Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jury Duty 2

The jury finished our work on Tuesday afternoon.  It was fascinating to be a part of.  And now I can talk (and write) about it.

We were sitting in judgment on a personal injury case, under California civil law.  A young fellow driving a very large adapted pickup-type vehicle, part of a convoy on the way to a job, changed lanes,  with a subsequent collision with a much smaller compact car.  Both vehicles ended up horribly tangled at the side of the road, the truck on top of the car, with gasoline dripping down into the car.  It was a miracle both drivers survived.

The woman driving the car suffered severe injuries to her left leg and pelvis.  Though she can now walk again (with difficulty) and suffered no cognitive loss, her life is changed forever by this accident.  The young man driving the truck died a bit more than a year ago of unrelated causes, and so there wasn't an equality of evidence for the defense.

The jury found him negligent and awarded actual past and estimated future medical damages.  It also awarded money for pain and suffering, though not anywhere near what the plaintiff's attorney had asked.  Under California civil law only 9 of 12 jurors need to agree to reach a verdict.  Also under California law we had to completely disregard insurance as a factor, which is certainly different from what I encountered in civil cases in New York

I was impressed by the care with which the jury approached the decisions.  I was also interested that what we found determinative was not what either set of lawyers spent most of the time on.  They spun out quite elaborate reconstructions of what must have happened, since there were only two real witnesses to testify to it: the plaintiff herself and an employee of the company the offending truck belonged to.  He spoke only Spanish, and was called by the plaintiff and examined in a very formal way: the lawyer read a statement sentence by sentence he had made in his deposition and after each sentence asked if he had said it.  Yes or No.  His testimony was not helpful to the defense, even though it was the company he worked for.  The lawyers also spent a long, long time going over the plaintiff's injuries and likely upcoming surgeries.

But the jury was primarily interested in whether the man driving the truck broke the law as written.  We decided he did.  I tried hard to hear his side of the case as presented by the defense, since he couldn't speak for himself, but unfortunately for the defendants there just wasn't much evidence there.  He changed lanes in a way he should not have.  Everything else flowed from that.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jury Duty

I haven't posted for quite a while.  No apologies.  A lot has been going on.

You can catch some of my thoughts on the Prior's Blog at the Mount Calvary website:

After living in Santa Barbara a little more than a year and a half I was called up for jury duty.  I have been called before, several times, in Orange County, when I was in Anaheim, and in New York City, when I lived there.  But never picked.  Somehow I always escaped.  It may have had something to do with having been a police chaplain for the Anaheim Police Department, since they usually asked whether prospective jurors had any significant relationship with the police.

At any rate, that question didn't come up.  There was no particularly good reason I should ask to be excused except that I had other not at all unusual things to do, which is not, I take it, actually a good reason to ask to be excused.  So on Wednesday, April 8, 100 or so who were called showed up and were winnowed down to 40 or 50 after the judge, who was surprisingly lenient, let all but one of the people go who asked.  There I still was.   And to my surprise I was called to the jury box.  And then the voir dire began.  And again, nothing knocked me out.

I guess I was a little happy to have been called and chosen.  The little boy who was always last to be chosen for the baseball team (bad eyes and uncoordinated; and was only chosen because everybody had to be) was finally on the team.  Oh joy.  I guess.

So for more than a week, 5 1/2 days of testimony, there we are.  I can't talk about the case except to say that I am on a jury, so I won't.  Both sides have now rested their case, we have been instructed by the judge, and the closing statements of the attorneys begin Monday.  Who knows how long they will take.  And then the jury will deliberate.

Maybe we'll be done by Monday late afternoon.  Maybe not. Stay tuned.