Sunday, November 20, 2011

Law and Order

I can now say I have almost done it all. I checked off another box on my life experiences by serving on a jury two weeks ago. Like most other people, I cursed when I opened my summons notice. I never before received summons probably because I don’t own a car and had only just registered to vote in the last alderman election. I talked with Jewed Law, since he was a trial lawyer, about various strategies that would make me unfit for selection. Two words…white power! Just kidding, but it was my best chance of lying since I couldn’t think of any communicable diseases. The icing was that the courthouse was located in Skokie, a near northwest suburb that took me two trains, a bus, and 90minutes to get there.
I was pulled into the first group of prospective jurors. The room was full of all sorts of characters and there was no way I was going to out crazy them. The case was a civil trial over a car accident involving minor personal injury. Naturally the judge asked us about a dozen questions such as “have you ever been in a car accident that resulting in personal injury…has a family member or spouse been in a car accident that resulted in personal injury…have you ever been part of a lawsuit…etc.”. I was forced to say no to each question since I did swear to tell the truth, so I knew I was fucked in the crazy department. One woman did find a way to muddle the truth by saying her brother was the witness to a terrible car accident where one car flipped over the other and tragically killed someone. The judge asked her if she could be fair and impartial, and she said no. Her reason was because her brother described the accident in such detail that it was like she saw the dead body. The judge shook his head and stated in belief “but you realize you were NOT EVEN THERE”. Dismissed.
Another guy really took crazy to a whole new level. He answered normally to every question except the last one “do you feel you can be fair and impartial in this trial”. He replied “absolutely not” to which the judge asked for further explanation. Well then he went on this rant about how he has no faith in the justice system because his brother is now in federal jail for crack cocaine charges and that there are two cocaine laws and they prosecuted him under the harder one, blah blah blah. Well the judge rolled his eyes and said first this was a circuit court of Cook County (nothing to do with federal) and that this was not a criminal trial but a civil trail…so we wouldn’t be deciding jail time, just MONEY! Dismissed.
Well of course I got picked because I was normal and didn’t work for any insurance company or witness the death of any passenger via my brother’s description. The trail was only supposed to last a day, but we were delayed three hours during a bomb scare. They whisked away the judge and lawyers and left us in the courtroom with no reading material. We spent the first hour in uncomfortable silence because we were told not to talk during the trial. Finally we wised up and asked if we could talk if it wasn’t about the trail.
The trial in short was an old woman suing a college kid who ran a red light and hit her rear passenger side. He admitted it was his fault and his insurance had already covered her car and medical bills. The trial was to determine how much her pain and suffering was worth. It obviously was not a riveting trial and I even caught the judge reading a book during opening statements. The woman was unanimously unliked. Seriously, once we started deliberation, several people shouted out their distain for the woman. Her terrible lawyer didn’t help her. The college kid’s lawyer was a real lawyer and for the most part looked bored during the entire trial. The woman’s lawyer was probably her uncle as he had so many missteps. The real lawyer would often object (in a very pained condescending tone) during the uncle lawyer’s presentation. He also said he wanted to show the jury some pictures of the accident. The judge asked him “you mean you want to submit them as evidence” and uncle lawyer seemed confused. He held the pictures behind his back to face the jury while waiting for the defense lawyer to decide to allow them.
The jury caught so many inconsistencies and contradictions in the woman’s story. For example, she was in constant pain from her injured left foot/ankle and couldn’t stand for long periods of time. Well she was 65 and you could say that about most 65 year olds. Also the medical report at the ER and from her doctor’s visit three weeks later both said absolutely nothing was wrong with the foot/ankle. Plus it didn’t help her case when she walked to and from the stand without a limp and wearing high heeled shoes (not the brightest idea, maybe uncle lawyer could have recommended flats). At least four other girls noticed and called out the heels in deliberation.
Although I didn’t like this woman at all, I knew it wasn’t right to withhold payment to just expenses only because she was a bitch. Most people were in the same mindset of paying her medical bills that hadn’t already been paid and replacement costs for possessions she lost in the crash (the most surprising item was her retainer that was in the passenger seat and flew out the window…who puts their retainer on the car seat…eww). Well one girl was adamantly against giving the woman a dime. All of us looked at her in confusion because she must be kidding. I mean it wasn’t her fault her car was hit so the least we could cover the medical bills. Nope, she was so against this woman. Wow. The girl had her defining moment later in hour two (we deliberated for 3 hours just because we had to sift through all sorts of confusing medical bills). We were discussing lost wages, and someone recommended we throw her a bone and pay for one week since she was old and our parents would do the same. Well the girls burst out and said “bone…bone! What bone are we talking about? The doctor said she didn’t break any bones…only bruises.” Really…really! Oh honey, you so stupid.
Well we reached a decision, and instead of the $50,000 she asked for, we awarded here $3,500 which covered the bills, replacement costs, and one week’s salary (a whopping $600). Obviously there were some disappointed faces. The judge spoke to us after the trial to debrief us. All of us wondered if we did the right thing. He said we were fair (I’m sure he says that to all of them) and by deliberating for 3 hours we obviously thought it thru. He informed us the woman’s lawyer may have some questions for us but we weren’t obligated to talk to him. The case history was likely an immediate offer from the insurance company which she rejected thinking she could get more. Then the case went before the judge only, and his decision was rejected as well (again looking for more money). By the time the trail came to us, she had nothing but dollar signs. The amount we awarded basically broke even on the bills, but she would need to cover court costs and lawyer fees. In short she should have just taken the initial offer.


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