Monday, August 12, 2013

Grand Jury

Want to make someone groan piteously? Tell them they’ve been selected for jury duty. Want to hear someone whine like a gut-shot Girl Scout? Tell them they have been summoned for grand jury service.

Yup, my number came up. I’m in the grand jury cycle until the end of September. I don’t know why, but petit (trial) jury duty is one month in our area. Grand jury duty runs for three months. That is just one of the differences between the two. 

Unlike trial juries, grand juries don’t deliberate guilt, or innocence, they simply decide if the District Attorney’s office has sufficient evidence to take a case to trial. It’s sort of a vetting process for the legal world.

The summons part of grand jury is just like trial jury summons: somehow, your luck just ran out. Alaska uses all sorts of databases to find jurors. Got a driver’s license? Hunting license? Fishing license? Registered to vote? Have you applied for a Permanent Fund Dividend? (Many fraudulent applications are discovered through jury duty summonses.) Sure, you can postpone the duty, but it’s much like when you were a kid, the vegetables have to be eaten sooner, or later. Grand jury duty is the vegetables of the adult world.

Jury duty: the veggie of adulthood.

“Little Raynard, you ain’t leavin’ the table until your grand jury duty is all over!”

With trial jury, there’s all sorts of opportunity to skip out on the fun. Just the say the right thing and you’re history. 

“Why, yes. I think an officer’s testimony is much more reliable. I mean, he’s a cop, right? Cops don’t lie.”

“I don’t like cops. If their lips is movin’ you can bet they’re lyin’.”

“Of course the guy’s guilty. He got arrested, right?”

“I say, hang ‘em all and let the good Lord sort out the guilty ones. Amen and praise be.”

“The only reason defense lawyers wear neckties is to keep the foreskins down.”

When it comes to grand jury, there’s no such easy out. Potential grand jurors are all herded into a courtroom and names are drawn from a drum. It’s sort of like Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery. If your name is pulled from the pot, you’ve had it. The biggest difference being that in The Lottery, death was a relatively quick affair of stoning. When sitting on a grand jury it’s “death by droning.”

The usual course of events is for the DA’s office to present the case, but only after reading out loud, from the legal statutes, verbatim every definition to every term used in the charging documents. Undoubtedly the idea is to ensure all the jurors fully understand the intent of the terms. However, the legalese requires further translation from the DA, so the preambles drag on interminably.  (There is some succor to be found by reminding myself the DA has to go through this time and again well after I’ve finished my service.)

It isn’t hard to imagine the assistant DA’s making bets in the wings about how many grand jurors they can get to nod off in their preambles to presenting cases.

“Bet you a six-pack I can get at least four more nodders than you before I get to the meat of the case.”

“I’ll take that bet and up you a pizza.”

“Get ready to buy me dinner. I’ve got five ‘knowingly’ and four ‘intentional’ charges.”

“Damn! I’ve only got a couple of ‘reckless’ charges to present.”

“Dude! It’s all about the state of mind. Pale ale and pepperoni, here I come.”

The least they could do is share with the jury.

I just thought it funny this came up with a search for "lawyer" pictures.
 SHAMELESS PLUG: If you found this humorous you can pass judgement on one of my books available for e-readers at Amazon U.S. or at Amazon UK. 

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