This is a true story, the names have not been changed to protect the negligent. The names have also not been mentioned This is a story of how we had a bullet fly through our aparment. At the time, we lived in Alameda, California, which can be described as “a sleepy island city frozen in time in the 1950s.” It’s a very cute little city, which, despite its proxmitiy to Oakland, is generally extremely peaceful and quiet.
Today is the sentencing for two of the three def…convicts from the trial I’ve droned on about. I decide to take the day off work and go watch the proceedings, for closure or whatever. Maybe curiosity? Probably closure. I am still pretty burned out and fairly depressed from the entire ordeal, so I figure I might as well see it through. Anyway, I show up 30 minutes before the sentencing is due to occur.
After 1 full day of deliberations, going home and sleeping on it, and then another half day of deliberating, we are finally ready to fill out the verdict notebook. In order to render the verdict, the foreman has to fill out a notebook of printed sheets of paper that is given to us. Each defendant has 2 sheets for each charge (one sheet that says we find them not guilty, and one sheet that says we find them guilty).
The first day of deliberations. The judge takes an hour to read us the jury instructions, which we also got a copy of in a binder… which is good, because we have to refer to them a LOT during the deliberation. So… we’re led upstairs to our jury room and locked inside, told that we’d be going out for lunch but until then we have privacy to deliberate. The first order of business is to pick a foreman, and that took us quite some time.
Today starts the closing arguments for the prosecution and for all defendants. You’d think lawyers would have better powerpoint skills. One of the powerpoint presentations (done by a public defender) is in black text on a white background, all caps. IT HAD LIST ITEMS LIKE THIS……. WHICH WAS REALLY VERY DISCONCERTING. In addition to all that…it has sounds. I’ve never seen a powerpoint with sounds before. There is a drumroll between slides (which sometimes got stuck looping which required turning down the volume).
Defendant number 3 is put on the stand by his lawyer. When he is called, a few of the other jurors and I look at each other in surprise, facial expressions basically saying “holy shit, is this the worst lawyer on this planet of Earth or what?” In case anyone didn’t know (I had only a vague idea of this), you cannot be made to testify at your own trial.
Reminiscent of my first experience with jury duty, today we sat around all day. We arrived at 9:30 like usual, and at 9:50 the bailiff told us that we’d be starting late at a little after 10. Come 11:00, we are finally called down to the courtroom. As we get started, the prosecution rests her case, at which point the judge informs us that he needs to handle some motions, and we are sent back upstairs while they do this.
Today an expert in ballistics was called to be a witness for the DA. So far she was the most interesting witness, because she was really smart. Because there were more casings than bullets recovered in this crime, a lot of time was spent covering how she was able to determine that two guns were used in this crime: a 9mm semiautomatic, most likely a Fabrique Nationale or a Smith & Wesson, and an Uzi type pistol.
Today we heard from an expert analyst at the company called Shotspotter. This company places microphones around a city above the roof lines of the houses, microphones which are always listening for what they call an ‘impulsive sound’ which is basically a gunshot sort of sound. Should the system hear an impulsive sound, it will record it (including the 4 seconds prior to the start of the event and 4 seconds after the event ends), use multiple sources around the event to triangulate the position of the shots, and notify the police automatically.
I’ve written a lot of specifics so far, but thought it might be worth describing a typical day of actually sitting on jury duty. There are 3 defendants, each represented by a public defender. One defendant has an extra, private sector lawyer who was called in on special circumstances…whatever that means. We (the 15 members of the jury [12 main jurors, 3 alternates]) need to be assembled in the jury room by 9:30 on days that we have court.
I’ve sat in court for about 14 days (Mon-Thur every week) now, and it’s been a learning experience. The first few witnesses were actual eyewitnesses who were robbed that night; their stories pretty much lined up with each other. We start with prosecution witnesses. Each witness takes the stand after being sworn in, and the DA questions them. After she is done questioning them, each defense attorney then gets a chance to question the witness, but only about things that the DA brought up; they can’t randomly ask “do you know if [VICTIM] ever stole a car?
The first day of the actual trial, we hear opening statements. The district attorney states a pretty impassioned case against the 3 defendants. Of course, that opening statement (and the statements of the defense) are not evidence* and are not to be considered such. The opening statement of the DA is pretty rough. She has accused Defendant 1 of many things, but mostly it boils down to: robbery, kidnapping, and the murder of 2 bystanders.
We reported for voir dire, which is apparently a different process from the summons. Here is how that works: From the pool of 100 of us, they call 12 names, apparently at random. The 12 people who are called on sit in the jury box and are asked questions one by one, first by the prosecution and then by the defense. Using the questionnaires that we filled out the previous day, each lawyer asked questions that are clearly tailored with some goal in mind.
A month ago I got a jury duty summons in the mail. I’ve never received a jury duty summons; 33 years I lived in Ohio, not a single jury duty summons in sight (though Michelle had one summons after six years there). 18 months in California, Michelle and I have both been summoned once. Anyway, I pretty much ignored it until the night before when I am supposed to check to see if I have to report.