Jury duty

I’ve been on jury duty this week. This partially explains my lack of production on Power Line.

The case we heard involved pretty serious criminal charges. I think the defense lawyer would have opted to strike me from the panel had he been aware of my hard line blogging about various criminal justice matters. However, my writings never came up during voir dire, and both parties seemed fine with having me on the jury.

It worked out well for the defense lawyer. I was a solid vote and a strong advocate for acquittal on the most serious charge.

I might write about the case in more detail at some point, but for now I’ll just make some general observations.

First, as a lawyer I always thought jurors were conscientious and hard working. A jury might err, but rarely for lack of effort or good faith, in my experience.

This week’s jury service gave me an inside look. It confirmed and strengthened my impression.

Second, if you’re a defense lawyer in a liberal suburban county and your client is asserting self-defense in a handgun case, the fewer white women on your panel, the better.

Third, our jury was about as diverse as could be in terms of race, ethnicity, etc. It consisted of three white females, two black females, and one Latino female. Males made up the other half of the jury. Two of them were black, three white, and one Asian (from India). One of the three white males hailed from Eastern Europe (I think).

However, I don’t believe Latinos are pulling their weight on Montgomery County juries. On the first day of my service, there were hundreds of potential jurors waiting in the jury lounge to be assigned to a case (or not). Few, it seemed to me, were Latino. Yet, Latinos make up around 20 percent of the county’s population (though the jury-eligible percentage must be somewhat lower).

Two weeks earlier, I accompanied my wife to the Social Security office in Silver Spring, Maryland (in Montgomery County). Nearly everyone there was black or Latino, with the latter group making up at least 40 percent of the crowd present during the hour we were there.

Fourth, there was substantial disagreement among jurors. In fact, we were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the most serious criminal charge. However, jurors were unfailingly civil, and indeed friendly, throughout our deliberations.

It’s true that we didn’t discuss politics, but a gun was at the heart of the case, and divergent juror attitudes towards guns figured prominently in our deliberations. Yet, there were no raised voices, personal attacks, or barbed comments.

I doubt that old levels of civility will ever return to American politics. But America’s culture wars, racial divisions, and gun debate did not prevent an outbreak of civility this week on the Ninth Floor of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville, Maryland.

NOTE: I have modified this post slightly since it first went up.