on perry mason day 7, the people wait for justice and leaning about the law …

Alas … Seven days into this process, our jury hung and deadlocked–11guilty, 1 not guilty.  A mistrial was declared.  In our deliberations eleven jurors agreed that the defendant was in fact guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.  In order to to be guilty of that count, the people's attorney had to prove that the defendant was operating a vehicle and that he was under the influence to a degree that he could not operate it in a safe and sober manner.  The facts of the case were that:

  • the defendant was driving a vehicle
  • the vehicle was weaving within the lane
  • the vehicle later crossed over a solid yellow line into a median three different times
  • when stopped the defendant exhibited red and watery eyes
  • an odor of alcohol coming from the defendant's breath and person
  • the defendant failed four different field sobriety tests–fail the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, failed the walk and turn test, failed the one leg stand test, and failed the Rhomberg stationary balance test (which as described is not considered "standardized" and therefore not as reliable)
  • the defendant took a field breath test, the results of which were 0.11 and 0.91
  • the defendant later took a breath test at the detention center where the results were 0.12 and 0.13

The lone hold out juror simply said that she had reasonable doubt without elaboration other than, "I just think he wasn't impaired."  No amount of discussion changed or could have changed her mind.  We asked what testimony from any of the witnesses could be brought in and examined that might help us to come to consensus to which she responded, "none." We went over facts point by point. 

What the fuck???

Juror number 31 basically refused to deliberate as instructed with good faith and an open mind.  The standard to which she chose to hold the prosecution was guilt beyond ALL doubt (everything can be subject to some real or imaginary doubt) rather than the standard of REASONABLE doubt.  I sincerely believe that there was NOTHING that the prosecution could have presented as evidence short of having the results of a breath test done while the defendant was actively driving his car that would have convinced her of his guilt.

After the mis-trial was declared, we were allowed to meet with the attorneys in the case.  Unfortunately, what we learned then was that we should have let the judge know that a juror was refusing to deliberate in good faith.  Jurors can and SHOULD disagree with a majority if they feel that they need to.  I DO NOT deny this point, but in order to deliberate in good faith one must be willing to consider or re-consider evidence, be willing to revisit facts, be willing to attempt to help others see why you believe what you do.  THAT, I can RESPECT.  Saying, "I don't have to prove anything.  I believe what I believe" is stonewalling, NOT deliberation.  Her failure to deliberate in good faith would then have opened the possibility of removing the juror and bringing in an alternate.  We did not know that, that was an option to us so we failed to do that.  As a result, a man that I sincerely believe to be guilty of driving under the influence is considered to be innocent until he might be proven guilty at a later time.  The prosecutor, a VERY POLISHED young African-American attorney, indicated that she was going to petition for a new trial.  I hope that she re-tries this case and wins.  The defendant is an MTA bus driver and he was guilty of driving while under the influence.  The result of this trial was NOT right!!!

Interestingly, my participation in this hugely and amazingly frustrating process has NOT discouraged me from participating in the jury system.  I was very reassured by the judge's and both attorneys' desire to be fair, do the right thing, and do their jobs well.  If anything, being on this hung jury and knowing deep down in my gut that justice was NOT served makes me want to do it again.

Two days ago I would NEVER have believed that I would feel that way.  In fact, this morning I would NEVER have believed that I would feel this way, but … I do!!! 

We all need to participate or the system can't work.  The alternative is to leave everything to judges and I don't think that's a good idea.  Do your jury service, people!!! 

And most of all, don't be a fucking idiot and drink and drive!!!

 

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