And so it happened, just as I feared, and very much like what happened back in 2000.
The questioning of the prospective jury, the original 18 members, concluded this morning, and so it was time for the court clerk to read off the names of the next six lucky contestants. But before we go there, let me share with you a bit of a mental game I played to help me while away the time.
The three attorneys and the judge side barred for what seemed to be a good amount of time. As far as I could tell, they were discussing which prospective jurors would be let go. I decided to look over the 18 people and try to guess which six would be done. Given the type of case it was, the extremes would need to go, such as the gay guy, the conservative fundamentalist housewife, the guy who wanted to decriminalize prostitution, and the other woman who had moral and religious issues iwth prostitution in general. Wouldn't you know it, I nailed the first four of the six. Two out of three isn't bad!
OK, so now that I've whetted your appetite, let me fill you in on the nature of the case, now that I'm allowed to talk about it. Apparently, there was an undercover operation conducted by the San Jose police where they were investigating a house of ill repute, also known as a house of prostitution. The man and woman were being charged essentially with pimping and pandering. The heart of the issue, as I understand it, was mainly that the two defendants were simply profiting from the crime of prostitution. There weren't any actual prostitution charges being brought against either.
Back to the jury selection, once the side barring was concluded, the clerk began reading off six more names. And wouldn't know it, my name was the first to come up. So I got up, and took a seat in the first alternate chair. Once we six new faces were all seated, the judge let us go to lunch. That means all through the 90 minutes, I got to think of what I was going to say, how to say it, and wonder just how quivering my voice was going to be.
After lunch, seated in "the box" once again, the judge quickly went through some of the background information again, such as explaining to us the concept of innocent until proven guilty, approaching the trial with an open mind, etc. Then she began quickly going through the same questions as before, such as Has anyone ever solicited sex, or thought about it, Has anyone had any really bad or good experiences with law enforcement, Has anyone ever been a victim of a crime, etc.
She never really asked the question that would have made me tell her how I thought, and how it may have affected my views. Very soon, she was finished and opened it up to the lawyers, giving them only one minute each. The first defense lawyer (there were two, one for each of the two defendants) basically asked us a very open question, whether there was anything that may affect our judgment during the trial. No one was responding, so I thought this was the time I had to speak up.
I knew this was going to open up some eyes, especially those of the persecuting lawyer, but I had to say it. I slowly proceeded, in the way I practiced the most in my mind over the last 24 hours, telling him that I have a significant bias and prejudice against law enforcement. He was surprised, of course, and commented that this is something the persecuting lawyer would be really interested in. He asked a few more questions about it, and I tried to explain that I've felt this way for a long time, and that it may color my judgment in the event police officers were to take the stand, which they would be.
Once the persecuting lawyer got up, of course he laid into me, asking what these feelings were rooted in. Like the judge mentioned the day before, the state has significant power, and its most visible manifestation to the average citizen is the police. I've had my own experiences with cops over the years, had done lots of reading and observing, and to my mind, it seems that cops are just as susceptible to lying on the stand as the next guy, or even more so (again, going back to a reference to the judge in her statements the day before about people who tend to lie as part of their job). Indeed, I proceeded, whether its on the street, as part of an undercover operation (I was aware there was undercover maneuvers that happened as part of this case), during an interrogation or even in court, cops are pretty much on the same side of the median on the scale of who may be more inclined to lie than not. I also got to mention the report in the San Jose Mercury News that concluded that of the majority of agencies investigated in the bay area, the SJPD was least likely to share information with the public, information that was required by law for them to share when requested.
I also wanted to mention the Tainted Justice/Stolen Trials (I think that's what it was called) series in the Merc earlier this year, that demonstrated the Santa Clara District Attorney's office was so competitive, so pushing to win that it actually withheld evidence in cases and even locked up innocent people. If I recall correctly, two people have been set free since then as a result of that piece.
Wow... I was actually pretty impressed with myself. I was on a bit of a roll, getting a lot of this information out there without sounding like a complete nut. From what I could tell, I also inspired two other people to speak up about their distrust of law enforcement. One had to help defend his son against overblown DA allegations stemming from an auto accident case, and the other muttered something about being pulled over and getting a fix it ticket for his modified exhaust, and that cops should have decibel meters if they're gonna be handing out tickets like that.
Once the lawyers were all done with me, er, I mean us, they side barred again with the judge, whispering at the other end of the room. Boy, I sure could hear my name being muttered constantly! The result? As soon as they were done with their whispers, first thing the judge said was that I was dismissed. I immediately got up and walked out the door.
What was interesting, too, as I was leaving was that I saw the two other guys who I had inspired, they also were let go.
Looking back at this, six hours later, I'm really glad I spoke up. People many times don't have the guts to speak up and share their possibly unpopular views. But I think it was healthy for the persecuting lawyer to hear what had been in the back of my mind for years, for the judge to know that some people really do take seriously the dangers of giving the state too much power. Getting those two other men to open up more was just icing on the cake. And getting out of jury duty was the icing on the icing...!