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My Federal Court Jury Duty Experience Part II

May 08 2005 – 09:21pm

Contrary to what I had expected, I was, in fact, chosen for a jury. I was called in three times, and was chosen for a jury the third (and final for my month of service) time, thus maximizing the portion of my life dedicated to serving jury duty. At least it was an interesting case.

This is Federal Court jury duty, mind you, so I was serving on a drug case. The two defendants in the case were charged with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of Methamphetamine. The story starts when a man, we’ll call him “Mr. Rose,” is arrested for possession of Methamphetamine. When he is arrested, he offers to help the police catch his suppliers, telling them that he gets his Meth from “Dino” and “Dino’s Father In-Law.” Just to test the waters, Mr. Rose and the police set up a deal that will not end in an arrest. Mr. Rose calls Dino, but he is in California at the time, so he sends his Father In-Law. 20 minutes later, Dino’s Father In-Law shows up in the alley with a quarter pound of Meth, which Mr. Rose gives him $6,000 cash for.

The police then plan for the next deal to end in an arrest, and this time Dino himself shows up. The police follow him into the alley and arrest him, but find that he doesn’t have any Meth on him. Right behind him, though, is his Father In-Law, on whom they do find the additional quarter pound of Meth that Mr. Rose had requested on the phone minutes earlier.

As they are making their arrests, other teams are searching various locations in the area they suspect to be tied to the conspiracy. In one apartment, they find a man in his sixties, we’ll call him “Mr. Plum,” who has with him a suitcase full of clothes, and several car titles. Inside of this nearly completely unfurnished apartment (they suspect it to be a “stash house”), they find about 50 grams of Meth in the cabinet under the bathroom sink. In one house they find some gun parts and about another 50 grams of Meth, and in that same house, inside of a lock-box, they find $12.5k in cash, several car titles with the address of the stash house on them, and Mr. Plum’s as well as Dino’s names, among others, on them. They also find Mr. Plum’s work visa in the lock-box.

The defendants in the trial were Dino and Mr. Plum. The trial, including jury selection, took about 20 hours, spanning over 3 days, and deliberation took another 5 hours out of another day. The prosecuting attorney seemed to be the most skilled, and I was impressed throughout the trial by his seeming indifference to winning or losing, in favor of uncovering the facts. Dino had two lawyers, and they were so slimy, if I had seen them as characters in a movie, I would have thought them exaggerated. One was constantly sneering and rolling his eyes, and they objected (unsuccessfully) every chance they got. Mr. Plum’s lawyer was pretty quiet most of the trial. Dino’s Father In-Law was not on trial.

Throughout deliberation, I was glad to see that all of the jurors took the duty of deciding a verdict very seriously. I had expected to hear people anxious to expedite the process, but everyone was sure to carefully consider all of the evidence and testimony. It took maybe half an hour for us to all agree that Dino was guilty. The Meth wasn’t in his possession, but the cell phone with the number that Mr. Rose had called to arrange the sale was, and since being guilty of conspiracy to distribute Meth only requires that one be a part of the agreement (and be aware of its unlawful nature), whether or not he was in possession of Meth was irrelevant.

The deliberation for Mr. Plum’s verdict took much longer. According to Mr. Plum, people would purchase vehicles in the US, and pay him $1000 per vehicle to drive them down to Mexico. This explains all of the car titles with his name on them in his suitcase and in the lockbox. The prosecution had suggested that those involved in the Meth operation were laundering the drug money by purchasing these cars, then having Mr. Plum drive them down to Mexico to sell them. While this was probably the case, there was no evidence that Mr. Plum had any knowledge that he was part of a drug operation. Since you can get a car title with anyone’s name on it without ID, it was entirely possible that Dino and his Father In-Law just seemed like very faithful customers to Mr. Plum, sending cars to family and friends in Mexico regularly. As for Mr. Plum being in the stash house, his claim was that his friend had loaned him the apartment to stay in while he was visiting Omaha. So, after about 3 or 4 hours of deliberating, all 12 of us agreed that Mr. Plum was not guilty (and probably not innocent either).

Overall, my experience as a juror was a positive one. It really was exhausting work listening intently to every detail, taking notes and not knowing which ones were going to be important in the end. It didn’t leave much energy for catching up on work at the end of the day, but thankfully work was very accommodating throughout my service. It was certainly a more empowering feeling, as a citizen, than casting a vote and at least in this case, “the system” seemed to work as it should.

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This post is filed under Miscellaneous, Society.