Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock


Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict


Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links


Regional News


News Publications

No Jury Service for Me
Posted by: Dale Franks on Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Well, that didn't take long. The jury has been picked, and I'm not on it, so I can go back and print my notes from the last two days. NOTE: All of the names below are pseudonyms.


15 May/12:05: It's a murder trial, People v. Herrera. The judge greeted us, gave us a brief orientation about the voir dire process. He then read us the Information, i.e., the summary of charges against Mr. Herrera. The state alleges that last year, Ernesto Herrera did unlawfully and with malice aforethought murder Kieth Allen, a human being. In case we might have mistakenly thought Mr. Allen was a fancily-named three-toed sloth or something, I guess.) It is further alleged that said defendant Ernesto Herrera personally used a deadly weapon, a knife, to commit the offense.

Or something like that.

The judge tells us that this is merely the charges. it isn't proof of anything, and we are to make no determinations about Mr. Herrera based on the charges.

We are introduced to Mr. Herrera. He has a mullet hairdo and a big zapata mustache and tiny goatee. He is paunchy, and of slightly below-average height, wearing a light gray shirt, striped tie, and gray slacks. He looks like the average criminal defendant, a loser dressing up badly for court.

In fact he doesn't look much different from any of a million young Hispanic men who toil daily at gardening, or day jobs. You wouldn't look twice at him on the street. He has no visible gang tats or any of the other "Hey, look at me! I'm scary!" visual cues that might indicate the habitual offender usually seen haunting California courtrooms.

The judge begins questioning the jury. My. Isn't he the nosy one.

"Where do you live? Where did you live before that? What do you do for a living? What degrees do you have? What do your parents do for a living? Your wife? Your kids? Their spouses? Do you have any direct or indirect law enforcement experience? Do you know anyone in the legal profession? have you ever been a juror? Did you come to a verdict? have you ever committed a crime? Have you ever witnessed a crime? have you ever been a party in a lawsuit?"

It goes on and on. I see the reasons for asking the questions, but I'm uncomfortable baring my whole life to 80 strangers.

The judge talks to four jurors before lunch. Great. Only 71 more to go.

15 May/15:07: It's going a bit faster than I thought it would.

Line of the day: "Juror 18, if you are married, what does your spouse do?" "I'm between wives, your honor."

The judge is doing a lot of questioning about psychological experts. He explains that the case will not address a "not guilty by reason of insanity" defense. The jury will, however, have to weigh some of the elements of the crime in light of psychiatric expert testimony, and determine if they are met for a guilty verdict for murder.

A couple of the jurors are, in fact psychologists, all of whom are counselors of one type or another in the junior college system. I suspect they can look forward to going bye-bye on the first round of challenges.

15 May/16:00: The judge has finished questioning the first 24 jurors. He shuts court down half an hour early, and the defense and prosecution will ask questions tomorrow morning.

One of the jurors is a retired BATF agent with 30 years service at the agency. He's some sort of explosives expert. The judge drills him on how he'll respond to testimony from other law enforcement officers. He says he'll be scrupulously fair, of course.

Not that that'll help him. If I was the defense attorney, I'd bump him at the first opportunity. Which, by the way, assuming they get to me, is why I figure I'll be bumped. I can't imagine allowing law enforcement officers deciding my client's guilt or innocence if I was a defense attorney.

Another juror is a retired Army infantry NCO, who's worked for the last 15 years as an armed guard at the nuclear power plant at San Onofre. He's a total ass. If you've spent half your adult life in law enforcement as a sworn peace officer like I have, nothing gets up your nose faster than a security guard with no law enforcement experience, who acts like he's the lead homicide detective for LAPD. He regales any juror who'll listen with his amazing breadth of training and innate talent for law enforcement.

Under questioning from Judge Goldman, he actually corrects the judge on a few minor points. Again, total ass.

Lots of questions, too, about whether jurors will apply the law, as the judge explains it, even if they don't agree with it. He tells them they must apply the law as he explains it, and asks if they can do so.

Huh. Jury nullification is evidently a sore subject in California courts.

I wonder how I'll answer that question if I am asked.

[Musings on jury nullification moved to a separate post—EDF]

A lot of jurors have advanced degrees. Except for a couple of young people, everyone has at least a bachelor's degree, and the vast majority have at least one Masters.

Is this usual?


16 May/10:33: Wow! That went fast! All 24 of the first jurors have been through voir dire, and they're figuring out who to get rid of while we go on break.

The defense asked some questions, and made some interesting statements about the case. Mr. Herrera did, in fact, kill Mr. Allen (a human being, in case you've gone astray again into thinking that we was a narwhal, or something). This doesn't look too good for Mr. Herrera. Even his own attorney says he's a killer. I guess the evidence on this one is so rock solid that everyone involved knows Mr. Herrera is going away for a while.

What we are going to hear psychiatric expert testimony for is to determine Mr. Herrera's degree of culpability. I.e., the defense is gonna try to cut that murder charge down to something more manageable, like manslaughter.

To that end, we will hear evidence that Mr. Herrera is mildly off his rocker, except when he takes his meds. Which, according to the defense, he wasn't doing when he gutted Mr. Kieth like a catfish.

The defense attorney, Mr. Richmond, asks Total Ass if he could discriminate between varying levels of culpability based on Mr. Herrera's psychiatric condition. As expected, Total Ass replies that if Mr. Herrera didn't take his meds, then he's guilty, no ifs ands or buts. Compassionate guy, Total Ass is.

Conversely, another juror has a son-in-law who howls at moonbeams if he doesn't take his meds, so now Bleeding Heart tells the defense that he wants to hold Mr. Herrera, and gently stroke his silky black hair.

I don't know where I stand. I have to take my little Avandia and metformin pills every day for diabetes. If I don't, Bad Things will happen. Surely Mr. Herrera knows this.

On the other hand, that happens a lot with crazies. They know they have to take their meds. But they feel fine when they do, so they think they've got that barking mad deal licked and stop taking them. Then the next thing they know they're waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room with dried hooker blood all over them. Maybe they don't relate to the meds in the same way the sane do.

One juror, Stoner Rock-Boy, answers all questions put to him with monosyllabic grunts. He gets line of the day, too. "Where do you work?" "Vons." "Is that a full-time or part-time job?" "Full-time." What do you do when you're not working?" "Stuff."

OK. Thanks for playing, Mr. Vague!

If I was guessing, I'd say five jurors will make it, out of the first 24.

16 May/12:20: OK. When we came back from break, Total Ass was gone. So was Bleeding Heart. So was another juror, though I'm not sure what for.

Anyway, all the psychology/counselor types got dumped off the jury, as did Stoner Rock-Boy, and some young girl who didn't look old enough to cross the street without adult supervision.

But, surprisingly, from the first 24 jurors, 11 were actually seated on the panel. And they are the most educated of the jurors, too. As nearly as I can tell, all of them have Masters degrees. Four of them are electrical engineers. And the retired BATF agent is on the panel, too.

This was totally unexpected. You know, the old joke about juries is that they are filled by people too stupid to get out of jury duty. But that's clearly not the case here. Maybe it's because the defense is already stipulating that Mr. Herrera killed the victim. I mean, if you're a defense attorney trying to get your client off scott-free, maybe you want a bunch of unlettered rubes you can fool into acquitting. But if you already know your client is going up the river, and you need to shoot for manslaughter, you want really educated technical people to weigh expert evidence. I dunno. But it isn't what I expected.

So, now we only need 1 juror and a couple of alternates to pick. I am juror 56. At this point, I'm pretty sure they'll never even get to me.

We start the voir dire for the next 13 jurors.

16 May/15:07: The judge is done with his questions for the second 13, so the attorneys will get a crack at them when we return.

New line of the day: One of the jurors relates that he had a bipolar stepson who was arrested for some nasty road rage incident. Judge Goldman asks, "What happened in that case?" "We hired a hotshot defense lawyer who got him off."

We laughed and laughed and laughed.

16 May/16:00: We're done. From the second thirteen, only one juror was dropped, then both the prosecutor and defense told the judge they were satisfied with the panel. After a quick sidebar, the judge picked three alternates.

The physicist, by the way, became Juror 12. So, for this trial, they've got a jury that could serve as the faculty for a pretty decent little technical college.

For the rest of us, we're done.

I was really happy to get out of there, except that it means I have to actually go to work tomorrow.
Return to Main Blog Page

Previous Comments to this Post 

As expected, Total Ass replies that if Mr. Herrera didn’t take his meds, then he’s guilty, no ifs ands or buts.
I’d have to agree though, if without his meds Mr Herrera has a history of violence. If you know you tend to hurt people when you go off your meds, and you have the choice to go off your meds and do, you have accepted that you might hurt someone and can’t claim you were a lil wacky, oh woe is you...

Just my opinion. Your mileage may very...
Written By: Scott
URL: http://
You had an unusual number of degrees on the panel because they weeded out the people who would be hardships on a six month trial. You either have to have a position valuable enough that you get indefinate paid jury duty as a benefit, or are financially secure enough to skate for six months. That means people with good jobs, which over-represents higher education.

(I’ve helped pick a few juries.)
Written By: Phelps
"A couple of the jurors are, in fact psychologists, all of whom are counselors of one type or another in the junior college system."

What kind of JC system do you have in CA, that you need so many psychological counselors?

"nothing gets up your nose faster than a security guard with no law enforcement experience, who acts like he’s the lead homicide detective for LAPD. He regales any juror who’ll listen with his amazing breadth of training and innate talent for law enforcement."

Having been a security guard for awhile, I can understand. I am generally not in favor of gun control or eugenics, but some of the morons who are allowed to carry weapons are frightening. One of my shift supervisors, alledgedly an ex police officer, repeatedly told us that it was perfectly okay to blow away anyone we saw climbing the perimeter fence while trying to escape.

"Is this usual?"

Where I live, when you get the summons you can send in a form saying that you can’t afford to take the time off. My guess is that ocupations requiring college degrees pay enough so that you can take the time off from work without financial hardship. Also, jury lists are usually taken from voter registration lists, and I think voter registration increases with income and education. I would imagine in places like Fla. there would be a lot of bored retired folks on the panel.

"OK. Thanks for playing, Mr. Vague!"

I’m betting he is one of the few without a master’s degree.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Having been a security guard for awhile, I can understand. I am generally not in favor of gun control or eugenics, but some of the morons who are allowed to carry weapons are frightening. One of my shift supervisors, alledgedly an ex police officer, repeatedly told us that it was perfectly okay to blow away anyone we saw climbing the perimeter fence while trying to escape.
There’s a term for guys like yuor former supervisor... It’s "Mr. Lawsuit"...

Very few security guards in IL carry weapons, and it’s places like power plants and the like. Other than that, when I was a security guard at a hospital or a factory, my only weapons were my flashlight (3-cell maglight), a heavy-as-hell set of keys (I’m not kidding, it was like carrying that guy from The Matrix), and my girlish scream of terror*...

*note: It’s not really that bad... But there are cases where it would be pretty close...
Written By: Scott
URL: http://
Some 30 years ago, I did an attempted murder trial.

They say that all cases that go to trial are usually the weirdest case, but my case had lots of really weird stuff.

It was male school gym teacher on pregnant female school gym teacher. The victim, after the surgery to reconstruct her slit neck and miscarriage, wrote down the name of the other school gym teacher, but later had amnesia of the events. They brought in a psychiatrist (doctor who had previously been involved with the "Seven Faces of Eve" trial) to treat the amnesia, using hypnosis no less. You can bet that that made it a complete mess.

We found him guilty. For me, it was the written name and no provable alibi.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
"There’s a term for guys like yuor former supervisor... It’s "Mr. Lawsuit"..."

Yeah, he was a real dimwit. He actually personally helped break into a building adjoining one of the sites we were "guarding" so that we could use the bathroom and the telephone(for official use only, of course). That’s break in as in smashing a window and crawling in. He also had us turn on their external floodlights to illuminate our site. We heard later the owners were very upset about it. Particulary the long distance phone bills and the electric bill for all those floodlights. What was really scary about the folks I worked with was that they had six times the firepower of Barnie Fife, and half the brains. Ah, good times.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
NOTE: All of the names below are pseudonyms.
Even "Total Ass"?

Written By: Danny O. Cline, Jr.
URL: http://
Nice site man! This will be my first time visiting. Keep up the great work. Thanks much!
Written By: Sofia

Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Vicious Capitalism


Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks