Yesterday, I sat on a jury. . .

Yesterday, I sat on a “jury” for the first time. I put it in quotes to basically compare it with what I did: I served on a three-member discharge board for the Reserve Command. I took a phone call at 0930, where the Judge Advocate General’s [JA] technician called me up and asked if I was available and willing to sit on a discharge board. I said yes, and later found that the ‘other third member’ was excused because counsels felt he could not form an impartial opinion on the case. JA often draws from potential officers on the AF Reserve Command [AFRC] staff, due to our availability (hey, we’re already here on base!) and due to our disconnection to the accused by virtue of being technically out of the direct chain of command. The technician has had my name from previous cases, but I wasn’t chosen due to a variety of reasons. But this time, they were in a bind. . . the Lieutenant Colonel who I replaced apparently was interviewed under voir dire and later excused.

So, I got called, and volunteered to serve on a board. Because of the late urgency of the phone call, I couldn’t change into the appropriate uniform (blues), and was allowed to serve in BDUs. It was a legitimate formal proceeding, so they wanted all members in blues.

I went into the hearing room, a single room with five tables: The AFRC Reporter (prosecutor), the Accused’s counsel (defense), the court reporter, the Legal Advisor (basically, the judge), and we three board members. Now, remember I was called at the last minute. Here I am in a room full of ‘full-bird’ Colonels, and I’m a lonely Captain. One of the particular questions under voir dire was “Do you think you can speak freely being a Captain among much higher Colonels? Will that rank and grade separation prevent you from expressing your opinion?” I politely replied “No, I would feel comfortable deliberating with ‘em,” knowing that I talk with my bosses on a daily basis. This is important, and I’ll follow up at the end of the post.

Anyway, after voir dire, I’m accepted as a board member, and the presentation of the case begins. Obviously, the prosecution goes first, and for brevity, I’ll post the case particulars:

The Elements:: The accused was a reservist, with 19 years, 11 months, and 26 days of creditable service—just four days shy of earning a retirement. He and his wife were going through marital difficulties. He smoked meth with her in a confessed ‘appeasement’ to keep the marriage together. He smoked it several times over a two-to-three month period. He tested positive in a random urinalysis test on one of his reserve training weekends [ a “Unit Training Assembly” or UTA]. When the results came back, he confessed openly.

The Questions: As board members, we were tasked with the questions of (1) Did the accused wrongfully commit drug abuse? (2) If so, is the accused subject to discharge under AFI 36-3209 Discharge of AFRC Members ? (3) If so, under what service characterization (Honorable, General, Under Other Than Honorable Conditions) is the accused subject to discharge?

Basically it was a determination of whether his abuse constituted a discharge, and what sort of discharge. The tricky part was going through his records and seeing 19 years, 11 months, and 26 days of good, solid, dedicated service (20 full years being the cutoff). Did a single slip in personal judgment warrant a life-long sentence of denying a retirement? Was it even a single slip, or was it repeated use? What were the conditions of the use? I could go on painting the picture. . .

The presentation of the prosecution was pretty straightforward—we already had a confession in our exhibits. The prosecution hammered away for several hours on the validity of the randomness and the urinalysis test. She called three witnesses testifying to how the tests work, how pee test Gas Chromatography is about as scientific you can get, and how the numbers all add up, it’s a conclusive positive on the order of 300.628 bajillion to one it’s a false positive yadda yadda yadda. . .

After three hours of prosecution, the defense presented the case. First, the accused wasn’t present—and presumably didn’t even know about the proceeding! Part of the exhibits prepared for us was the discharge package sent to the accused, and the signatures did not match the name or signature of the accused. We couldn’t infer any sort knowledge of the proceedings.

What impressed me was the cross-examination of the witnesses. The witnesses called in this particular case was done over the phone, and as I mentioned before, supporting the scientific validity of the tests—which I also mentioned was moot due to the member’s confession.

Both sides rest their cases, and we retire to deliberate. Based on the facts documented, we did conclude that the member (1) did knowingly abuse drugs according to his own confession (based on the fact he said he “knew it was wrong”, and repeated ingestion over a few weekends in writing), (2) even though it was a situational lapse of judgement (to which I voiced that he was almost under duress), that he met the criteria in para of AFI 36-3209, as a drug abuser, and (3) that based on his previous good service he met a definition of service characterization in Attachment 2 of the AFI.

So we present our findings to the court, which are accepted and recorded. We then adjourn that particular court and case.

I tell ya, what impressed me about the whole system:
[li] The depth of documentation that went into the case. I mean, I had over 530 pages of photocopies of the particular reports and tests based off the one pee test sample that struck a positive.[/li][li] The arguments of both the prosecution and defense counsels. Through their verbal arguments, they explored basically every every aspect of the case at least once, painting the picture for us jurors.[/li][li] The court itself, in making sure I was comfortable deliberating with Colonels—way higher ranking than I—and that I would be comfortable “taking off my shirt” and voicing my opinions objectively.[/li][/ul]

All that being said, and knowing full damn well that all courts are not run as efficiently, I will opine that all of those Pit threads whining about having to serve on a jury? Y’all can go fuck yourselves. In the U.S., we citizens constitute the state—there is no overlord state or sovereign to police us—and we must do it ourselves. Go serve, and go fill your obligation as a decent citizen. The only reason I haven’t so far until now is that New Jersey keeps calling me, but I’ve been out of state for years. It’s just a matter of time before Georgia does, and when she does, I’ll serve.

Further, I have some faith in the process. With decent lawyers, and an open court, I can see how ‘due process’ is a good thing, and I’m thankful we’ve been guaranteed it (in whatever form) through the Constitution. Yes, I know that there are variances in the system, but just having that right guaranteed makes me want to go kick some Soviet ass and ensure it’s guaranteed for your kids and mine.

So there you have it. I served on an essential jury. I’ve learned an appreciation for the process (as limited as mine was), and look forward to the next time I’m asked to serve. And I’m a better man for it. . .

Matlock? Eat your heart out.

I would have no problem serving on a jury. It’s one of those things, like voting, that you do to participate in society. I’ve never been called.

Did you guys have any discretion on whether to let the guy off?

What does that mean? Was he discharged?

We did, to a point. . . and then we read what was already in print (in black-and-white), and found that he met the criteria for a discharge. The “letting the guy off” critieria came into play when we had to decide what sort of discharge he warranted.

Personally, as an individual, I saw that he met the criteria requiring a discharge. It was pretty straightforward, especially given his statement. The elements of the situation compared with the pre-established criteria of the law dictated he be discharged.

The bad part? He could have done four more days of work and retired.

I served on 3 (ordinary, civilian, criminal) juries in the course of a month a few years back. The one which your story brought most to mind was almost kind of funny.

The Story: Guy met girl. Guy moved in with Girl. Guy had fight with friend. Guy took Girl upstairs and demanded sex. When she refused, he slapped her. He then forced her to perform oral sex on him, and raped her. Afterwards, he threatened to commit suicide. Girl went to a friends house and called the police. He was arrested, she was taken to the hospital to have a rape kit performed on her.

The reason that your tale reminds me of this, is because of the degree of detail we heard about rape kits and how the girl was hardly hurt (in fact consensual sex frequently results in greater trauma to the woman’s flesh) . . . .

This was interesting in the abstract, but odd in the specific, because we were were told that they both agreed there had been sex. The dispute was purely over whether it was consensual sex or rape.

There was also an interesting incident where the fight between the guy and his friend was describe, where one got really mad because the other one used the “m-f” word and the “m-h” word. Guy never did explain the m-h word, which apparently was even more offensive than the m-f word.

I think that we, the jury, spent more time discussing what the m-h word could be than we did whether the guy was guilty. I fear there was almost a consensus that the guy was scary and we wanted him off the streets regardless of whether it was rape. Fortunately, the household had also contained a small child, so we were able to conclude that it had been for the sake of the small child that she had submitted to rape in the hopes of getting it over with quickly, rather than because she wanted sex.

And then, we got to hear his list of priors, and conclude that the guy was a Persistant Felony Offender, and sentence him to a longer time in jail.

Kind of an interesting experience, indeed.

But which type of discharge was it?

We found precedent for a General discharge. It makes him eligible for some benefits, but not all of them. It’s not as bad as a “Dishonorable” or discharge “Under Other than Honorable Conditions”, but it ain’t a squeaky clean either.

I’m still amazed at the process, tho. . .

Is the jury OK?


Seriously, it sounds like an interesting experience. I’m not going to say I hope I get the chance to do it, but I’ve always thought it would be a good inside look at the justice system, especially if the case was interesting.

I just was on a jury about three weeks ago. I get called up every year, but I never made it past voir dire before this last time. I found it an interesting experience, though I felt that the same evidence was being hashed over and over.

It was a criminal trial, and I was surprised that the defense mounted no case-in-chief, but only cross examined during the state’s turn. Is this typical, especially if the defense has no other witnesses to call?

Wow! Obviously I wasn’t privy to all the circumstances, but your description of the case makes the judgement seem pretty harsh. Assuming this guy was at least an E-6 and would start drawing his pension at age 60 (under the reserve retirement plan) he was essentially fined somewhere around $400, 000 in pay and benefits (assuming he lived to 75).
You also point out that he wasn’t present and may not have been notified of the board’s meeting. Your description leaves a lot of questions in my mind. Did his counsel offer any defense, or ask for drug rehabilitation and/or leniency? Why was the hearing held in his absence?

People usually whine about jury duty. I can understand it if you are self employed, or if your employer docks you, and you take a financial hit. Nobody wants that. But even for those who employers do pay, it seems most people consider being summoned to jury duty on the same level as being asked to help paint the boss’ house.

Just do it. You get a few days away from the office. You get to participate in an essential process, and fulfill another useful role in society. And if you get assigned to a location in the downtown area of your city, chances are there are many more interesting places for lunch than there are near your workplace. And you get those long lunch breaks. What’s not to like?

I suppose they could if they were in the Pit, but not in MPSIMS. If you want to make this a Pit thread, I’ll move it there for you; until then, keep in mind that this is MPSIMS, and that telling other Dopers to “go fuck [them]selves”–even if you don’t mention any names–is inappropriate.

Whoa! I did get a little carried away with myself. Sorry 'bout that! :smack:

A.R. Cane, a big part of it was that he admitted he knew it was wrong, and yet he committed repeated abuse anyway. We never did hear anything of any sort of rehabilitation, and when I asked about it, both sides mentioned that they “weren’t allowed to bring that sort of evidence into this particular hearing” . . . :confused:

His defense actually did invoke the knowledge that he wasn’t at the hearing (he doesn’t have to be though. The defense was acting on his behalf in proxy). Of the two mailed packages about the hearings, whomever was at the address signed for them–and both times, two different names and signatures (copies were in the exhibits).

Now, with a General Discharge, he may be able to reenlist in another branch’s Reserve and fulfill his last “good year” that way. I dunno. I’m not a recruiter. . .

Hell, I’m not even a lawyer (but I play one on TV).

I’m curious as to why there was a trial at all. Is there a military equivalent of a plea bargain to avoid a trial? Did he recant his confesion?

Were you actually deciding on his guilt, or only his punishment? If the latter, it seems that all the technical testimony about test accuracy and so forth was not relevant, as it wasn’t neing disputed.

I get called about every12-15 months. It costs me anywhere from $320-500 for a lost day’s billing. I’ll never be accepted onto a jury panel because back in the mid 1970s, I was a deputy sheriff.

If I thought I would ever get to serve, I wouldn’t complain. But I won’t, so I am. Either take my name off the damn list or put me on a jury. Otherwise, stop wasting my time and money.

I sat on a Special Court Martial back in the 70’s. 3 officer and two chiefs. Guy on trial was an E-6 who clocked a young lower ranking guy. It happen off base after the younger guy kept baiting him, not much of an excuse. As I recall two of the officers wanted to throw the book at him. The other chief and I thought confining him to the base for a month and fining him was more like it and the 3rd officer went along w/ us. I think we finally compromised on 30 days in the brig and a fine. The court martial on his record probably meant that he’d never get promoted, even if he did it would be delayed by 4-5 years, minimum.
I avoided Fed. jury duty a few years ago. It meant I would have had to drive about a hundred miles and stay in a motel for 4 nights a week, for a month. Maybe longer if I was chosen. I was in the trucking business, would have cost me a couple grand a week. They paid $25 a day, plus mileage and reimbursement for the lodging and meals.

This blows my mind. I’ve been a registered voter for over 25 years now, in two different counties. Never been called.

I’ve been on a jury twice, both were interesting experiences.

The first one settled after the jury was empaneled, just as well given the questions the defense attorney asked during voir dire he was an idiot. I doubt he could have gotten Superman out of a speeding ticket.

The second was more intersting as we went through the whole process. Both attorneys were competent, however the judge seemed a bit petulant at times. The jurors took their duties seriously and spent a good amount of time debating various issues. I was back and forth, feeling the guy was probably guilty, but not beyound a reasonable doubt. In the end it didn’t matter because one juror was convinced of his guilt and another was convcinced the cops screwed up, so we were hung no matter how I voted.

I do think CSI and other shows are giving folks unreasonable expectations. One fellow couldn’t understand why they didn’t fingerprint crumpled up saran wrap.

Oh, and one jury I wasn’t picked for, but wish I had been, was a wire fraud case run by Nigerians. It was a federal case, more money per day and better coffee, plus it sounded interesting.