Saturday, April 07, 2007

Civic Duty - Part 2

After having spent the best part of day one with my nose in my book it wasn't looking too healthy on the old jury selection front. So I arrived for day two armed once more with my trusty tome and settled in for another day of reading, secure in the knowledge that I would not be disturbed by the class idiot who fortunately for me had been selected on day one. Alas it was not to be, as ten minutes later an usher appeared and my name was called.

After we were sworn in the judge addressed us. He explained what would be occurring, but most importantly he told us when we would be breaking for lunch. Then the prosecution Barrister stood up and outlined the case against the defendant. I obviously can't go into detail but suffice to say that it was a case of wounding. Then the defence Barrister stood up and outlined the case for the defendant.

Throughout the course of the day a procession of witnesses came and went, their evidence duly picked over by each of the Barristers and the evidence was distributed to the jury. Full colour glossy pictures, witness statements, oh and a time lapse video to boot. And so it was time for the defence to call their witness... their one and only witness.

A rather dapper gentleman strode into the court room and took his place in the stand. He reminded me somewhat of 50 cent dressed up for a funeral, he did however have the obligatory gold chains and rings. He faced the jury and glared, not just any glare a malicious glare, (I come a cross this rather a lot in my line of work, it is intended to put people 'in their place', let them know who is the boss so to speak), as he continued to glare I could sense some of my fellow jurors shifting in their seats uneasily. I was just considering giving him a smile and wave, you know to lighten the mood a little, when the defence Barrister began his questioning.

Initially he gave only yes or no answers but then he obviously began to get into the swing of things. He was asked about the events of the day leading up to the event. Then he was asked to relay what had occurred. He told the court that he had been stood some four or five feet away from the defendant when the event had occurred but that he could see quite clearly what had happened. At this point I should perhaps point out that the defendant was claiming that he acted in self defence and that the claimant had struck first.

"So you had clear sight of the event, is that correct?" asked the defence Barrister

"Yes, I saw it all" replied the witness

"So did you actually see the Landlord throw a punch?"


"So he definitely threw a punch at the defendant, thank you. Who threw the first punch"

"Bill, (the defendant),"

"Are you sure about that?" asked the rather rattled defence Barrister

"Absolutely my friend it was definitely Bill"

It was at this point that the Judge asked the defence Barrister if he was really sure that he would like to continue with his questioning. He simply shook his head and sat down.

In a masterful stroke the prosecution Barrister rose.

"Your Honour, the prosecution has no further questions for this witness, however I would like to thank my learned friend here for his assistance"

As we in the jury and the rest of the court room choked back our stifled giggles the judge adjourned proceedings until the following morning for the summing up.

The following morning my fellow jurors and I were taken to the deliberation room. Here we had to hand in our mobile phones to be locked into a drawer, just in case we should feel the need to phone a friend for help, and the door to the room was locked behind us. It was only at this point that I could really take stock of my fellow 'peers'. A young woman who would remain silent throughout, clearly showing withdrawal symptoms from lack of her mobile, an elderly chap who must have been dozing during the trial as he had to be reminded on several occasions of the evidence,and then there was the 'falterer'. There's always one, they just can't make a decision. Even if the evidence is there in black and white, even if the defendants own witness has categorically dropped him in it. The 'falterer' will not take responsibility for the verdict. Fortunately even with these hindrances the deliberation was mercifully short.

We were escorted back to court to present our verdict. 'Guilty'. The judge having nodded his agreement proceeded to recount the previous convictions against the defendant, which included numerous violent offences . I think the falterer can rest easy.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Civic Duty - Part 1

I turned up yesterday for my jury duty. Negotiating the airport style security was interesting. I handed over my bag to the friendly looking lady who immediately opened it and tipped the entire contents out into a tray. Lovely! The ladies will relate to my rather embarrassing confrontation with the odds and ends accumulated over a millenia. The battered tampon was however the least of my worries as it also transpired that I had a hypodermic needle in my bag. Not used I hasten to add. The contents of the tray, my bag and I were escorted to a small room just off the foyer. It was here that I was told by a very stern court official that I needed to explain myself. He didn't see the humour when I proceeded to tell him my life story. It was actually the needle he wanted me to explain, and so I told him about my work with the morally challenged and how on rare occasions I am tasked with providing new needles to the needy addicts. My warrant card scrutinised and the contents of the tray once more sieved through in all it's minutiae, I was escorted back to the foyer. Here the same court official gave me directions to the juror's suite and whispered the top secret code to gain access.

I punched in the code and entered. The juror's suite is a large room with lots of comfy looking seats and a cafeteria located at one end. I immediately noted the rather interesting selection of reading materials, an Argos catalogue, several editions of the bible, a couple of books explaining what the bible is all about and numerous leaflets about , looking after your heart, diabetes, help with alcoholism and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Hmm, I know that jury service can be dull and that some poor folk may succumb to a touch of cabin fever after being locked away for several hours, but heart disease, alcoholism and a bonkathon!

I proceeded to the cafeteria and secured myself a large cup of tea then I sat down to enjoy the rather weighty tome that I had remembered to bring with me. I had managed to get a couple of pages in when I was addressed by a man wielding a fake accent that quite frankly was more Humpty Gocart than Humphrey Bogart,

"Of all the bars in all the world you had to walk into mine,"

Had I inadvertently made eye contact or given out some signal? Oh wonderful I had managed in some way to attract the class idiot. Un-phased, he went on,

"What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?"

"Reading a book!" Unfortunately he took this as an invitation to engage in conversation and proceeded to give me his take on jury service and his civic duty. In a nutshell, he believed that 'they', the defendants would not be in the dock if they hadn't done something wrong, visa vie, they are all as guilty as sin. Simple! Yes he was and unfortunately I came to note over the course of a very long day of waiting that he was not alone in his philosophy.

To be continued...
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