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My Federal Jury Duty experience

bisleybisley Senior MemberPosts: 10,798 Senior Member
I sat on a jury last week in a federal lawsuit, and I have to say that I actually feel like I made a contribution, for once.

It was an inmate lawsuit against 6 prison guards and the State of Texas for violating his 8th amendment rights (cruel and inhuman punishment), in which the inmate represented himself (no lawyer). As you might expect, he got creamed, due to having absolutely zero evidence, other than his own rambling and irrelevant testimony. The case should have never seen the light of day, but the judge explained to the jury, after the trial, that the prison system has spawned hundreds (if not thousands) of jailhouse lawyers, and that they filed 900 federal lawsuits, this year, alone. None of them are good enough to make it to court, but they have to hear some of them to avoid being accused of prejudice or whatever. The one we heard, bad as it was, was one of the top 80, which is how many made it to court this year, in Texas.

When we were given our orders and retired to the deliberation room, I expected to be done within 10 minutes. But, as usual, there were a couple of folks there who wanted their 15 minutes of fame, and had every intention of reviewing the evidence, piece by piece, all of which was presented by the state's lawyers. After compiling a list of evidence to be requested, the foreperson asked if anyone wanted to add anything before sending the note to the judge, and I was, by then, disgusted enough to speak my mind, so I raised my hand.

I suggested that before we started getting into all the evidence that the state (the defendants) produced, why didn't we just review all the evidence produced by the plaintiff. Someone popped up and said, "What evidence? We have unbelievable testimony from a professional criminal, two other professional criminals who admit that their testimony is 'heresay,' and a video that shows nothing that the guy is alleging to have happened. He presented nothing that can be proved, in any way."

"Exactly, " I said. "If the state of Texas had rested their own case, as soon as the plaintiff finished his, we would not now be asking to see their evidence, and we would still reach the very same conclusion that we are going to reach 3 hours from now, if we do review the state's case." There was silence, for a few seconds, and then others started speaking up, in agreement. Ten minutes, later, we were back in the courtroom with that verdict, and it was all over in another ten minutes.

The judge asked the jury to stay, so she could talk to us and the defense lawyers could ask us some questions. As it turns out, the plaintiff is one of the worst and most violent offenders in the system, with a decade long history of violent misbehavior. He had been convicted of capitol murder, along with his brother, who was executed several years ago. He's been in the system since he was about 17, and only recently connected up with the jailhouse lawyer crowd. Until he decided to sue, he broke the rules, daily...setting fires in his cell, weapons violations, fighting, and harassing the guards. None of this, of course, was allowed to be introduced into evidence, although the states attorneys were clever enough to see that we had a general idea.

All in all, it was a very interesting and enlightening experience. I'm glad it's over and that I likely won't get another federal jury summons, but I'm not sorry that I got to see a little bit of how the system works.
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Replies

  • ghostsniper1ghostsniper1 Banned Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    I'm surprised you let it get so far. First and last time I was called for jury duty, I told them I was racially biased. They didnt want to touch me with a ten foot pole.
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    In the unlikely event I'm ever the defendant in a jury trial, I hope at least a few solid citizens take their duties seriously. I'd hate to think decisions concerning my freedom are going to be left up to people too stupid to think up a good way to avoid serving on a jury. Ghost, put yourself in the place of a falsely-accused defendant. Do you really want everyone with more than two brain cells to rub together to use your tactics to get out of serving?
    Jerry
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,840 Senior Member
    Good on you for being thoughtful about your duty and taking it seriously. The attitude that many take towards jury duty disturbs me.
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,798 Senior Member
    I'm surprised you let it get so far. First and last time I was called for jury duty, I told them I was racially biased. They didnt want to touch me with a ten foot pole.

    It's probably just as well that people who brag about avoiding jury duty are able to get away with it. Thankfully, there are quite a few folks who consider it to be a solemn duty, as a citizen of a free country.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    Federal jury duty is a bit different from state or county. It's a good experience and worth doing. Glad you had a positive experience.

    Last time I was called for county court jury duty several years ago they made a mixup. I went in for jury duty, got called to the stand for questioning, and knew something was wrong. As soon as I saw who the defendant was I told the judge that I couldn't serve on the jury as I was a prosecution witness for the case. He excused me from jury duty. I live in a small county with not a large population so something like that can happen occasionally.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • bklysenbklysen Member Posts: 479 Member
    I only had to serve once (called a few other times), but was also struck by the '15 minutes of fame' that invades the brains of one or two. They really liked to hear themselves talk, so what should have been a few minutes burned the whole day, then another day....maybe it's just a bum roll of the dice, but your sole experience pretty much matched my sole experience. That makes me wonder.
  • ghostsniper1ghostsniper1 Banned Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    Sorry guys, but I can't afford to take time away from my job to sit and get paid peanuts.
  • breamfisherbreamfisher Senior Member Posts: 13,521 Senior Member
    Sorry guys, but I can't afford to take time away from my job to sit and get paid peanuts.
    There are legitimate excuses for getting out of jury duty. Financial hardship is one of them that you can ask for.
    Overkill is underrated.
  • ghostsniper1ghostsniper1 Banned Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    I didn't know that actually.
  • SirGeorgeKillianSirGeorgeKillian Senior Member Posts: 5,463 Senior Member
    Got called for the second time this year for the county. Last time i got my summons several months in advance. This time around, it was sent to the wrong house, and only got about 3 weeks of notice. Needless to say, I'm pissed.
    Unless life also hands you water and sugar, your lemonade is gonna suck!
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    I'm in love with a Glock
  • breamfisherbreamfisher Senior Member Posts: 13,521 Senior Member
    I didn't know that actually.
    It's usually on the jury summons papers, in my experience. At least here in FL.
    Overkill is underrated.
  • snake284-1snake284-1 Senior Member Posts: 2,500 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    I sat on a jury last week in a federal lawsuit, and I have to say that I actually feel like I made a contribution, for once.

    It was an inmate lawsuit against 6 prison guards and the State of Texas for violating his 8th amendment rights (cruel and inhuman punishment), in which the inmate represented himself (no lawyer). As you might expect, he got creamed, due to having absolutely zero evidence, other than his own rambling and irrelevant testimony. The case should have never seen the light of day, but the judge explained to the jury, after the trial, that the prison system has spawned hundreds (if not thousands) of jailhouse lawyers, and that they filed 900 federal lawsuits, this year, alone. None of them are good enough to make it to court, but they have to hear some of them to avoid being accused of prejudice or whatever. The one we heard, bad as it was, was one of the top 80, which is how many made it to court this year, in Texas.

    When we were given our orders and retired to the deliberation room, I expected to be done within 10 minutes. But, as usual, there were a couple of folks there who wanted their 15 minutes of fame, and had every intention of reviewing the evidence, piece by piece, all of which was presented by the state's lawyers. After compiling a list of evidence to be requested, the foreperson asked if anyone wanted to add anything before sending the note to the judge, and I was, by then, disgusted enough to speak my mind, so I raised my hand.

    I suggested that before we started getting into all the evidence that the state (the defendants) produced, why didn't we just review all the evidence produced by the plaintiff. Someone popped up and said, "What evidence? We have unbelievable testimony from a professional criminal, two other professional criminals who admit that their testimony is 'heresay,' and a video that shows nothing that the guy is alleging to have happened. He presented nothing that can be proved, in any way."

    "Exactly, " I said. "If the state of Texas had rested their own case, as soon as the plaintiff finished his, we would not now be asking to see their evidence, and we would still reach the very same conclusion that we are going to reach 3 hours from now, if we do review the state's case." There was silence, for a few seconds, and then others started speaking up, in agreement. Ten minutes, later, we were back in the courtroom with that verdict, and it was all over in another ten minutes.

    The judge asked the jury to stay, so she could talk to us and the defense lawyers could ask us some questions. As it turns out, the plaintiff is one of the worst and most violent offenders in the system, with a decade long history of violent misbehavior. He had been convicted of capitol murder, along with his brother, who was executed several years ago. He's been in the system since he was about 17, and only recently connected up with the jailhouse lawyer crowd. Until he decided to sue, he broke the rules, daily...setting fires in his cell, weapons violations, fighting, and harassing the guards. None of this, of course, was allowed to be introduced into evidence, although the states attorneys were clever enough to see that we had a general idea.

    All in all, it was a very interesting and enlightening experience. I'm glad it's over and that I likely won't get another federal jury summons, but I'm not sorry that I got to see a little bit of how the system works.

    Jury duty can be a pain. It seems like most of the time I get a summons, it's when I want to do something else. It never happens when I have nothing to do. However, once I get caught up in it and sometimes selected for the jury, I enjoy it somewhat. I have actually TRIED to get selected. I've never been called for the Fed though. I've heard that a federal grand jury can tie you up for months. But they say you hear all kinds of stuff you never realized happens. I recommend everyone if you get a chance serve on a jury. It will enlighten you and also can make you a better citizen.
    I'm Just a Radical Right Wing Nutt Job, Trying to Help Save My Country!
  • RugerFanRugerFan Senior Member Posts: 2,424 Senior Member
    Teach wrote: »
    In the unlikely event I'm ever the defendant in a jury trial, I hope at least a few solid citizens take their duties seriously. I'd hate to think decisions concerning my freedom are going to be left up to people too stupid to think up a good way to avoid serving on a jury. Ghost, put yourself in the place of a falsely-accused defendant. Do you really want everyone with more than two brain cells to rub together to use your tactics to get out of serving?
    Jerry

    I sat on a jury for a drug case that never should have gone to trial. While most of us on the jury knew of the defendant AND his reputation ,the evidence was not there to support a conviction. I was fairly certain the guy was guilty due to his past history but in this case it was not proven. I thought to myself several times during the trial: "What if this was one of my sons?" We found him not guilty and the next week his name was back in the local newspaper having been arrested again.
  • RazorbackerRazorbacker Senior Member Posts: 4,646 Senior Member
    My understanding is they select potential jurors from the registered voter list. I've been registered to vote since 1979 and I've never been called.
    Teach your children to love guns, they'll never be able to afford drugs
  • BuffcoBuffco Senior Member Posts: 6,244 Senior Member
    Been called once, was dismissed within an hour because the case I was selected for, I had insurance with the very company the plaintiff was suing.

    Actually, when the judge said, "All of you that are insured by 'x', please rise.......thank you, you're dismissed" about half of us walked out.

    i was disappointed, because I was looking forward to serving. Always wanted to, at least once.
  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 16,132 Senior Member
    I have served twice and found the experience to be rather discouraging. I got to go to the orientations, then sit on my butt in a jury waiting room reading magazines while they plea away all the cases. I know that it is important that we have a jury system and I take my duty seriously, but being there seemed pointless to me.
    Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
    -Thomas Paine
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,303 Senior Member
    bisley wrote: »
    None of this, of course, was allowed to be introduced into evidence,

    And that, I think, is the crux of the matter.

    In 2000 I was the jury foreman on a 2nd degree murder trial. Due to "suppression of evidence to preempt jury prejudice", what should have been a very simple two minute head count of "guilty" votes turned into a day long session of gut-wrenching deliberations.

    I used to wonder about some jury verdicts, often thinking that the majority of jurys/jurors must be complete morons. Now, I don't feel that way. The stuff the jurors don't get to see or hear is often more important than the stuff they do have access to. No wonder some seemingly screwy verdicts get handed down on a routine basis.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • horselipshorselips Senior Member Posts: 3,628 Senior Member
    I LOVE jury duty. If I could make a living as a professional juror, I'd take the job in heartbeat. I've served on 1 federal and 3 superior court juries, and I an't wait to be called again. Hopefully, it will be a grand jury summons that will last a few months.
  • BuffcoBuffco Senior Member Posts: 6,244 Senior Member
    Linefinder wrote: »
    And that, I think, is the crux of the matter.

    In 2000 I was the jury foreman on a 2nd degree murder trial. Due to "suppression of evidence to preempt jury prejudice", what should have been a very simple two minute head count of "guilty" votes turned into a day long session of gut-wrenching deliberations.

    I used to wonder about some jury verdicts, often thinking that the majority of jurys/jurors must be complete morons. Now, I don't feel that way. The stuff the jurors don't get to see or hear is often more important than the stuff they do have access to. No wonder some seemingly screwy verdicts get handed down on a routine basis.

    Mike

    Thats what angered me about the mouth breathers that were calling for the heads of the Casey Anthony jurors. I think, congruent to the lack of evidence, they made the correct decision, even if it wasn't the "right", street justice decision.
  • breamfisherbreamfisher Senior Member Posts: 13,521 Senior Member
    From what I've read the public got to hear a lot more than the jurors did. The state didn't prove the case they had. For a lesser charge, she probably would have been indicted. But the evidence presented did not warrant the charges.
    Overkill is underrated.
  • CaliFFLCaliFFL Senior Member Posts: 5,486 Senior Member
    I've served on three juries. Assault with a deadly weapon on a LEO, Simple assault, and a kidnap-rape case. Verdicts were HUNG, GUILTY, and NOT GUILTY. I was really suprised at how jurors wanted to convict the accused of "something" even though the evidence wasn't there.
    When our governing officials dismiss due process as mere semantics, when they exercise powers they don’t have and ignore duties they actually bear, and when we let them get away with it, we have ceased to be our own rulers.

    Adam J. McCleod


  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,179 Senior Member
    I didn't know that actually.


    Yep! there are really legitimate ways to get out of jury duty besides making yourself look like some kind of horses rump with that racially biased nonsense....unless, of course, you are racially biased. Call the court, explain the situation and they will remove you from the pool....However, you DO have a civic duty to serve.

    I've been called for jury duty many times but never seated on a jury because of my affiliation with Law Enforcement, EMS and Fire ....("Do you know this police officer/paramedic/firefighter? " "Yep! I know them all" and that was the end of that.) I was just called again last week for a trial on Wednesday, we'll find out what happens now that I'm retired.
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • ghostsniper1ghostsniper1 Banned Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    Not racist in any way. Just found that it worked to get me out of losing money by driving to and from court with little compensation. If it does happen to come about again, I will state that it would be a financial burdon.
  • 5280 shooter II5280 shooter II Senior Member Posts: 3,923 Senior Member
    When I was in the service from '89 to '97......I was notified of impending jury duty 10 times!!!!! I would have to call my HOR's county office and inform them that I was deployed out of state or the country...."so solly, can't make it".

    Had this one smart-butt ditz say I could take leave for it......this is priceless......"so you want me to take my accrude leave days.....pay hundreds of dollars for a flight back home, to possibly be selected for a position that would comp me only $50 a day.....nevermind that I don't even get a chance to take leave for hunting in November cause tank gunnery goes on at the same time....and that is my primary job......don't get home for the holidays cause of some FTX or other.....and you want me to come back home for some silly trial selection when you have thousands of alternates......gent bent lady and put your department head on the phone......."click""......Oh, this other time was priceless too......My tank loader got a summons while in the desert......he showed it to Top, who said....."I'll write a note for you....you ain't goin' nowhere right now!" :tooth:

    Now as a civilian....been asked only a couple of times.....and the farthest I made it was the selection questioning.....but they got their 12 before they got to my row in the benches.
    God show's mercy on drunks and dumb animals.........two outa three ain't a bad score!
  • BufordBuford Senior Member Posts: 6,714 Senior Member
    I'm surprised you let it get so far. First and last time I was called for jury duty, I told them I was racially biased. They didnt want to touch me with a ten foot pole.

    Nice.
    Just look at the flowers Lizzie, just look at the flowers.
  • BufordBuford Senior Member Posts: 6,714 Senior Member
    I have been on two trials. It was both disappointing and interesting to see the system work.
    Just look at the flowers Lizzie, just look at the flowers.
  • BufordBuford Senior Member Posts: 6,714 Senior Member
    Not racist in any way. Just found that it worked to get me out of losing money by driving to and from court with little compensation. If it does happen to come about again, I will state that it would be a financial burdon.

    You are of little help. You like the system? Then you have to help make it work.
    Just look at the flowers Lizzie, just look at the flowers.
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    I told them I was racially biased. They didnt want to touch me with a ten foot pole.

    Hmmmm- - - - - -lying to achieve a little financial gain- - - - -have you ever considered becoming a lawyer, or maybe an insurance salesman?
    Jerry
  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,798 Senior Member
    cpj wrote: »
    Ive been called 4 or 5 times over the years. I have never been selected, heck, never even been to the court house. The questionaire asks if there is a reason that you cant serve, and every time I indicated that either my wife was working for the PA;s office, or my aunt was. They never selected me.
    While that wouldnt prevent me from being fair, I suppose they dont want to chance a case with a juror that is related to folks in the PAs office.
    Never been called for a Federal case. But I would like to serve on a jury at least once.

    I was called twice a year for thirty years and never got selected. Something about middle age puts you into the 'right' profile that lawyers are willing to consider. I've been selected three of the last four times I've been called. Also, being on a hung jury or mistrial will sometimes get you filtered out. My wife was called as often as I was, until she was on the hung jury - she has not been called in nearly ten years, since that trial.
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    I was the foreman of a hung jury once- - - - - -don't know how they got those measurements!
    :yikes::yikes::yikes:
    Jerry
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