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August 21, 2006

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Jury Selection: I'm Still Waiting

I’ve sat on, I believe, 23 jury panels since the mid-70s, and have never been picked for a jury. Public defenders do not like me. Just about all of them are politically liberal, and some of them are not the sharpest legal minds around. If you haven’t had the experience, the prosecutor and defense counsel question potential jurors in a process known as voir dire, which is interpreted to mean “speak the truth.” They ask you all sorts of neat stuff about yourself, including any organizations you may belong to.

When I’m asked this question, I smile sweetly and say: “The American Society of Magazine Editors and the National Rifle Association.”

When public defenders hear that last, their eyes pinwheel in their heads, and they think the following:

“Probably reads Mein Kampf on Sundays. Probably collects hangman’s nooses. Probably owns guns. Probably votes Republican. Probably doesn’t care that my client hacked 5 people to death only because he had an unhappy childhood. GET RID OF HIM.”

So then when the challenges come, I see them point at me and know that soon I will be returning to the jury room to do crossword puzzles…and read Mein Kampf.

I would be interested in hearing from any of you who have had similar experiences.

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Comments

Mike

MR. Petzal......LMAO....I have been brought downtown only once so far for Jury duty.....LMAO again...what a farce....Not to mention the entire infringment B.S. of being expected to leave my carry piece (1911) at home and walk across half the crime ridden downtown area, being left open to attack. (Parking is VERY difficult to find in congested downtowns)being threatened with contempt because i had forgotten (Yes, yes i KNOW i have no one to blame but myself) my spare magazine in my back pocket. Then almost GETTING contempt because after RUNNING back to vehicle then RUNNING back to stand in line at the entrance to be thougholy searched again i was slightly late to the proceedings.Then being eyed up and down as some sort of super thug for disclosing i belonged to the North american hunting federation, NRA, GOA, etc etc Again, What a farce our legal system has become.

jstreet

Why isn't it illegal not to vote, but it is illegal to not show up for jury duty? Aren't they both civic duties?
Jim

Dave M

In early 2004 I was on a federal jury panel for a case involving drugs and illegal firearms trafficing. The first question asked was how many guns were in my home. Not satisfied with my answer of "around 20" the PD and judge wanted more specifics and was not impressed that, since hunting season was just past, I couldn't be sure if my daughter had all of her's with her at college or had brought some home over Christmas break.

I further ingratiated myself with these guardians of the legal system by answering the question about organizations with "the NRA and National Wild Turkey Federation". The Judge asked for an explanation of the latter, saying "...and please tell me that this isn't a bunch of rednecks with guns who sit aruond discussing the merits of a particular brand of burbon."

Yes, I was deemed unfit to sit on that jury.

Mike Diehl

I've been called for jury service three times and empanelled twice. Firearms ownership, reading Field & Stream, hunting and eating animals and all that didn't seem to be an issue, even though one of the cases was a criminal trial involving a firearm.

EricWVU

....and then if you've much better things to do than sit around and watch a bunch of self absorbed, self serving legal system schmucks putting a true criminal back out on the streets (again), tell them that you're a member of the NRA,a gun club, hunting club or just plain sick and tired of criminals getting away with constant offenses. You'll quickly find yourself free of jury duty and enjoying the remainder of your week.

Mark

I worked seven-years for two judges as their court aid and bailiff. Watched the Court System from the inside. Sat on a couple of military court marshals, and almost a tribunal.

BTY our Court System does work in a weird, abstract way.

I loved watching the jury selection. It is an art. I noticed two groups that always got red-lined from jury were teachers and social workers. I can’t recall attorneys questioning prospective juries on membership in any organizations like Masons or NRA, etc. Guess we need to add professional outdoor writers to the other Undesirables. -:)

Later

Whatever

It isn't so much what you say but how you say it. Neither attorney wants a butthead on a jury as mistrials are a royal pain for both sides. They want people who will work with others to reach a verdict. You can be a butthead about anything, it isn't a conservative/liberal thing.

And jury service is a scary thing. You get to see the real lack of brainpower when you pick random people yet these people may one day get to decide your fate, all the while thinking how they can best accomplish their real goal; going home early.

Dave Petzal

To Mark:
If an outdoor writer is an undesirable, I can't imagine what is.

Dave Petzal

Ahh, screw it. If an outdoor writer isn't an undesirable, I can't imagine what it. After 40-plus years, I should learn to proofread.

Mike

No worries Dave...some of us are just slightly slower to learn than others. ;^D

Phillip L

I've been enjoying the blog (for the most part, especially when the conversation focuses on guns and hunting, rather than politics), but haven't had anything of much value to add. That probably hasn't changed now, but...

I find it interesting how much energy is put into the avoidance of jury duty, and how much pride some people take when they think they've successfully suckered the system. I find it even more interesting, and ironic, that so many of those people are the same ones who sit and gripe about "the system", or about the number of criminals who get turned back onto the streets.

The whole idea of a "jury of one's peers" has been a sham for a long time (very much like the idea of government "of the people and by the people"...but that's another diatribe). A big reason for this is the failure, no, the absolute refusal, of citizens to take active responsibility for the governance of their own society. In the case of jury duty, those who proclaim to care so much about injustice have the opportunity to step up and take an active position in preserving justice.

Change means getting out in the street and doing something. It's not enough to send a few bucks to the NRA every year or so and imagining that you've done your part. You don't want criminals back on the streets, then jury duty is a great way to take an active role in and work to keep them where they belong. I know it's not perfect, and the system needs a lot of help, but you sure as heck aren't gonna change anything by "outsmarting" the program just because you want to avoid the inconvenience of a civic duty.

I'm sure I'm not convincing anybody here, but you really ought to give it a thought. Is it really that clever to find new ways to avoid jury duty? Or are you cutting your own civic throat?

I know it will seem really weird to say this, to draw a positive idea from North Korea (but I think that good ideas can come from anywhere), but in watching a program on that state they showed that every Friday the whole country stopped what they normally do and go out and all participate in some sort of national project like build a road or something similar. What this did was build a sense of community and responsiblity to both their fellow countrymen but also the community. We don't do anything like that here but we should as too many see public service, maintaining the workings of a good society as someone else's problem; they want to not waste their time as they are too busy in self gratification or trying to make a private fortune. There is more to being an American than waving a flag one day a year. We aren't doing enough to make good citizens.

JA Demko

I'd sooner grind a cigarette out in one of my nostrils than endorse or participate in that kind of mandatory service to The State®. Tell you something: Those North Koreans aren't out there because of a sense of community involvement. They're out there because not being out there quite likely results in a bullet behind the ear.

JA Demko, why would doing something good for the community on a weekly or monthly basis be a bad thing? I am not saying that we should emulate N Korea exactly as that place is a really whacked place, I am only saying that they do it in order to instill a sense of community, something very lacking here in the US.

The 'State' as you call it is just us. Whether it is a good entity or a bad one is entirely up to us. We are fortunate in that regard as many people around the world lack that opportunity, yet it seems like we are wasting that opportunity by both not participating and not doing things to encourage responsible participation by as many as possible in the democratic process. The 'State' is not something to be feared and destroyed, the 'State' is something that needs to be directed responsibly so it can do good things for its citizens.

JA Demko

The best thing The State® can do for its citizens is to stay out of their lives as much as possible.

Dave Petzal

To everyone: Since we seem to have gotten into this, how about reviving the draft? It seems to me that the war on terror is being fought by a miniscule part of our population, and why should soldiers and Marines have to go back for multiple tours when there is all sorts of fresh cannon fodder around, just waiting to get crammed into uniform?

PeterC

Several years ago, I was in a jury pool for a rather horrendous murder case in Tucson. Some little puke had shot a mother and her two toddlers so he could steal the custom wheels off her car. I had to fill out a 12-page questionnaire asking about my memberships, subscriptions, bumper stickers, favorite TV programs, feelings about the death penalty, etc. I made it quite clear that, should I be picked for the jury, I would happily supply the rope. I was told, the night before the trrial, that my services were not needed. Unfortunately, the defendant copped a plea and avoided the death penalty.

JA Demko

No conscription. A just war will find no shortage of volunteers. Conscription is a form of slavery to the government and I am against slavery in any form.

JA Demko

Peter C,
If you were convinced of his guilt (before the trial and having heard no testimony)and you really wanted to have a hand in sending him to the gibbet, why didn't you tailor your answers on that questionnaire in such a way as to ensure yourself a spot on the jury?

Phillip L

JA,

Yours are exactly the kind of comments and philosophy that have ended us up where we are now.

The "State" is supposed to be US. The only power it should have to enter our lives is the power we give it. I recognize, fully, that this is changing rapidly as corporations and career politicians have turned government into an entity unto itself.

But it's people who have turned their backs on that system and who are unwilling to work to restore it to what it was meant to be who allow that system to continue its steady degradation. Instead, you seem to be satisfied to spit the words with disdain, and then continue to gripe as government runs away in the hands of the power-hungry and greedy.

The "State" shouldn't have to mandate that we participate in the jury system. It shouldn't have to force conscription of its citizens to go to war. But it's fairly obvious that if the State doesn't force our hand, then we'll sit on our asses and do nothing.

The majority of people are sheep. There are a few shepherds. You can be a shepherd, you can follow the herd, or you can be wolf bait.

I believe firmly in self-determination and individual rights. But just like a muscle group, if we don't exercise those rights then we'll lose them. That's what's happening now. People, like you, are removing themselves from the process... in turn giving up any last vestiges of control "...by the People."

To go on... it is the "State", this coalition of military, economic, and social constructs that provide us an environment in which we can freely spew pixels across this internet, travel freely across the continent, and have public land where even the poor can hunt and fish. It strikes me as quite hypocritical for anyone to take those blessings in one hand, then curse the very system that provides them with the other. If you want the State to back out of our lives, then take responsibility for providing those benefits yourself... which, to keep this on topic, includes active participation in the justice system.

Our political system is very screwed up. No question about it. But it's up to the citizenry to make the change.

Mike

Dave....We got rid of the draft for a VERY good reason...Draft is conscription and has NO place in a free society( Unless of course you meant by giving the taxpayers a break and telling the scumbags in prison, Serve out your term in uniform, in that case......i'm with ya). The ones serving multiple tours are doing so of thier own volition...If you didnt want to fight in a war....you shouldnt have signed up for the myriad of reasons folk sign up. (College money, a way out of the ghetto, etc etc etc)Whilst i am on it, "a just war will find no shortage of volunteers" If Washington and Baby Bush want to "Fight terror" why not seal the borders and quit attempting to steal our god given rights (this war on terror makes us LESS secure by fueling the hatred already in place in that region)"The War on Terror" is a simply a way for Bush and his admin. to terroize the general populace of America. Keep the people scared and it is easier to control (Rule) them. A tried and true tactic used by despots around the world for centuries....this quagmire known as Iraq( you can NEVER win a holy war..exactly what this is) was simply a smoke and mirrors ploy by baby Bush to take the focus away from 1) what he is actually attempting(stealing rights i.e UNpatriot act, Fatherland INsecurity act) and 2)the real issues facing this nation. Most of the trouble with middle east can be directly attributted to this nations govt. meddling there for over 50 years. This Govt is WHY the folk of the mid east(for the most part) HATE this country.

OK bring on the NASTY comments i am SURE i got more than 1 set of panties in a wad with those statements!

One last thought as i finish this diatribe.

A big OHHHRAHHH to those that HAVE and DO serve this nation with military service! Keep kickin ass....i may have little good to say about this bloated entity we call govt...but i am FULLY behind those that serve. Its time to quit expecting them to fight with 1 hand tied behind thier backs......time to quit persecuting those that ARE fighting and let them fight......with ALL the tools available......and should some "civilians" get in the way....too bad..thats a small price to be paid to keep even 1 American marine alive and headed home to his family. Its a WAR for Gods sake!!

JA Demko

"Yours are exactly the kind of comments and philosophy that have ended us up where we are now."

Which where, exactly? I want limited government with strictly delineated and very limited powers. Last I checked, that isn't where we are.

"But it's people who have turned their backs on that system and who are unwilling to work to restore it to what it was meant to be who allow that system to continue its steady degradation. Instead, you seem to be satisfied to spit the words with disdain, and then continue to gripe as government runs away in the hands of the power-hungry and greedy."

I vote and I am politically active. I do not shirk jury duty. Perhaps you can tell me what else I should be doing in your opinion? I already served as a volunteer in the military and was honorably dishcarged, so don't bother going there. The government produces nothing. It can only take what others produce and consume or redistribute it. Beyond national defense (which isn't the same as overseas military adventurism), a highway system, and a one or two other things which government can handle well and should be in charge of, the best state of affairs would be to keep it uninvolved. It isn't the governments affair what you smoke, who you marry, what flags you might like to burn, what guns and how many of them you own, and an assload of other things...but they are either already involved or want to be involved in controlling those things. Democrats and Republicans are alike in that they want control. The only difference is the aspects of your life they initially want to control.


Mike

JA....you forgot Redistribute to OTHER nations...other nations that HATE us and attempt and DO kill our civilians.....OK.......i stop there before i go off on another diatribe.........its best to NOT get me started on govt. and political issues.

Whatever

Our political system is so out of whack right now. The biggest problem is the Republicans because they campaign and win on the notion that government is corrupt, inefficient, and should be dismantled. Since that is their mantra, the Republicans will never provide good, efficient government as that would prove them wrong. While I am a Democrat, I like the conservative idea of fiscal responsiblity and minimal government as I hate waste but that doesn't mean government should be destroyed. The current government is anything but fiscally responsible, they are outspending the most liberal of administrations and having almost nothing for the common good to show for it.

We need Democrats and Republicans. We need two parties that are both strong, we will not get good government when one party is trying to destroy the other as the only thing that keeps the party in power honest is the minority party. What we are approaching now in single party rule, something that never makes for good government. Anyone who says that half of all Americans are the enemy is the real enemy, the real traitors as they are seeking to divide the nation for their own ends, making us all more vulnerable.

Mike

Whatever......AMEN.....for the record, I am neither republican, nor democrat.I am a FREE THINKING AMERICAN. If you must "pigeon hole" me....call me a constitutionalist. Too bad other "Educated" Americans cannot realize the simple truth in your simple statement.




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