Voir dire

14 Seagulls on the Rocks

14 Seagulls on the Rocks

On Tuesday, I flopped out of the jury pool. I was one of 42 pool members called down for this one case. If you figure twelve jurist and two alternates, then that leaves a three-to-one ratio between prospective jurist and actual ones. At this point, I was Juror #33. The bailiff trooped us down to the courtroom and seated us in order. Jurors one thru twelve got the soft cushy seats, the ones that the jury sits in during the trial, while I sat in what the prosecutor referred to as the bleachers. They were like church pews and eventually turned hard on the ass. I was in the literal backbench. The lead prosecutor began the Voir dire of the jury. According to Wiki, Voir dire means ‘truth telling’. It could be of Latin, Norman or French origin, you know how Wiki can be.

The prosecutor then began to explain his case through a series of questions. You know how when someone asks a series of questions, they tend to telegraph their thoughts or motives? This prosecutor was like that. He supposedly could not tell us the facts of the case, but he could question us on what would become the deciding aspects of the case. He told us that the sole charge in the case was first degree statutory rape. Rape is rape. Statutory rape is rape, when the victim is a minor. Minors are deemed too young to consent to sex. First degree statutory rape occurs when the victim is under twelve years of age.

Another import aspect raised in Voir dire was that the crime occurred years ago, but was not reported until recently. This is called delayed disclosure. This meant that there was no physical evidence, in particular any DNA evidence. The prosecutor asked if no DNA would preclude a juror from convicting. A number of the jurors said that they could not do it. None of them were seated. Then the prosecutor asked all the jurors about any run-ins with the law. An amazing quarter of the pool admitted to DUIs. The prosecutor later commented that this was normal. The gentleman on the bench seated next to me admitted to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He was like the other jurors who admitted to felony charges, he had been charged, but never convicted. Otherwise, they would have never even been called for jury duty.

The prosecution then asked about any sexual victimization among the jury pool. A number of jurors requested a sidebar. The juror and both sets of consuls would troop to the bench and whisper for a few minutes. I don’t believe that any of these jurors were seated either. The defense performed Voir dire next, they were much shorter. This was as it was supposed to be. Their questions were more general. They didn’t tend to drill down to individuals as much as the prosecution had done. They also tended to poll the pool on the Mom, America and apple pie aspects of jurisprudence. They did mention my name in one of these polls.

Throughout the Voir dire there was a certain hierarchy. The fourteen sitting in the juror’s chairs were first up. Where-as where I was sitting on the backbench, I was third string. Most questions were directed at the top half of the pool. The prosecutor even once apologized to us bottom half for having to sit through this process. I was never asked a question. After a brief recess, the bailiff announced the jury selection and called my name as Juror #12.

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