Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beatdown on Lane 18 by Juror Seven

As I was completing my epic beat down of Sam bowling at Roxy Ann Lanes I was drawn back to the trial by jury case I sat back on a week prior. The process for selecting jurors is more complex than a machine lining up ten bowling pins but there are similarities. Do you strike out the defendant sitting by the defense attorney or do you spare them the conviction? In my case we split decisioned her. We threw her a spare on the far reaching charge we saw no merit in and threw a strike on the charge we felt she clearly committed. In the bowling case I simply laid the strike down on Sam, there was no spare for him.

We are trained to avoid jury duty. We are told to say controversial things so that we are spared sitting on a jury and hearing a case. The horror stories abound from everyone once we've shared we'd got the summons. They tell us about six week cases and being sequestered in hotel rooms without televisions. Yet, the truth is this is Medford, OR. There are no high profile cases that are going to warrant that kind of long jury duty and most cases at the Jackson County Court are going to last one day. Where else can we see the legal system at work and make a difference in that legal system which often seems so unfairly balanced. As the defense attorney and district attorney asked the juror questions it was interesting to see people revert to the adage that we are conditioned to do to avoid jury duty. A few claimed prejudices they couldn't see past, while some claimed family members in similar situations and that it would mar their judgement. Next thing I knew I was one of eight jurors sitting on a panel and we were about to try a case.

When you are sitting in a jury box you are the center of attention. I think in television shows they fail to show the true power of a juror. The prosecutors can place all the evidence and facts and explain the law, the defense attorney can run theories and dissect that evidence, but the jurors are the ultimate decision makers. Without good rapport with their jury an attorney can have all the pieces for a trial victory yet lose it's audience and the trial once the case goes into the jury deliberation. The jurors may feel the attorney was not genuine, that their case was weak or forced, even if it wasn't. This could be based on their lack of connection with their jurors. We automatically see these eloquent attorneys on television and movies. They are polished and beautiful stars reading lines to people who are not judging their every word and movement. Yet an attorney is not polished, they fumble, you see them lose their point and have to regain their traction to make their point. In a comparison to bowling, the attorney is the bowling ball, the ten pins the jurors, will they complete the strike or will their case go into the gutter?

It's all balance and release. You have to make sure the ball leaves your hand at the precise time and if you have a wicked spin shot like Sam you have to make sure that you can clean up the pins left over. Not everyone is dazzled by your rapport, sometimes you have to win over the remaining stragglers, or that damn 4 pin, with the actual evidence.

Judging a person's guilt or innocence is a difficult decision, but we judge our friends and family all the time. Sometimes it is warranted and sometimes it is not. It's easier to vocalize our judgement to those close to us. And truth be told, it is good to be judged sometimes because we don't always see ourselves the way our close friends or family can. Their judging doesn't necessarily mean they don't care for us, or think they are better than us, it simply means they care enough to tell us. What we do with it is up to us. Do we push them away and get defensive or do we take it in stride? It's not always right and there are always mitigating circumstances that they don't see but they are presented with evidence and make a ruling. We can deliberate to ourselves later whether it was a just and fair ruling or not. As far as the bowling goes though there was nothing just about that beat down I applied in that 1950's retro bowling alley last night to my good friend Sam. It was brutal, and I am guilty as charged.

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