six dollars for gas to get to court, and eight dollars for lunch. I came home with sixteen dollars left out of my paycheck…