Tuesday, November 27, 2007

guilty, not guilty

Today we found a man guilty of making terroristic threats and not guilty of third degree manslaughter. I got to be the presiding juror, which used to be, I think, the foreman. How cool is that?

After we had heard all the evidence and the closing statements, the judge read us our instructions. This took twenty minutes. Twenty minutes! They were very detailed instructions full of definitions of the law and what we could and could not consider during deliberation. We went into deliberation and were supposed to pick a presiding juror straightaway, but we didn't. We started discussing the case. Because for the whole two days we were unable to say anything at all about the trial to anyone, not even each other. So everyone just started gabbing. We needed to debrief. And laugh.

But then opinions began to take shape. And people were taking all kinds of things into consideration that were not specified in the instructions. This is how I came to be presiding juror; I was adamant that we stick to the rules. It didn't matter that this guy seemed like a jerk, or that guy was annoying. We had to stick to the evidence.

The events we were to consider took place on Aug 8. Apparently there was a similar incident on Aug 7 that was alluded to and discussed in part, though most testimony regarding it was stricken (struck?) from the record and we were told to disregard it. Of course we all wanted to know what happened that night. Of course it would have shed light on the events the next morning, but we were explicitly instructed not to take the night of Aug 7. into consideration. But that's what everyone wanted to talk about.

I kept referring back to our instruction booklet and reading the pertinent parts aloud (there were multiple copies, but not one for everybody). And then I went to the bathroom. And when I returned I was informed that I was the presiding juror.

We all decided pretty quickly that the defendant was guilty of terrorizing threats. The evidence was overwhelming. But assault? We went back and forth and back and forth. I was convinced one way and then completely changed my opinion. Round and round we went. Everyone was leaning toward guilty, but there was still doubt.

The definition of assault was to intentionally cause bodily harm OR threaten in a menacing manner. We sent a note to the judge asking for clarification of what "threatening in a menacing manner" meant. In the terrorizing threat charge, it did not matter if the victim actually felt scared or terrorized, only that the defendant intended for him to so feel. Our question was, in the assault charge, did it matter if the victim felt threatened?

Two guys have a fight. Evidence does not show that one or the other started it--it seems pretty mutual. The defendant runs inside and grabs a knife. When he comes back out the victim is getting on his bike and riding away. The defendant chases him down the street with the knife. In the victim's testimony, he does not mention the knife at all--he did not know the defendant (behind him while he was pedaling away) had a knife. Witnesses saw him with it. The defendant stated he had it. So was the victim just fleeing or was he fleeing because he was threatened in a menacing manner?

We wrote our question, knocked on the door, handed the note to the bailiff who took it to the judge. The judge read the note, conferred with the lawyers. We all convened back in the courtroom. She read us her reply. Gave us a written copy of it and we went back into deliberation. This took almost a half an hour.

The judge stated that to be threatened in a menacing manner meant to cause a rational person to be apprehensive of being harmed. After a little more discussion none of us felt that the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to harm the victim or that he threatened him in a menacing manner, therefore we could not find him guilty of assault.

I had to fill out the form and sign it. I was the last to enter the court room. The judge asked me to stand and asked "Has the jury reached a decision?" I got to answer all her questions--yes we reached a decision, yes it was unanimous, etc. She read our decision and I verified that that was our decision. She asked the public defender if he wanted to poll the jury to ensure we were unanimous but he declined. And we were adjourned. The end.

The trail itself was fairly tedious and boring, but the deliberation process was fascinating. And that is probably more than you ever wanted to know about jury duty.

Tomorrow I go back to class and work. I have two ten page papers to write in the next week or so and three finals to prepare for. Yikes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

as much as I'm allowed to say

Here is what, at the end of day one, I can tell you about jury duty:
The process was quite fascinating...until the trial actually started.
I'll be there from 9 to 5 tomorrow and possibly Wednesday morning.
CSI? Not so much. Keystone Cops? Much more like it.
As easy as it is to rag on serving, I feel pretty good about participating in democracy. I get very cynnical about patriotism at a time when I don't much care for my president, his administration or his war. I do, however, care for my country. So off I go in the morning to the district court to perform my civic duty.

Friday, November 23, 2007

and we're back

1. I brined my Thanksgiving turkey. It started out poorly, but after a little trial and error I had the turkey in a bag, the bag in a five gallon bucket and the bucket in the refrigerator. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart (of course!) which included some very salty water, a bottle of wine, and various herbs and spices. Supposedly soaking it over night in the salt makes it juicy. Osmosis or something. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it better than previous un-brined turkeys? Hard to say.

2. Today Moses called Paul a "despicable miscreant." It was awesome.

3. It's snowing.

4. A couple of weeks ago in one of my classes we were discussing the Columbine High School shootings. My professor asked, "Where were you guys when that happened? At what stage of life were you then?" The general consensus: sixth grade. Yikes.

5. I have two 10-page papers yet to write this semester.

6. After receiving the same alarming email about five times regarding The Golden Compass and how it is the anti-Narnia and about "killing god" I really, really wanted it read it. So, I did. And I really, really liked it. It's very unsuspecting until the end, when it gets rather heretical--maybe sin is good. The church says sin is bad, but the church is bad, so why should we believe the church? Only, here's the thing--it's all happening in an alternate universe. The alternate universe is very much like our universe, but it is not our universe. The church has some similarities to our church, but it is not our church. And there is a quote from "the Bible" which is similar to our Bible...you get the picture. So, I understand the desire to be cautious. It would all be a little over my kids' heads at this point anyway. But, if they want to read it later (and they've seen previews and TOTALLY want to see the movie, but we have a solid rule about reading the book first) I might allow it, if we are reading it together and are able to discuss what it all means. I'm not so much for ruling a book out completely, but this book certainly would raise some deep theological questions in a thinking twelve-year-old reader, which could be good, could be bad. I'll probably take up the next book in the series over Christmas break.

7. Phoebe is reading Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban on her own. Constantly. It is so fun to see her hooked.

8. We are all listening to a book on CD called The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread. I LOVE it.

9. While we're on books, I really want a Kindle. Maybe. It was this quote from the Newsweek article by Steven Levy this week that really got me:

Microsoft's Bill Hill has a riff where he runs through the energy-wasting,
resource-draining process of how we make books now. We chop down trees,
transport them to plants, mash them into pulp, move the pulp to another
factory to press into sheets, ship the sheets to a plant to put dirty marks
on them,then cut the sheets and bind them and ship the thing around the
world. "Do you really believe that we'll be doing that in 50 years?" he asks.

10. I checked out a laptop from the library at Hastings College over Thanksgiving break. I think it's funny that I am able to do that. I sat at the Blue Moon and did research and wrote a paper. I still marvel at such technology: wireless, flash drives. It really changes the way school works. I bet all those punks who were in sixth grade in 1999 don't marvel at wireless and flash drives. They are too busy texting to marvel.

11. I went to McCook last week and played the opening set for a Tom Kimmel show at the Bieroc Cafe. I love going there. I hadn't seen most of the Bieroc crew since the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Good times.

12. As part of an assignment, I went to the HPS School Board meeting last Monday. It had all the usual board meeting blah blah blah which I'm very used to from being on the library board. However, it was a great night for future English teachers. The middle school english/language arts teachers were there in force and riled up becuase eigth grade reading has been taken out of the curriculum. As I understand it, there is currently specified reading instruction for all seventh graders and for some eigth graders. The proposed curriculum has eliminated it for all eigth graders, and these teachers want it, instead, for ALL eigth graders. My friend Deanna, seventh grade reading teacher, was first to speak (I had no idea this was going to be happening) and two other teachers followed. It was like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. They rocked. I want to be an English teacher!