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Saturday, September 20, 2003

On Jury Selection


Could one of my more knowledgeable readers point me to a good source to find out about jury selection? The stories I hear about it distress me to no end.

A trial was thrown out a while back because one of the jurors had, quite literally, a gut reaction to the evidence -- it so disgusted her that she lost her lunch. She was therefore deemed unfit to be on the jury. Why? We only want people who are callous, who see depravity as just one of those everyday things and nothing special? Is it just me, or does that sound like stacking the jury in favor of the defendant?

A close friend was called for jury duty for a recent Houston case involving a police officer who kidnapped a woman. His tales of the selection process were disturbing. At one point, they asked, "who here doesn't mind being here; who here thinks being on a jury is your civic duty?" He and several others raised their hands and were told to go home, they weren't needed. Ok, so we only want people who are only there for fear of legal consequences. People who "believe strongly" that policemen are not above the law were also told to go home. People who think that there should be understandings made for those in stressful jobs like the police force were not told to leave. People who think that right and wrong are clearly delineated were also not wanted. What the??

It turns out not to have caused too much of a difference -- he was convicted anyhow -- and now I know how to make sure I don't have to serve jury time if it's too much of a bother. Problem is, I'd like to -- both for the experience and also as part of that civic duty thing. Unfortunately, it seems that I'm not the kind of person they want -- I won't move to "a table beyond the place of right and wrong" like certain other Episcopalians. And that's worrisome.

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