Always in the jury pool, never a juror

Can you believe that Historiann got a peremptory challenge by the defense for a domestic violence trial?  (When I called to tell Fratguy, he said:  “Are you kidding me?  You’re the defense’s best friend,” which I think is usually the case.  If I have any bias, it’s to the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof being the prosecution’s.)  In voir dire, I volunteered that I am a feminist scholar who once published an article on domestic violence.  I said–quite truthfully–that it would not prevent me from rendering an impartial verdict, but since other potential jurors were talking about their professional experience with domestic violence, I thought that the attorneys in this case should know about my professional expertise in intimate/family violence, albeit in the seventeenth century.

Without improperly divulging any of the relevant details, here are my observations about my 3 hours of jury duty this morning:

  1. It’s difficult to impanel a jury for a domestic violence case, because so many people have experience with intimate or family violence.  I was reminded again what a sheltered and fortunate life I’ve lived insofar as I’ve never been a victim of domestic violence, and I’ve never known any friends or family members to have been victims.  It was pretty disturbing to hear of the number of randomly selected citizens whose lives have been torn by domestic violence.  The woman next to me in the jury box said that she was a witness in a domestic violence case in which her daughter was the victim, and one man said that he couldn’t render an impartial verdict because his daughter was molested.  One woman confessed that her shoulder was dislocated in an incident with a partner, although she described herself as “the aggressor.”  Furthermore, there were at least two people in the initial 12 of us in voir dire who work in family services/child welfare who offered that they’ve seen and heard of many cases of intimate or family violence.
  2. Here’s a question for the rest of you:  are people being crafty liars when they say they’ll hold a defendant’s decision not to testify on his own behalf against him, or are there really that many honest (but incredibly stupid) people who don’t get it that the burden of proof is on the state, not on the defendant?  (See what Fratguy meant about me being a defense attorney’s dream?)
  3. Related to #2:  I guess there are just a lot of middle-class people who never think that the coercive power of the state will ever be a problem for them.
  4. I suspect that there was only one malingerer in the jury pool.  Who seriously thinks parenthood excuses one from jury duty?  The county gives us at least six weeks notice so that we can notify employers and/or make other arrangements for child or dependent/disabled care–do you really think being a parent means that you are exempt from the responsibilities of citizenship?

53 thoughts on “Always in the jury pool, never a juror

  1. I briefly debated the paradox involved in choosing the “I am not of sound moral character” exemption. If one clicks that solely to avoid jury duty, does that, indeed, make one of not sound moral character? But if that is true, then no falsehood is being told, and one is of sound moral character, except if that is the case then it is a falsehood. To ensure that the center of the universe continued to hold, I had to admit that I was of sound moral character, which I guess means it is true.

    I still have to figure out what the hours are since they scheduled me for a teaching day and I need to know if I’m going to be able to make my night class or not. That would have been something useful to list on the courthouse webpage.


  2. “Do you really think being a parent means that you are exempt from the responsibilities of citizenship?”

    Well… The question is, do we really think that all citizens can afford days or even weeks of unplanned-for child care?


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