No, wait, wrong story...back to my Judy Duty.
Here’s the timeline with my tweets interjected into the mix, plus notes and highlights from the day. I hadn’t originally thought to do the days as movie titles, but when I got picked and saw how long it would run, I thought it a neat way to have continuity in a situation where I couldn’t actually talk about what was in my day.
May 20 - “Judy Duty”
100 people in large room on 6th floor for 3 week case. I was Juror #37. It took all day to weed out half of the group.
May 21 - “Jury Duty: the Sequel” - Jury Dutier (or “Electric Bugaloo” as one of my friends replied on Facebook.)
I actually went into work that morning because I had an obligation I very much needed to meet. The Judge and the Lawyers worked with me to make this allowance and then I drove back downtown in the afternoon to finish up questions and Jury selection. Needless to say, I was picked.
May 22 - “Jury Duty 3 - The Juror and the Last Crusade”
Here are my thoughts on the Opening Arguments – “…give me the facts, be specific and then get out of the way. I know it’s not a happy situation, but at least seem like your job isn’t the most annoying painful thing you’ll do all day. Not that my opinion of either lawyer is going to sway me, but one was FAR more effective at holding my attention and telling me a cohesive story about what I am about to give 3 weeks of my life up for.”
Some of the witnesses were video testimonies and others were live, in the courtroom, where they could be questioned and cross examined. Also - Elvis was eating lunch in the courthouse cafeteria and one of the witnesses had an Alienware laptop. I notice the little things, you know.
May 23 - “Jury Duty 4 : Ghost Protocol”
For some reason this day’s movie title made me chuckle the most. Today we talked about the brain and how her traumatic brain injury has affected her. Very interesting info about the brain. Question – why is the inside of the skull rough? Wouldn’t that just exacerbate an injury to the brain if the head is struck?
New story idea - Shades of Grey Matter
The Cuban sandwiches in the cafeteria are very good.
May 28 - “Jury Duty 5: Juror of the Phoenix”
First day of accident reconstruction. This guy thought he was God’s gift to accident reconstruction and before then had worked for NASA, during the discussion about his background he described the Challenger explosion as “the space shuttle that blew up a long time ago.” It kind of angered me how dismissive he was of such a powerful event. I mean they - “Slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God.” That event was both a bright and dark point in my memory; it just angered me to see him use it as merely a discarded reference point of his passage through life. And the scary thing to me was, I could have disregarded everything else he said just for that. I could have found his testimony suspect just because I didn’t like him. I didn’t. With every witness I always waited to see what Science their opinions stood upon. But I could have.
We also started on a witness that was going to take 4 days to finish. It was like passing through the Mines of Moria, but without Gandalf. This guy did actual dynamic sled tests testing seat integrity and bringing up NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) tests to show human analog movement within the vehicle for similar impacts. Here’s a video that is NOT the same kind of vehicle or quite the same type, but it is an example of what we got to see. It was an interesting peek into the testing that goes on for the auto industry safety standards.
May 29 - “Jury Duty 6: Return of the Juror”
More reconstruction and vehicle movements/crash tests. Also a Neurologist who had some more interesting information about the brain. He kind of came off as a Crazy Uncle, but I still liked him. This was the day I asked my first question. See, we, the Jury, could actually ask questions of the witness and that was awesome because it helped us better understand them. My question was, since she was experiencing nasty headaches now (and I could relate with my own migraines) how often did she get them? It was kind of a quality of life question. Answer: 3x/week-ish. So, pretty crappy, but not all the time crappy.
One of the things that interested me about this case was that the Plaintiff was seeking up to 89 million. I had always wondered how these large numbers came up in cases like these. How do you justify awarding that sum to someone? Well, I was hoping to hear the reasoning behind it in this case. And it was definitely going to come down to quality of life (which is so damn subjective.)
May 30 - "Jury Duty 7: How I Met Your Juror"
All day talking about dynamic and static tests on the vehicle and on how the seat appeared to fail and about people’s potential movement in the vehicle and what marks are present to show how they did (or did not) move around in the vehicle during the crash. Today went on forever…
May 31 - “Jury Duty 8: Live and Let Juror”
More of the same guy…so much repetition… “I tried to build in redundancies” – You succeeded, my friend. Due to the slow and almost halting nature of the Lawyer leading the direct examination I think the witness actually got tired of how slow it was moving. My note: “your own witness should not be hostile to you.” Also, he clearly had a bone to pick with the auto industry.
I asked my second question here because we were shown data from a test dummy but they were just numbers on a page. I had no frame of reference as to how those values compared to industry standards or in regards to what threshold is considered lethal if applied to a human in that situation. We did finally, finish with him this day.
Here’s a video which is a similar flavor to the nature of this case, but instead of a front seat make it the back seat in a 60/40 split rear seat and claims that the 60% side failed and went rearward more than it should have. Also, the person ejected survived, but with some brain damage and the crash involved only one vehicle, hitting a guardrail.
Today was one of my favorite witnesses. He specialized in Biomechanics – “study of the structural mechanics of the human body, forensic biomechanics, the study of human injury mechanisms and the interaction of humans and medical devices.” I am firmly convinced he was actually a mad scientist (my note: “Biomechanists are the mad scientists of our time.”) I also had the thought that he would make a great villain because he loved what he did and believed it was for the greater good. I’m not saying his work was evil, but he seemed to really enjoy being able to work with bodies and see how bones break and skin tears and how bodies react to external forces. Here’s hisinfo – I’m only sharing because he was awesome.
June 4 - “Jury Duty 10: The Juror Who Loved Me”
More medical discussion today. Yes, she was seriously injured. Yes, I believe you, it will affect the rest of her life. Also today was the life planner who calculates all of the medical expenses she will have to pay for the rest of her life. We then had the economist who calculates what she’ll need now to invest now to have it all covered. My note: “But she didn’t plan for the zombie apocalypse.”
June 5 - “Jury Duty 11: A Song of Ice and Jurors”
Heard from the Plaintiff and her husband today. It was a little rough because they were the ones directly affected. They were the ones who had their life changed and who believed deficiencies in the vehicle were to blame. She was cute and spunky and while very clearly affected by the brain injury, she also smiled a lot and gave as good as she got from the Defense attorney. (Who was careful to not be a dick, but did bring out some inconsistencies with her testimony and previous depositions.)
At the end of the day, the Plaintiffs stood and rested their case.
June 6 - “Jury Duty 12: the Oncoming Storm” - no really, there is a tropical storm out there (Andrea)
Today, while I sat warm, cozy and dry inside the courthouse, a tropical storm lashed through Tampa. I both felt bad to not be fighting it out with the rain alongside my coworkers and really thankful not to be slogging through the mud. There is a certain camaraderie that builds when you work through conditions like that (and I have many times before) and I enjoy those moments, even though they can, at the same time, suck.
Defense began their side and did so with their accident reconstructionist. He went on for a day and a half (so not as bad) and was fairly interesting. What amazed me was how differently the same crash could be reconstructed – using different methods.
June 7 - “Jury Duty 13: Fellowship of the Jurors”
We finished up with the reconstructionist and talked with their biomechanist. And my theory that they are mad scientists held firm. This woman knew her stuff and also had an intensity that would melt steel if she started at it long enough. She wasn’t taking anyone’s crap and it was nice to see confidence and precision.
June 10 - “Jury Duty 14: “The Day the Juror Stood Still”
Today we listened to the official Ford rep talk about their seat design and production and all of the testing and government standards Fords has to meet. He kept things pretty cut and dry. What I did think was interesting is that one of the rear end collision tests is run at 35mph with a 4500-5000lb sled test = and I almost cheered out loud thinking that was like having a rhino hit a vehicle at a full out run.
June 11 - “Jury Duty 15: The Neverending Juror”
Two more expert witnesses, both about accident reconstruction and how the vehicle moved that day. Interesting and accomplished the both of them. I don’t have a lot to say; they did their jobs well.
June 12 - “Jury Duty 16: Close Encounters of the Juror Kind” (last day)
Today the Defense rested their case. They offered closing arguments (where, once again, one side was far more concise and effective at tying it all together and summarizing a cohesive story.) Then the Judge read us the verdict form and at the very end, just before the signature of the foreman was the phrase “So Say We All.” I had to bite back a cheer and kept my sudden excitement confined to a little dance of joy in my Juror chair.
Then the Judge read the names of the 3 alternates and my joy faded away. I was not going to get to participate in deliberation at all. I wouldn’t get to hear other opinions, nor review the evidence. I was cut loose so abruptly I wasn’t quite ready for it. I’d given almost 4 weeks of my life to this and I wouldn’t get to be a part of the final process? I was kind of pissed…and a little relieved that the decision that would change this woman’s life was no longer in my hands.
While the Juror’s deliberated I stayed and talked with the Lawyers, who were much more relaxed and personable now that it was essentially over except for this weird waiting. The Jury deliberated for 6 hours and when they came back in I was quite nervous. They ended up partially siding with the Plaintiff, enough to award her ~40 million, but not so much as to say that Ford was negligent. When I was able to talk with the Lawyers afterwards and hear what evidence did not make it in, I was a little more OK with the final verdict. (I had been leaning towards siding with the Defense.)
Overall it was such an interesting process. (A LOT of sitting.) But I am glad for the experience and it definitely broadened my perspectives on a good number of topics.
Here’s a few other random notes and thoughts:
- When I saw the first “demonstrative aid” (large poster) my mind immediately thought of Marshall from HIMYM and his love of visual aids.
- Just started thinking of being a juror in WOW raiding terms.
o My fellow jurors = Raid team. Lawyers = raid bosses in a timed gauntlet.
o witnesses = adds
o Judge = GM
o Or, its more like watching individual scenarios where the witnesses are the adventurers and the lawyers are the elite bosses they have to navigate. In this case...we're the GMs. Deliberation room is GM island.
o MOAR DOTS!
- Whenever the lead lawyer on the opposing side had an objection and it wasn’t immediately overruled or sustained they would “approach the bench”. In order to keep the Jury from hearing what they were talking about, we had speakers above us and the Judge would turn on the “white noise.” It was literally static. Apparently other Judges have a waterfall sound (which is similar) and others have muzak. They last anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 or even 10 minutes (though if it looks like the discussion was going to take more than 5 minutes the Judge would send us out of the courtroom to the deliberation room where we had water, a bathroom and maybe doughnuts if someone brought them in that day.) All in all we had roughly 105 white noise sessions throughout the trial with 15 being the most in one day. These sessions gave us a chance to stand and stretch, so not all bad. On the 100th one we did a mini wave where one Juror stood and stretched and then the next along the line and then the next. It felt a little rebellious and fun.
- Each witness gave their education background and by the third day I was pretty sure this is what the Lawyers were asking – “Could I get you to, in excruciating detail, explain your education, personal history and then what your father does and then the pets kept by your second cousin.”
- The “So help me God” potion of the - "Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth…" swearing-in is included at the discretion of the Judge. The final part was not said to any of the witnesses in this trial. I asked about it after, while waiting for the verdict, and brought to light the fact that the Judge does indeed like to use it and the clerk had thought he didn’t. She was quick to get his preference so she could swear witnesses in as the Judge preferred.
- We were allowed to take notes (and I almost filled a 50 page yellow legal notepad) but we were not allowed to keep them. I was sad to let that work go, but I understood the desire for keeping our private notes private. P.s. I may have doodled a little.
- “If it pleases the court” "May I approach, Your Honor?" "Jurors entering, all rise" “sustained and don’t testify”
- Good lawyer, bad lawyer - every courtroom needs a villian.
- Gyrus is the name for a single fold of the brain
- The Taco Salad in the courthouse cafeteria is not as good as the Taco Salad at my current job's employee line. However, their broccoli and cheese soup was amazing.
Fun ideas that might get me held in contempt:
- Organize a flash mob in court
- Dramatically open the double doors to the court room and yell "The beacons of Minas Tirith are lit! Gondor calls for aid."
- Holding up score cards for the lawyers so they have a gauge of how well they are doing. Doing the same for the witnesses.
- Folding our questions into origami animals for the Judge to unfold.
- Barbershop Quartet, but with all 9 of us jurors.
OK. I'm done. Thank you for reading all the way to the end!