Jury Journal: Round 3 (last Wednesday)
Mid-morning-ish, twenty-five of us got called up for jury selection on an aggravated battery case. (The defendant allegedly bludgeoned an acquaintance in the head with a bottle.) Points of interest:
- The judge had a face curiously reminiscent of a tunneling mammal, lending him the aspect of a character in a children's story populated with personified animals.
- The defendant had a face curiously reminiscent of the-actor-who-plays-Stringer-Bell; though he was shorter, older, and less chiseled.
- The D.A. preceded his questioning by giving us his back story (went to McMain,** N.O.C.C.A, played jazz trumpet, played in some brass bands, then got his law degree...) with the clear intention of currying favor with us, the potential jurors, and representing himself as a regular-Joe/man-of-the-people; at which point the crotchety elder defense attorney objected; at which point the judge, without bothering to turn around, responded with a weary "overruled"; at which point the crotchety elder defense attorney stated that we would like his exception to the overruling noted; at which point the judge said nothing and continued to stare at the opposite wall; at which point the crotchety elder defense attorney asked, had his exception been noted? at which point the judge wearily responded that every statement made in the courtroom is noted by the court reporter.
- The defense somehow couldn't do a damn thing right and managed, at every step, to further irk the judge: objectionable objections, "arguing" the case during jury selection (they all subtly argued their case during the selection process, but apparently the defense was too overt), persistent delays, strangely waffled responses to explicit questions... (The judge made his irritation clear by alternating between a comically furrowed brow and an exasperated Why-me,-Lord? stare at the ceiling.)
- The defense asked all the jurors if they or anyone close to them had ever been the victim of a crime and, if so, what was the crime? And not surprisingly (this being New Orleans), almost everybody answered yes, but it was still a little startling to hear the array and degree of crimes experienced. (My own answer—armed robbery and assorted burglaries—was about middling.)
- As best as I can determine from my limited experience, the legal system runs almost entirely on metaphors and similes: "The prosecution has to move the 'ball' of evidence past the 'goal line' of 'beyond a reasonable doubt'..." "It's like Hawaii Five-O, and at the end, McGarrett says 'Book 'im, Danno,' and Danno tells the suspect he has the right to remain silent..."
- Lawyers in New Orleans still really do wear white linen suits.
- I thought I was going to get picked, but I was wrong. (I managed to eavesdrop on the judge and various attorneys as they conferred, working through us in numerical order: On some jurors, the judge asked each party to answer: "accept"/"peremptory"/"reject". On others, the judge simply scratched them off as an "S[some number]". I was "S5". I wasn't quite sure what that meant—struck?—but it made me feel a little bristly. S5 indeed! (I am not a (letter-)number (combination), I am a free man!))
Nothing of note happened (except that some unknown juror seated near me in the crowded waiting room kept silently but frequently farting). No one was called up. We were all simultaneously dismissed at lunchtime (causing a massive traffic jam in the jurors' parking lot).
* Y'alls've got me so busy running around looking for photographs of bicycles and fireworks and bicycles powered by fireworks and the ugly/beautiful//beautiful/ugly and hand gestures of colorful freaks eating artfully prepared food while walking small funny dogs that look like them around large potholes, it's a wonder I get anything else done at all.
** What-high-school-you-went-to is the definitive local shorthand (far more important than what-college-you-went-to) for where you're coming from—race, class, religion, cultural-socio-economic-etc.-etc.