Jury Duty Day 1 July 30, 2012

Ok, so I have been selected to be a juror on a trial by Jury for a criminal Second Degree assault case. But, because I can’t actually talk about the case while it is going on, this blog will not be published until we the Jury have reached a verdict. Jury selection took much longer than I thought it would, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney ask questions to the jury, so does the judge.

Jury duty is a little different in my case, because I don’t understand the words coming out of people’s mouths, being Deaf, I am using two Sign Language interpreters, who switch off every 20-30 minutes. The interpreters have to be sworn in, I’m not entirely sure what they are promising, but they have to be sworn in too. One thing, even with my Criminal Justice minor, its really interesting that though we will be returning a verdict of guilty or not guilty, we are not actually judging if the defendant is guilty or not, but what we are judging is if the district attorney has proved beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was guilty.

This case is not about was it done, but more about who did it. The defendant is saying he did not commit the assault. I cannot make a decision at this point if the defendant has done the crime, or if the district attorney can prove he was the one who committed the crime. We only had jury selection and opening arguments today, we have heard no evidence.

 

What I can say, is I think I know why the district attorney (DA) was happy to have me on the case, the victim in this case uses an interpreter to speak to people who speak English. This man uses Vietnamese as his language; the district attorney says his English is “broken”. This is not a term I am happy about, but I understand what he is meaning. Though my English has never been described as “broken” I have several friends who people have said use broken English. The DA described how when the victim was in the hospital, he had a hard time communicating with doctors, with nurses, with police officers. This man was in the hospital for a week, I can imagine how scary it was for this guy not to be able to tell people what was wrong, what was happening, even have a simple conversation with the nurse. I can see why the DA was happy to have me on his trial, something I hadn’t thought would really happen. I thought they wouldn’t want to have a Deaf person on the trail, I thought they wouldn’t want the costs of the interpreters. My interpreters will not be the only interpreters for the case, there will be people who use Vietnamese interpreters as well.

I am not allowed to talk to anyone I don’t know during the trial, because we can’t say who is a witness and who isn’t. I also have to wear a tag that says I’m a juror, that way attorneys will know not to talk about cases around me (even though I can’t understand what they are saying…) The judge made a special instruction for me, there are times when both attorneys go up to the bench, to discuss something they aren’t sure is ok for the jury to hear… the judge asked people not to strain their ears, and not to use any lip reading to know what is going on.

 

We had to wear this so people would know we were Jurors, and not to talk around us

That was day 1, I will hopefully write more about day 2. This is maybe going to help me decide what I will be able to decide, but if nothing else, this will be a good record for me, sitting in court and trying to make a decision that will impact more than one persons lives (even though there is only one defendant).

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One thought on “Jury Duty Day 1 July 30, 2012

  1. This makes me think about how … important it is to have good interpreters. There is so much nuance with language, in tones and choices of words, that can change the meaning… there are times when I wonder if I’m getting the right message from the interpreter, and when it’s something like a trial… eek! No pressure on the terp! 🙂

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