Friday, July 6, 2012

Courting Disaster

Now that my civic duty has ended, I can finally make some observations about the experience.
  • Television has permanently affected how judges behave. They all try to be funny, or dramatic, or, in the case of mine, Susan Dey.
  • It's really quite a feat, on a morning when the temperature is a perfect 66 degrees, to maintain the climate of a public building at an equatorial level that replicates mid-day in Borneo. You could grow orchids in that court house, and train monkeys to harvest them.
  • The defense attorney in this case did his client a real disservice. Elderly and theatrical, he affected a sort of Southern esquire Inherit the Wind persona of upswept grey hair and tightly-knotted bow tie. He was ill-prepared and relied on courtroom theatrics and smoke screens, and when he started the trial with a dissertation on the defendant's premature birth 32 years ago (quickly objected to by the prosecutor and sustained by the judge) we knew it was going to be a long haul to liberty. There were sidebars a-plenty.
  • Some scientists are astute observers and some make you question their empirical wisdom. The victim in this case was a famous UCSF pathologist who was punched in the face for her iPhone. Her testimony was crisp, exact and clarifying. Her colleague who witnessed the incident had no sense of time (an act that must have taken five seconds was described as a minute-and-a-half long; the attacker, who was 6'2", was described as 5'2"). Let's find out what he's researching and assign that work to someone else before he blows up the city.
  • Today's young prosecutors have terrific PowerPoint skills.
  • The same terrifying, baggy-pantsed thug who would pop a cap in yo' ass on the street transforms into a charming gentleman once he enters the portals of Superior Court. "Excuse me, sir," one said to me, his gold dental grill flashing in the low-wattage institutional lighting as we snaked torward the metal detectors. "I believe you dropped this laundry ticket."
  • When the victim is a woman, the defense will excuse all the female jurors they can because they're more likely to sympathize with a woman being attacked on the street.
So, that's over for another year. But since attorneys love nothing more than to populate their jury boxes with former Catholic altar boys like me, however lapsed, I'm sure I'll serve again.

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