Friday, September 23, 2005

Peers of the land

Today we finished selecting a jury in the matter of the People v. Roger Ramirez. It took several days; longer, in fact, than expected thanks to an incident that rendered the jail into lock down for most of Wednesday afternoon. What this incident was I never knew, but with the jail under lockdown the defendant couldn't be transported to the courthouse (which, as it happens, is right next door and actually connected via a series of tunnels). But eventually Mr. Ramirez was able to come, much to everyone's relief. Well, except his I suppose.

Selecting a jury is an interesting procedure. You start with an unknown mob of people and, through questions and observation try to ascertain which people would be most receptive to your particular assertions. Sometimes it's easy; you don't want people who hate dogs to be on a jury involving a dog attack. But more often, it's a bizarre amalgamation of stereotypes and amature psychology.

For my own part, I mainly sat at the defense table and scribbled notes. My supervisor wanted me to keep my own list of jurors that I thought we should keep, and those I thought we should keep. Happily, our lists ended up being fairly similar, and he even kicked the people who'd met my reject list but weren't on his. Of course, part of his receptiveness to my suggestion was the fact that we had twenty pre-emptory challenges.

Pre-emptory challenges are bascially vetos on prospective jurors. Twenty is a lot, and there was almost no way that we'd have used them all, so my boss lost nothing by sending a few challenges my way. Still, I'd like to think my decisions were based on cause, at least insofar as cause exists in this esoteric proces.

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