Wednesday, May 12

This week I crept into the belly of the beast and have now emerged with a story to tell.

I had jury duty.

First and foremost, I am shocked that I was even seated. I am the last person anyone wants on a jury because I am (a) informed and (b) independent. In other words, I know that I can judge the law as well as the evidence, and I am not prone to manipulation by anybody.

But I still got seated.

It was a drunk driving case - the perp was from out of town, he got stopped on Halloween because he was weaving slightly. The officer who arrested him testified with confidence and was pretty credible. The other prosecution witnesses ranged from unimpressive to incredible. The last guy screwed the case for the prosecution.

The charges were DUI, BAC of .08 & BAC of .15. The first charge is subjective but does not support the other two, which are objective but do not support the first. In other words, the state encircles the perp with a collection of charges and assumes they can get him on at least one.

My fellow jurors eventually agreed that we could not be certain the breathalyzer was reliable, and therefore all agreed to acquit on both the BAC charges. But the others were firmly convinced that he was impaired by alcohol and therefore guilty of the DUI. I struggled mightily with the idea of a crime without a victim - which is what happened here - but also realized that most of my fellow jurors only voted to acquit on the BAC because they were convinced he was guilty of the DUI. If I had held my ground, we would have been hopelessly deadlocked, and would have had a hung jury on all THREE charges.

So I compromised.

I compromised to keep the guy from getting hung worse than he was gonna get hung if the state had its way. Although I believe anyone who decides to drink and drive is a menace to society, I believe that the biggest menace in that courtroom the past three days was the state with its almost unlimited power, money and complete disregard for the principles of freedom.

Some will argue that the guy got off on a technicality. I would argue that the inexcusable for fairly laziness and sloppiness of state employees allowed a man who had committed a victimless "crime" to avoid additional, excessive jail time. And I'm darn thankful for it.

I didn't enjoy the process. But at least I learned a lot of things you can do to compromise the investigation if you are ever stopped for DUI/BAC.

If I trusted the state, I wouldn't have such a difficult time with such an apparently black & white case. But I don't. I have no confidence anymore that anyone brought up on charges is not the victim of state malfeasance rather than a criminal being brought to justice. The system is rigged to prevent the jury from really getting at the truth - we are only allowed to see the various attorneys' versions of the truth as edited by the judge. Judge and Prosecutor are both employees of the state, and Judge, Prosecutor and Defense Counsel all have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. In short, don't go to court and expect justice - just expect a decision.

And pray that someone even more stubborn and independent than me is on your jury.

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