Columnist for Thursday, 5/17 - jims

Rant for the Day

As was probably obvious from last week, I have been a flake in getting these articles for Cant in to our esteemed editor in a timely fashion. There is little excuse for such laziness, but dear readers, consider that I have suffered for my lack of timeliness. The reason I was unable to contribute last week was due to the fact that I was trapped in a modern day hell.

Depending upon whom you talk with, different parts of our government recieve varying amounts of scorn. However, like taxes, there is one part that evokes an almost immediate response. That just happens to be the purgatory upon which I lived, otherwise known as jury duty. Ask anyone, the majority of the feedback will relate to pain and suffering the individual has had to endure or their tried and true method of getting out of the responsibility.

Well, wiggle as I may, the chicken managed to catch this worm. The jury process in itself provides for interesting social observation. The people that are called, how they spend their time waiting for the process to move along, how they act once in the pool of potential jurors, and reactions to questions from the judge and lawyers. The dynamic becomes even more interesting once the jury has been selected and how they seem to relate to one another. Dynamics come to a head once the jury is asked to deliberate and attempt to come up with a verdict.

The process, as set down by our founding fathers, seems to be working, maybe not efficiently or, in some cases, effectively. Being part of the process, however, is excruciatingly painful. In short as a jury you are present to listen to and evaluated evidence that comes before you and to render a verdict. The process of rendering the verdict, if you listen to the judge and the law, is to be based upon the facts of the case and how they apply to the law. Qualifiers do exist, however, based on the believability of the witnesses, consistency of testimony, and the juror's own interpretation of things.

That last point is probably the most important aspect of our system. Individuality of the juror to form and express their opinion or finding is the basis of the jury system. However, in practice, it can drive one to want to beat his head into a wall until skull, brains, neurons are a mass of goo sliding down the wall. Seriously, the brick wall you walk by during lunch becomes an appealing pillow as you desire to run full force, head first, into it.

Juries are made up of a mix of people selected by the lawyers based upon pretrial questions. Some are analytical, some are home makers, some are parents, there are men, women, different races and cultures. One thing is pretty constant though, there is a high likelihood that the personalities and approaches will clash. Coming from an analytical and critical thinking background, it is important for me to ask questions and understand what people are thinking and why when discussing things, like a trial.

Counter to myself, there are people that live in the land of gut reaction. These are people that will use phrases like "That is my opinion and I am not going to change it." Coaxing them to explain why elicits nary a response. Sure, we may have to deal with such individuals in our day to day life. However, in a trial, you are forced to interact with this person, in a small room for hours each day. I don't quite know if there is a simple name for such people aside from stubborn pain in the ass. When this demeanor is accompanied by a bulb that burns at fewer watts than it should, well...

Another personality one is likely to run into on a jury is easily termed the sheep. With a sheep, you have a person that really has no will or opinion of their own. If you can explain your side in a simple and clear manner, the words, "I believe that too." are probably following in short order. This may be inspite of the fact that they "agreed" with something completely contradictory moments prior. It is a personality that is not difficult to deal with, just needs to be properly sheperded.

Without going into the trial, my initial thought coming out of the process was that in no way, shape, or form, would I want to have any part of my life relying on a jury. Of course there is the counter thought of that it has worked tolerably well during our history.

It is time to get back to consuming alcohol to numb the pain and remove the experience from my mind.


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