Delusions of Grand Jury (pt 2)

The judge never once used one of these

The judge never once used one of these

When we last left our intrepid hero (me!), I had just been selected to actually serve on a jury. Doubtless the prosecutor and the defense attorney had looked upon my countenance and thought, “yes, he is truly the only one who able bear the mighty weight of justice.”

As sworn juror #8, I knew I had an awesome responsibility. I also knew I had an amazing opportunity. If I played my cards right, I could really cash in. All I need is some sort of OJ Simpson or Mary Kay Letourneau situation. Or maybe some sort of Anna-Nicole Smith dead billionaire inheritance dispute with an unknown baby-daddy. The bigger the fiasco the more often I would get to go on Nancy Grace and help that venomous harpy sensationalize the story into some kind of justice-porn. I would write my salacious memoir, get absurd amounts of plastic surgery.

“The charges against Mr. M are…” the Judge began.

“Oh God please let there be a dead blond girl,” I thought.

“…misdemeanor DUI.”

Crap.

So after all that there would be no book. No TV appearances. I managed to squeeze two blog posts out of it, but let’s be real, even that was a stretch.

The judge revealed that we would only be hearing this case 9-Noon Monday-Thurs. The abbreviated, she explained, was because she had “other pressing responsibilities.” subtext: “Bitch, please. I’ve got better things to do than listen to this jive.” Not only was the case a total dud, but the judge announced that because we were being dismissed at noon, we the jurors would not be getting free lunches.

I felt an ocean of rage well up inside me.

“Now hold on sister,” I wanted to say to the judge, ” I didn’t drive drunk. Why am I being tortured? Even the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay get lunch!”

How on earth could I reach an unbiased verdict without at least a snack? Its a well established fact most maniacal dictators report skipping meals. I wasn’t asking for much; just a cold cut sandwich, a bag of sun chips, a pickle spear, a can of cherry coke, a sliced apple, carrot sticks, a cup of lentil soup, and an oatmeal raisin cookie.  It would be nice to get something special on Fridays, like maybe a lobster role or a mini individual chicken pot pie.

Whenever I tell people that I was called to serve on a jury for misdemeanor DUI, their first question is always “Why?” or “They let those people go to court?” A person accused of a crime has the right to plead “not guilty” and contest those charges in front of a jury of their peers, no matter how stupid or minor that crime might be or how hungry those jurors are. The state of California must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did indeed operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Shall I cut to the chase? It took two weeks to establish the following:

The defendant arrived at a party in the Exploratorium in the Marina at around 7:30 pm and left around midnight to drive him and his wife home to Fremont. While driving home they were stopped at a DUI checkpoint on the Embarcadero. The arresting officer alleges that the defendant had vomit on his hands and jacket, almost crashed his car twice while being waved in to the checkpoint, and reeked of alcohol. I believe these claims are dubious. If the defendant truly almost hit another car at his initial stop and then smelled of alcohol and vomit, why would an officer then direct him to drive that car again and almost hit another car?

Regardless, defendant stepped out of the car and failed the field sobriety tests: touch finger to nose, walk the line, etc. The defense disputed that he failed those tests “because,” the defense attorney argued “the defendant at no time lost his balance or fell over during the tests.” Is the implication there that because the defendant was physically capable of not collapsing into a pile of drunk blackout mess on the side of the road that he was fit to operate a motor vehicle? That seems like a might low threshold to me.

The defendant then agreed to a breathalyzer. He blew a .14 and a .15. He was directed to the command van where he was again tested using more sophisticated Intoxilyzer 5000 (yes, that is is actually what it’s called). He blew a .15 and a 16.

So now you’re going “Seriously though, what about this takes two weeks?”

The blood alcohol scientist testifies that in order to blow those readings that the defendant would have had to consume about 9-10 standard drinks (approx. one beer or glass of wine). The defense attorney spends an entire day trying to dismantle the scientists calculation, to little effect. He argues that she’s ignoring the time over which the drinks were consumed. They get into a WICKED argument AND she PWNED him. I wish I could recount it for you, but the issue was basically whether nor not the scientist illegally rounded the third decimal of the blood alcohol reading (Did you know that rounding can be illegal?) and she goes “but this wasn’t rounded, it was TRUNCATED!” and then she rolled here eyes with the kind of verve that evinces the image of Mariah Carey as an American Idol judge. This was a very important part of the trial.

But wait! The best part is coming (“You mean decimal truncation wasn’t the best part??? “I can’t believe it.”” you say. ). The defendant’s wife takes the stand. She testifies that she and her husband are fairly recent Russian immigrants and she only had a learner’s permit at the time of the incident and didn’t want to drive on the freeway at night, which is why she didn’t drive even though she didn’t have anything to drink. She testified that even though her husband had a few drinks, she felt totally safe with having him drive her home.

So the defense attorney asks her, “What and how much did you see him drink ?”

“He only had six glasses of champagne,” she replied

Word to future DUI defendants, a case based around the premise of “only” having “six” is not a winner.

Some more stuff happened, but it was basically a wash from there. The two sides presented their closing arguments, which were pretty meaningless because, you know, his wife just copped to seeing him get his draaaank on to the tune of  a whole bottle of champagne. The prosecutor took a page from the Mitt Romney playbook and presented a closing power point presentation. The only notable thing about it was that she used a background that reminded me a lot of that laser-themed backdrop that the cool kids had for their school photos.

Best used for elementary school photos and criminal prosecutory powerpoint slides

Best used for elementary school photos and criminal prosecutory power point slides

This made me sad because my mom would never let me get the laser background. She always made me get the autumnal covered bridge scene. She also always made me wear an LL Bean turtleneck. The cool boys got to wear their t-shirts in front of the lasers. The cool kids would also grow up to become teenage fathers with beer guts and untamed uni-brows. BUT STILL.

So all twelve of us were locked in the jury deliberation room for all of four minutes.

“On the charge of driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, the jury finds the defendant……”

“………..”

(they really do pause dramatically)

“……….”

“Not Guilty!”

Haha. Just kidding. We found him guilty. Obviously. It ended rather anticlimactically. We reached a verdict so quickly, that when we buzzed the bailiff and told her we were done, she said “really? Already? Are you sure you don’t want to take a few more minutes?” Hint Hint. We were all like “Hell No! This place ain’t got no snacks.”

PS: We were expressly forbidden from doing any outside research during the trial. I amazed myself by actually following these instructions. As soon as the verdict was read, I raaaaan back to my computer and googled the shit out of everyone involved. The defendant as it turned out was a PhD computer scientist from Russia, who was the partial owner of a patent involving voice over internet technology.

So there you go! Even smart people can do dumb things. Let’s hope, for my sake, that the reverse is also true!

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