Tuesday, October 22, 2013
I, The Jury, not
i reported this morning at 8:30 am to the nevada county courthouse for jury duty. the last time i had jury duty was in 1966. i did get a summons 2 years ago but was excused as i had just begun chemo treatment for colon cancer.
today's case was a bit unusual. it was a civil proceeding to determine if the county could show beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for criminal cases, that a woman was seriously enough disabled by mental problems to be put into a conservatorship by the county. i was not among the first eighteen called from the jury pool. the rest of us, maybe 35 or 40, watched and listened to the judge and opposing attorneys question the eighteen. after one prospect was dismissed for cause and seven more dismissed without prejudice by the attorneys their places were filled from the pool. one of those called was robert mack. as i pondered whether i should ask if the name was actually roger mack a man from somewhere behind me walked down to the jury seats.
in due time several of the replacements were dismissed and i and others took their places. robert mack and i exchanged smiles as i took my place. the judge immediately asked me if robert and i were related. i said not. the judge and the attorneys asked our new group fewer questions than they had asked the others. maybe they were tired. i guessed that one of us might get dismissed for cause. didn't happen. she was dismissed peremptorily, as were several others i had suspected would be. the attorney for the woman seeking to not be placed in conservatorship used his final peremptory challenge to dismiss me.
there was considerable conversation between the judge, the attorneys and the prospective jurors during voir dire about psychiatric treatment, psychotropic drugs, marijuana, and the nature of a conservatorship. the juror dismissed for cause said that she didn't see psychiatry as sufficiently grounded in science. i thought that was tactful.
i did already know that the questioning of prospective jurors is called void dire. i did not know till just now that it means "to speak the truth" in french. and how did that creep into our law system, based as it is on english law?
the judge and both attorneys impressed upon us that the woman in question entered the courtroom assumed to be competent. i liked that. i was impressed that they also thanked us often for being there and repeated their commitment to a seating an unbiased jury.
i had time to examine my own thoughts about involuntary conservatorships. here was a woman, described by the county counsel as kind and sweet, who was willing to sit in court and be judged by strangers because she wanted to run her own life. over there were presumably kind, well-intentioned professional helpers who were going to testify that she was incompetent to do so. to feed, clothe, and house herself. i assumed that they would have to include testimony about her actions as well as about their assessments of her mental state.
my other two experiences on jury duty were easy in comparison. in sum, if you don't want to read the other post, the murder verdict was easy because there was no real evidence. the civil trial was even easier. the state's agent was stingy. while i was fully prepared to serve on this jury i am relieved that i will not have to make that decision.
Posted by roger at 10:28 PM