Happy Scapula Blogs Jury Duty

I am always so fascinated when people blog their jury duty experience. I like to hear how they come to their decisions, what they view as important in the jury room, and how they view the attorneys.

I found Happy Scapula's jury duty review via Arbitrary & Capricious, and I actually was the first to comment on his blog!

So, first, read it (if you like) and then I'll give you my comments:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Of course, I read this from a defense point of view. But, here of a few of my general thoughts.

I haven't yet had a juror stick around to talk to me - whether they convicted or acquitted. I'd like to hear what they'd have to say. Although, I did have one trial where we dismissed the alternates before jury deliberations, and they stuck around because they wanted to know what the verdict would be. I guess that means I kept it interesting.

This write-up makes me wonder (again) how my would jurors describe me? Hopefully not something like "too big lips."

Now onto this case specifically... For example... "Happy" wonders why the prosecutor didn't present more evidence about when the defendant was moved from one police car to another. For example, he didn't mention how far the distance was, whether she was assisted, etc. But, I would wonder if he didn't bring it up because it was a bad fact for him. Maybe she walked a few hundred feet gracefully and without assistance, so it wouldn't be something the prosecutor would mention. I'm not saying that would have made a difference in the verdict, but I guess that's how I would analyze the evidence that is presented (or isn't).

"Happy" also wonders whether the defendant was represented by a public defender, based on the fact that there was a law student second seating the trial. I'd say that that's probably true. (Unless it was summer, which makes it slightly more likely that the law student was a summer associate at a law firm.) But what I really want to know is, would it have made a difference if you knew that?

I would think that in a drunk driving case, it wouldn't really matter whether the client is rich or poor. Rich people are just as capable of committing this crime as poor people (and celebrities get arrested for it all the time).

On the other hand, I do worry about jurors knowing that my client is represented by a public defender in a case like crack possession or shoplifting (although, who can forget Winona Ryder?)

Here's what I think is more interesting... do you think the defendant was in jail while the case was pending? Probably not, on a drunk driving, but it might give you a clue as to what her warrant was for (presumably something more serious if she was in jail). Generally, courts try to hide this information, but sometimes it's unavoidable that a juror sees the defendant entering the courthouse, either in handcuffs or not. And, of course, is it a good factor or a bad factor?

Perhaps a juror, learning that a client was in jail, would think, "She may be guilty of something, but not something that serious, she shouldn't be in jail, I'll lean toward acquittal." On the other hand, I think a juror might just as easily say, "If they put her in jail during this case, she must have some really bad criminal record or done something more serious that they didn't tell us about... and therefore she's more likely to be guilty of whatever she's accused of now."

So, I guess that's all my thoughts on that. Except...
Next time, ACQUIT!

Just kidding. =)
At least partially.


  1. Nice post. I like your blog--the world needs more PDs! I'm thinking I'd like to be one myself when I finish school...but maybe I should finish my 1st semester before I worry about that....

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  3. I usually warn my client that I will be running out of the courtroom as soon as the jury is discharged, so that I can talk to them on their way out of the building. After my last trial, the jurors told me on the courthouse steps that they all really felt like my client should be kept off the streets for as long as possible based on his testimony as to how he actually BORROWED the allegedly stolen car to do a bunch of meth deals, but under the law and with the facts before them they felt compelled to reluctantly acquit him.

  4. i've done probably 3 or 4 dozen juror interviews after trial (sometimes years after, when a case is on appeal). This juror, like many, leaves unspoken the emotion that characterizes a lot of the slippery folks i've met who have voted to convict: During trial, he was already aware that he could impress people for years with the grand tale of it all, voir dire through verdict. His blog doesn't reveal actual misconduct (though he appears to have begun deliberating prematurely), but it shows that smugness i've encountered a dozen times. "I knew what the lawyer was thinking;" "I got the point, so i stopped paying attention & let my mind wander;" "Now i'm gonna pay lip service to reasonable doubt till after lunch, then vote to convict." Aargh. Very revealing. At least nobody got killed.
    p.s. - the previous post is about something ALL lawyers should have their investigators do if they don't do it themselves: INTERVIEW THE JURORS!

  5. I actually did my absolute best to avoid deliberating prematurely, and I tried not to give away too much too early during the blog entries. I had no pre-conceived notions of guilt or innocence, and really had no idea which way I would turn until we had deliberated as a jury for the better part of an hour. It was only as we went over - as a group - the evidence presented in court, item by item, that my belief in the defendant's guilt was formed in my mind.

    The problem with posting about this after it's resolved, after having taken no notes, is that everything that went before the verdict ends up being colored in my account by what the verdict eventually turned out to be. I edited to avoid being too heavy-handed in this "coloration", but it's unavoidable at some level. It occurs to me that I could go back and re-write the entire series with that express purpose in mind, but is it really worth it? Not if the only reason is to avoid people getting the impression, from the account, that I started deliberating too soon.

    I also didn't feel any conscious sense of "smugness". There were times when the attorneys (on both sides) seemed to want me to make a wider jump of assumption than I was willing to make based on the evidence. If I had been willing to make such a jump, I think would probably would have felt smug in doing so.

    But it comes to the issue of attention span - while mine was probably better than sleepy-girl's would have been (and I'm not being hard on her - I heard she had worked an all night shift and remembered upon returning home from work that she had jury duty), it is not unlimited. While I would loved to have hung on every word uttered by everyone during the entire proceeding, my attention did occasionally wander. This was less from feeling smug than it was from my not having super-human focus.

  6. I've talked to about half of my juries after the verdict both when favorable and not so favorable. There generally so nervous or upset from the verdict they're comments usually goto "I like your suit from Wednesday" "are you old enough to be doing this" (unfortunatly don't get this one anymore),"wow we liked you but not your client" We get so many talkes because our Judges make us sit outside the court room while they do their vote for me speech and then bring us in.

  7. Happy's response to my critique is honest & reasonable. Maybe the jury consultants out there are quietly drinking all this in. At some point, a blog-savvy judge is going to begin issuing prior instructions on this kind of thing.

  8. I've tried for a few days to leave a comment responding to the anonymous comment.

    I agree with Happy that it's tough to leave a lot of suspense and write from an undecided point of view, when the case is already decided.

    I got the impression, however, that at the time he did his best to deliberate fairly.

    And, as far as drifting off and not being able to pay attention, I think it's valuable to hear a juror talk about how hard it is to keep their attention span. I recently saw a prosecutor's summation that was sooo long and was soooo repetitive, and it was so obvious that she was losing the jurors. Lawyers need to realize that jurors didn't sit through 3 years of boring law professors to enhance their ability to pay attention through all sorts of boringness, and need to tailor their case accordingly.