Friday, June 20, 2003

Well, that was an interesting job assignment. The second temp service I work with had a mock jury project. We all signed a confidentiality agreement, so I can't share specifics, but the upshot was that there were 12 of us who heard an abbreviated version of a real civil case that has not yet gone to trial. The plaintiff was a person who sustained serious injuries on the job, and the defendants were the two companies responsible for the the establishment and enforcement (or lack thereof) of safety procedures on the site where the injury took place. Our job was to determine what, if any, responsibility the defendants bore for the plaintiff's injury, and if they were at fault, to award damages accordingly.

During the course of the "trial", several times we paused to fill out questionnaires. For example, we had to answer questions after the "neutral statement", which was a flat-out telling of the events of the case by the judge. Then we heard the plaintiff's attorney, and had another questionnaire. Then we had witness testimony from the person who was injured, and answered another set of questions. Finally, the defendant's attorney (who, in real life, is the partner of the plaintiff's attorney and was playing Devil's Advocate today) questioned the plaintiff, and we had to answer the final set of questions. After that, we deliberated. We split into two groups of 6, and the other group moved to an adjacent room for their discussions. Both deliberation sessions were videotaped.

First of all, each group of jurors had to select a foreman/foreperson. When I saw the other five jurors, I suspected I was the eldest of the bunch. (One other lady might have been close to my age, *maybe* even slightly older. But chances are I'm older than she is.) I also know that of the six of us, during the mock trial itself I was the most outspoken as far as asking questions , which we were permitted to do at the end of each stage of the trial (prior to filling out the surveys). Probably the fact that I know several people who are living with different disabilities was the reason that I asked some of the things I did. For example, one question I asked was regarding whether one particular type of modification could be made to the house to make it more accessible, rather than having the plaintiff move to a new house. It turns out that that possibility had been researched, and the answer was "no".

In any case, I had a feeling that I'd be asked to be the foreperson by the other five, and at first I thought, "I'm tired, I hope they ask someone else". But then I considered it a bit longer and thought, "On the other hand, if I really am the oldest and have the most life experience (such as it is, lol), then maybe I *should* accept that duty if they ask". Sure enough, they did ask me, and I agreed to do it. (I didn't mention that I'm tired, though I was and I still am.)

There's not much I can say about the actual deliberations without bending or breaking the confidentiality agreement. I'll only mention that the person who appeared to be the youngest, who seemed to be college-aged, offered several opinions at various times that seemed to strain the limits of credibility. For example, "What if, years in the future, they come up with some operation that would completely cure [the plaintiff]? You can't say that medical advances won't ever happen..." and so on. I answered, "We can't bank on that happening, we can only consider what's in front of us, and it's EXTREMELY unlikely that they can ever restore [the plaintiff]'s health completely. Besides, even if they DO discover a miracle treatment, maybe by then [the plaintiff] will be too old to be considered as a surgical candidate". That was the most extreme of the young juror's offerings, to be sure, but he put forth a few other "What ifs" that were similarly impractical or unlikely. I was sorely tempted to say, "What are you, 20 years old? Come back in about 10 years when you have some life experience under your belt", but I didn't. After all, anyone who's old enough to vote is eligible to be a juror, and so people as young as he is CAN be a part of a deliberating process. I just hope that he doesn't get selected for a real jury until he's a bit more grounded in The World That Is, instead of The World of Hypothetical Examples.

When all was said and done, and we not only reached a verdict, but explained to the judge and attorneys WHY we felt as we did, we got to talk to them briefly. The attorneys even gave out their card and said that if we had any questions, to call. I *do* have a question. I want to find out if this trial will permit spectators when it goes to court in a few weeks. If they do, and if I'm between assignments, I think I'd like to attend the trial just to see how it goes in Real Life. (Considering that the judge, attorneys, and plaintiff were viewing our deliberations, courtesy of the camera, from another room, and considering that I got compliments afterward from them about how persuasive of a speaker I was, maybe I ought to call these attorneys and ask for a job. And I'm only half joking.)

Oh, well. For now, I've had a very tiring day and I desperately need a nap, so I'm off to get some rest.

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