Friday, March 6, 2009

Mini-Mullet Guy's Comeuppance

So, there were six of us in that very bland, very tan room:

Air Force Guy (AFG). Late 20's to early 30's. Soft-spoken and not one to draw attention to himself. A smoker, thank God, since I didn't bring my smokes inside, and willing to bum one to me. I had a mini-crush going.

College Girl (CG). Early 20's and very quiet. Attractive in a way that she didn't herself seem to know. Slow to smile but when she did, it was way catchy. Very studious-like and demure. Would let others cut into her discussion without complaint. At some points, I wanted to scream to her, "Speak up for yourself!".

One-Arm Man (OAM). Country guy to the max, originally from Georgia. Easy going, but I could tell he probably listens to Rush regularly. He had a birth defect where his right arm ended above the elbow and he said one of his legs was a prosthesis.

Loud Crazy Mama (LCM). In her fifties, bright red hair that was showing gray at the roots. Another smoker, but she missed the one smoke break we went on when she was in the restroom. She is funny, quick to laugh, and even quicker to judgement. She was sure of the verdict even before I was, even though I was 95% sure walking into the sequester room.

Tattoo Cub (TC). Big butterball who covered his tattoos with long sleeves on a 74 degree day. Smiled easily, was a little bit country, but not too much.

We arrived at the courthouse at 11:30, LCM was a few minutes late. Each was ushered to the sequester room, after going through the metal detector, by a bailiff/deputy/whatever. It was a little uncomfortable at first because there wasn't really anything to talk about, since we were informed not to talk about the case until deliberations (I'm really getting into all those Law and Order terms now). With the room devoid of all decoration and our main topic of conversation off-limits, we chit-chatted about banal things for a good hour until we were finally called to the courtroom. An hour sitting and talking to five strangers who would rather be someplace else, although almost all agreed that we actually wanted to be picked. Only OAM had been on a jury before, but he said he had nothing else to do. I mostly wanted to be there, although I was having to take a personal day to be there.

Once we were seated in the courtroom, the judge proceeded to read verbatim from a sheet of paper about the rules, and how this was part of America, blah, blah, blah. Let's get on with the show, Judge!

We knew going in that it was a case of DUI, and that the Defendant, Mini-Mullet Guy (MMG), had supposedly refused the Breathalyzer and the Field Sobriety Exercise (FSE). I had always wondered what would happen in that circumstance, and now I was gonna find out. Each lawyer would give an Opening to let us know what we would be hearing and what to expect.

First up is the Prosecutor, Amazon Lawyer (AL). Needless to say she was tall. She was outwardly bookish, with straight blond hair and glasses. She also had the agonizing habit of not finishing a sentence without referring to her notes again. She clearly could have used a Tele-prompter. She also had the galling trait of Objecting to almost every sentence the Defense Attorney spoke. Country Defense Lawyer (CDL) rolled his eyes so many times his eye sockets must have been sore. She would start a sentence like, "And so, we shall be telling you....wait..." and then start sorting through her legal pad and poke at items with her pen until her train of thought got back on track. Annoying. She wasn't very prepared and didn't really prove anything, didn't explain how important the evidence (prior driving record) was, and generally had me thinking early on that MMG was going to be a free man soon.

Next up, the CDL started in on his defense. He had a soft, homey delivery that made me feel a little uncomfortable. His client was dressed in his company sweatshirt and jeans. CDL kept referring to MMG as his "hero". Self-employed, good country boy, hard worker. He came off more of a partier after confessing to having 5 beers in a 3-1/2 hour period and got caught with open containers while going 83 mph with two young chicks. "Supposedly", he kept telling the Trooper that he would take the Breathalyzer, but not the FSE, because he had sore feet and ankles from his construction job (that he had not been working that day). The Trooper told a different story, that he had started the FSE with the ole 'follow the pencil with your eyes while holding your head still', and MMG had been failing miserably, so he started refusing then.

Earlier when the CDL was cross-examining the State Trooper, they got in a little verbal sparring. CDL would keep telling the Trooper, "That's a yes/no question, stop embellishing!". After final arguments, we summized that the judge took them both to the wood-shed, because CDL apologized to us after we returned.

The prosecutor, AL, did a terrible job. She should have done the whole alcohol training thing, with a chart showing MMG's weight, what 5 beers would be percentage wise, etc. Not a mention, except for Trooper's description of him stumbling and being unsteady. I ended up doing an impromtu training session in the deliberation room for OAM, who insisted some people could handle 5 beers with no problem. TC was on the fence about it, but came around eventually.

The straws that broke the camel's back:

The prior driving record. Only one line showed with the above 4 inches whited-out. It was for refusing a Breathalyzer back in 2002. The defense couldn't (or wouldn't) go into detail and just showed this to us. Back in the deliberation room we scrutinized it further. In Florida, it's an automatic 1 year suspension of your driver's license for refusing to blow, but the evidense showed be lost his priviledge for 2 years. Hmmm, musta had a DUI then, also. And with all that blank space above, MMG had obviously not been an angel on the interstate.

Next, admitting to having 5 beers. CDL argued (unsuccessfully) that, "See, he was truthful. He coulda lied. He had nothing to hide. He was not drunk."

MMG had no witnesses, although there were two women in the car who were supposedly friends and neighbors. Where were they?

MMG kept changing his story. First he told the trooper 5 times during the car ride that he would take the Breathalyzer, then half a dozen, then 3. Also, he said he offered again at the jail, but the Trooper ignored that. Hello, you're in the jail. I'm sure you could have found someone who would give the blow-test to you. Trooper said MMG never offered to take the test. I had to believe the Trooper on this one.

OAM kept arguing that there was no proof to convict, that we couldn't be sure he was impaired. The other four of us kept hammering back, "But he admitted to 5 beers and was driving 83 on a section of Interstate crawling with cops! How impaired do you want him to be?" Logic finally entered his brain and he agreed, begrudgingly.

When the verdict was read in the courtroom, there was not a flinch from MMG or CDL. They must have been expecting it, because they showed no surprise whatsoever.

I feel fine with the outcome. I'm just glad one more drunk driver is off the road, especially if he was a multiple offender. MMG is in his late 30's and obviously didn't learn his lesson the first
time. I said in the deliberation room that I'd be the first to admit to having driven drunk before. We all admitted it. Just because we never got caught didn't make it right.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Coming Soon

Tomorrow, Friday the 6th, I will be on jury duty for the first time. I can't say much now (the MAN may be reading! LOL), but I will post as soon as I can. It should be interesting, to say the least. And the least is all I can write, right now.