So I got called for jury duty again. I’m always happy to take a day off work and just sit around in room without much idea of what is going on. I reported for duty at 8AM at 1201 Congress, with about 200 other folks similarly called into action. I was directed to Jury Room 2, where I read almost an entire Scalzi novel on my tablet and was starting to wonder if I had to pop out for some better wifi access to download another one, but fortunately 65 of us were lined up and sent to Jury Room 3, where I finished the novel entirely.
Around 10:30 or so, after being assigned a new number (I was juror #1609, and now, I was #45. Like a bullet!) we filed out again to hit the tunnels to the court building and up 19 floors to the Harris County 177th District Court, Judge Ryan Patrick presiding.
So we are directed into specific spots and given little cards with our juror numbers on them, since that is what we will be referred to, as remembering all 65 of our names would be problematic. The court reporter typed away as the judge thanked us for our attendance, because the justice system cannot possibly function without us. (This is true, without a jury, you can’t try cases. Even if we don’t do anything and the defendant cops a plea, we still need to show up. So please, as an aside, report for your jury summons. Bring a book, but show up.)
I almost laughed out loud and poisoned the whole jury at that point. I got a good look at the defendant and, I swear he looked exactly like a coworker at a distance. I nearly said out loud “MIKE, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD, YOU *HAVE* TO BE GUILTY” but it was some guy named Nicholas. I’ve no idea what would have happened to me if I had said that, so we are saved from finding out if this gets you out of jury service or saddled with a contempt charge.
The judge explained that we were dealing with a felony case today, and explained what exactly it was that we would be trying to figure out. He explained the grand jury and their indictment, and spelled out that the prosecution must prove all points in the indictment, and that the defendant is entirely innocent unless the state was able to demonstrate otherwise.
So on a couple of big screen TVs we were shown what the indictment specifically was, and it was that on or around June 9 2013 this guy Nick did whack this Ricardo dude in the head with his hand, and kicked him in the head and chest with his foot. The charge was aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. It was patiently explained to us that we would have to determine if these facts were true beyond a reasonable doubt, assuming we made it through jury selection and into the nice box with new chairs.
He explained the punishment phase of the trial as well. Felony assault carries 2-20 years and a fine of up to $10k, and we the jury would be deciding that. In Texas, the defendant can choose who sets the punishment, judge or jury, and in this case it would be up to us to determine that. (of course, during the first part of the trial, we would be determining guilt or innocence based on the facts of the case. for punishment, if it comes to that, we would learn if the guy had a history of beating people up or not, if he had kids, and other factors that could influence the book that could be thrown at him.)
We were then asked a variety of questions, mostly, did we have any biases that would prevent us from a disinterested judgement? Could we bring ourselves to actually sentence this poor schlub? The trial could go on for a couple of days, and while we would be fed pizza, was there anything that would cause a scheduling conflict? Some folks had kids, family events, and other details…these were noted, and the judge turned us over to the prosecutor.
The prosecutor started off simply, saying that today we were going to determine the facts of a felony assault case, and went down the law in detail, and these are the elements of the crime he was going to prove today. And as he was displaying the law and all the things that were considered deadly weapons, a thought occurred to me.
They kept showing pictures of weapons, and even asking “So, what is a weapon? Anyone?” I muttered “a brick”. The prosecutor popped up and said “yes? A brick?”
“Yes, a brick! Uh, #45 said that.”
“Excellent, a brick. What else?”
While everyone is going on about the various ways things can be used as deadly weapons, I’m reading the part of the statute on the big screen:
(17) “Deadly weapon” means:
(A) a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting death or serious bodily injury; or
(B) anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
And I’m thinking, Ok. Ok. “Anything” can mean anything, but…really, am I “anything”? Is my hand an anything? no, anything is a THING, something you pick up and use. A hammer is anything. My knee, my ass, my head, these are not “anything” as that line reads at all. (Unless, you know, someone tore off my arm and started using it as a weapon, but then, its not really my arm anymore, is it, its an arm being used as a club. If I tore off my own arm, then yes, it would be classed as anything.)
Naturally I’m somewhat bothered by this line of reasoning. It seemed to me that the intent of the deadly weapon line of the statute was for THINGS, not people. And they wanted to say that a hand and foot from some random guy were deadly weapons by this definition. It sounds like someone is trying to stretch the definition so this guy could be charged with the harsher crime.
And I opened my mouth. I raised my little card thing and said “Wait, I have a question. What was it that was actually intended by the legislature when this statue is drafted? Anything, that is things that are classed as things are all external to me, like a hammer or a knife. I am not a thing.” And I wore my best “WTF I am skeptical sir” face as I spoke.
The judge then piped up at the back of the room: “In previous cases, it has been determined that a hand or foot can in fact be a thing under the law.” The prosecutor nodded and said the same thing.
I shrugged and said “Ok”. He continued with his spiel, but at that point, even though i didn’t know it, it was over for me. I didn’t speak up for the rest of the session, not even when the defense counsel asked his questions later, and I’m pretty sure the guy’s lawyer was thinking “Oh yeah, that guy right there, he’s our holdout juror, we keep him, make sure #45 gets two slices of pizza.”
After all the questions were asked, they named which of us were going to be jurors by number. 4, 5, 7, 12, and so on, then 42, then 48. I almost exclaimed “what did I do” but kept silent, and we were thanked, told to leave, without pizza.
So, there you go. You want to get out of jury service, question the basis of the law they are trying to apply to the accused, and the prosecutor will happily put a big X next to your name. I left the building, a little annoyed because now I wouldn’t know how it all turned out, and happy that I could just go home. I got on the train to visit my dad, and the train promptly squashed a smart car making a bad left turn or something, so I had to walk some of the way, so that was nice too.