I had the pleasure of serving on a jury here in Los Angeles this month. It was a criminal case that lasted about one week. From a litigator’s perspective, the service was very interesting, and very informative. Here are a few lessons I picked up from my jury service:
- Lawyers need to keep their cases short, sweet, and interesting. Our case did involve some science, and the lawyers lost some of the jurors. At one point, a jury actually went to sleep and started to snore. Whose fault was this? The lawyers, and in no way to I fault the other juror because I was feeling the same way. Courtrooms are very drab places without windows. Add a lunch to the equation, and there is no doubt that jurors would rather be taking a nap than hearing an expert try to explain the science behind blood alcohol content for a third time.
- The jurors were very attune to credibility issues. I thought that I was the only one to notice some credibility issues with certain witnesses given my litigation experience. However, during deliberations almost every other juror picked up on the same cues I did in determining who was telling the truth.
- It still is a chance to leave your case up to the jury. You never know what evidence a jury will find persuasive.
- I have a new found respect for the system. I was very impressed with the sense of obligation the other jurors felt towards doing what was right in the case. Everyone listened to the Judge’s instructions and did their best to reach an impartial conclusion.
- Don’t avoid jury service. I hear it all of the time, “Our legal system is broken, something must be done to fix it.” Our Founding Fathers ensured that we always had a way to fix a broken system, and that is why they wanted a jury of one’s peers to resolve disputes. It is a great way to keep a check on the government overzealously prosecuting citizens or a way to make sure a frivolous lawsuit in civil court ends in the best way possible. In addition, if you are selected to serve on a jury, it is actually very interesting to see the case play out, what other jurors found persuasive as evidence, and to reach a conclusion with your fellow jurors.