Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Terrible Juror

I received notice last week that I am in the pool for jury duty in Winnebago County this year.  In my 27-years of eligibility, this is the first notice that I have ever received.  While I dutifully filled out the on-line questionnaire, I probably could have written "don't even bother calling me, no attorney is ever going to let me sit on a jury" and saved everyone a lot of time.

Personally, I think that I would make a great juror.  You would think that we would want people who are well-informed to sit in judgement of others.  Thanks to my job, I am very familiar with the tactics of police investigation.  I know quite a bit about how the State Crime Lab operates, how the State Fire Marshall works and what is and isn't admissible in a court of law.  A jury box full of people like me would actually save a lot of time, as those things wouldn't have to be explained to us--and the "expertise" of witnesses wouldn't have to be established every time they get on the stand.

But defense attorneys and prosecutors don't want people like me on juries.  For starters, I see a lot of police and arrest reports along with criminal complaints.  I might bring some knowledge of a case that may not even be presented at a trial.  I might know about statements that the defendant made to investigators before being read his Miranda rights--or about allegations that may not have been fully corroborated by evidence.  Even District Attorneys wouldn't want me in there because I might question the actions of an officer or an investigator that seem out of the norm.  Or I might wonder why testing procedures weren't followed to the letter--even if a defense attorney may not raise an objection on his own.

Plus, I'm sure both sides worry that if other jurors found out what I may know, they would look at me as having some greater influence within the jury room.  Better to have 12 people with the same level of knowledge try to figure it out than to have one person that could sway the other 11 with their own suppositions.

I guess I could always end up on a jury for a contested divorce or a lawsuit between two former business partners that doesn't rise to the level of being newsworthy.  But even then, the lawyers may not be comfortable having someone on the panel who has spent as much time in courtrooms watching the process work as I have.  I'd love to do my civic duty, but I doubt I will actually be given the chance.

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