Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jury Duty

Yesterday I had my first jury duty experience up here in Massachusetts. I'd served on a jury once before in Baltimore, back in 1990, so I was a seasoned pro. As if, right?

One thing I learned through the video everyone of us in the jury pool had to watch was that Massachusetts was the first state to have initiated the one-day-one-trial concept. Maryland has also adopted that concept and it seems pretty fair. Here in Massachusetts, you get called up for jury duty once every three years.

The trial I was involved in seventeen years ago lasted four full days. The one I was selected for yesterday lasted about 40 minutes. In both of these cases, we jurors were left scratching our heads and asking - "What were they thinking?"

In the former case, the plaintiff had had an ear operation and, three days post surgery had asked her family doctor, not the surgeon, if it was okay for her to fly to Florida. He said sure, she did, and she became deaf in that ear. She sued the surgeon for malpractice. We learned that she'd had three previous operations on the same ear. Our conclusion was - how could she even think for a minute that it would be okay to fly right after having an operation on her ear. We found the surgeon innocent.

In this most recent case, the judge declared a mistrial as the plaintiff's attorney, in his opening statement to us, started telling us stuff that had already been agreed by all parties to not be admissible information. The judge stood up, stopping him in mid-statement, and said, "Wait a minute." She then excused us, causing us to go back to the jury room. About twenty minutes later we trooped back in and she said "I've declared a mistrial." She apologized to us several times. We went back to the jury room.

A few minutes later the judge came in a explained what had happened. The judge had originally outlined the case for us: it was a civil case; a contract dispute. One plumber, who owned his own company, sold out to another plumbing company. The outstanding issue was something about the contract. In his opening remarks, the plaintiff's attorney starting heading down the path of how the plumber incurred a knee injury and was involved in Worker's Comp. and how... and the judge said Whoa. Hold it right there, buddy. The plaintiff's attorney got into territory that had been declared off limits. We the jury said to her - "What was that guy thinking?" She shook her head. And that was it. At 2:30 p.m. I was done, not only for the day but for the next three years.

C'est la vie.


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