Well, I had been hoping to make this a series of blog posting relating my experiences on my first ever jury duty. The trial was expected to last until Friday. But, the defendant offered a settlement that the plaintiff accepted. So, jury duty ended yesterday, three days early. I can't help but admit that I'm a little bummed. My kudos go out to the judge for doing such an awesome job of taking the time to ensure that jury understood each step of the trial process.
So, how was my first ever experience on a jury? I'm glad that you asked (In all honesty, whether you asked or not, I was still going to tell you). Overall, I found the experience to be fascinating. It was nothing like what you see on television. The wrangling between lawyers over terminology, tactics, witness statements was interesting.
Opening Statements - The Cure to the Common Case of Insomnia
Every trial begins with the opening statements, which as the judge informed us, contains no evidence and should not in any way be considered when determining a verdict. Which, to me, means that the opening statements contain very little useful information. If you have ever watched any of the court shows, such as Law & Order, you would have been like me and expected a quick 45 second opening statement from each lawyer. Let me tell you that television couldn't be further from the truth. The opening statement for the plaintiff was at least 45 minutes long, and included an introduction to the lawyer's son who happened to be sitting in the gallery observing. My conclusion is that opening statements should be prescribed as treatment for insomnia. Even the judge, at one point during the opening statements was observed by yours truly to be nodding off. I think the opening statements were the most brutal part of the whole experience.
A Good Expert Witness is Worth Every 100,000 Pennies
During the second day of the trial, we heard from an expert witness. Since this was a medical malpractice lawsuit, the expert witness called by the plaintiff was a doctor. Surprise. Surprise. To say that he held a lot of credentials would probably be an understatement. When the plaintiff submitted the witness' CV into evidence, it had to be at least an inch thick. I thought the expert witness (and this is coming from someone who didn't realize that prostate cancer was a men only disease) was very knowledgeable and extremely convincing. He tore through the defense's statements like Superman tears through a roll of toilet paper … made of sheet metal. The only thing that the defense could do was try to chip away at the witness' reputation, which appeared to be impervious to attack. One angle that the defense tried was to paint the expert witness as nothing more than a "hired gun", revealing that the witness got $750 an hour to review a case and $5000 for appearing in court. Damn! I'm in the wrong line of work.
I'm not really sure what led the defense to offer a settlement to the plaintiff. All I know is that by the end of the second day, my fellow jurors and I were released. It was a bit of a bummer because we were thinking of getting t-shirts made up for our final day that would have our juror numbers on them. Personally, I think it was a little inconsiderate of the plaintiff and defendant to settle without checking with the jury first. I had been looking forward to five days of jury duty, and their settlement has completely thrown a wrench on the works of the rest of my week.
All things considered, it was a pleasant experience. Whenever people get called for jury duty, they complain about having to do it, and about how big of a waste of time the whole thing is. I had that attitude going in, but now I'm glad I had to do it.