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The Jury, Episode 3: The Paramedic, Mom, and Sis - Elf M. Sternberg
elfs
elfs
The Jury, Episode 3: The Paramedic, Mom, and Sis
I got there early, only to be told that the actual trial won't resume for another hour or so. Some maneuvering going on backstage. I take out the laptop and start to get up-to-date, or at least try.

I like the other jurors. And that's the problem. The only people who actually show up for jury duty are those who are nice, responsible people with stable enough lives that they can take a week off. They're a wide bunch, including your classic pony-tailed software geek, the young auto mechanic, the strong responsible woman, and the professional jazz mixer who still slips into speaking jive now and then. All nifty people assembled for a common purpose, and all of them worth being part of my monkeysphere.

I learned from the bailiff that the case that's so far gone through 200 potential jurors looking for 13 (the one I mentioned earlier that I did not get into) is a medical malpractice case where the patient died. The testimony is expected to last four to six weeks even before deliberations. Finding that many people willing to be sequestered for so long is apparently very hard.

This morning we hear from three people. The first is the EMT who was first on the scene of the accident. He looks like a firefighter: big tanned white guy, buzz cut, muscles everywhere. He doesn't remember this one specifically, and I don't hold that against him. He must see one of these a week, and it's been six years since this particular crash. (Odd, though; he uses the term "accident," which I thought was no longer in favor. Accident investigators always say "crash" to avoid the laying or absolution of blame.) His only duty today is to read the report aloud and assert that that's his handwriting and his signature and as far as he knows he has no reason to doubt the report's veracity. It recites evidence of surface injury, how the patient was "extricated" (cut out of the car), no broken limbs, and all vital signs were normal. She scored on 2 out of 3 response criteria. She could answer questions, but was disoriented about what had happened or where she was. He says, "Yes, sir," a lot to the lawyers.

Mr. Landry, of course, goes to the severity of the accident, pointing out that she was given a critical care ambulance (rather than a transport ambulance) and driven to our level-1 trauma center. Koenig goes into signs of well-being on Miss T's part.

Landry tries to get Underhill's report entered as evidence. Koenig objects on the grounds that it's hearsay and without foundation. The jury does a small doubletake and Judge Prochnau admits it into evidence.

The next two people up are her sister, and her mother. They're hard to tell apart: her sister, despite being close to Miss T's age, has not been kind to the passage of time or vice versa: she looks closer to her mother's age. She has awful hair. All three are that hardy mix of Kansas and Norway that seems to occupy the Upper West of Washington. She has three sons, that might explain it. But then what do we say about Omaha?

We get the same litany of injuries contrasted with prior vivaciousness. Descriptions of her dancing, water-skiing, and sports counterpoint her current incapacity, an inability to lift heavy things, to walk far, to run at all. Koenig tries to trap the mother in a deceit about when Miss T went back to work full time, but I think it falls flat. I'm willing to forgive the mother's memory as fallible about whether it was three months or six before Miss T went back to work full time five years ago. I can't remember the exact months I started working at a variety of employers prior to my current, after all. The mother talks about how Miss T can't sit still for long periods of time without having to stretch out her neck, how she suffers headaches constantly, how she can't lie down without carefully calculating how she'll do that.

We also get other details about her hardship: psychologically freaked out by the prospect of driving now, she can't go camping anymore with the hard ground, she can't sit or lie down without giving the movement some thought. Koenig asks a very critical question: if she's so depressed, has she ever sought psychological treatment, counseling, or therapy? The answer is "No." Her mother testifies that Miss T "lost her bubby personality." She doesn't know when Miss T started to see Doc L, and she doesn't believe that Miss T ever went to anyone but Doc L.

I write in my notes, "Dammit, there's a timeline. There are dates, documents. Why the Hell doesn't the jury have access to this stuff already?" The bandwidth of a jury trial is painfully low. I supposed there's something to be said for the slow, deliberate process.

We break for lunch. At lunch, I have an insight about something Koenig said during voir dire, a nasty bit of work that laid the seeds for his side of the argument. That guy is playing within the rules, but man is that dirty. He made sure that we, the jurors, could sit still for two hour stretches at a time. That we were fit to sit on the jury. Miss T has sat in her plaintiff's seat the whole time, seemingly contradicting her own mother's statements. She doesn't fidgit, she doesn't rearrange herself. She just sits, quietly. She didn't even pick up on that while her mother was testifying.

Dude.

I still have an open mind. It's amazing to me how well the jury system really works, at least for me and from my point of view. I still want to know if the treatment administered was justified, and if so, is it helping. I know that no matter what decision I help render, if I get to help render it, someone's life will be burdened horribly for a long, long time to come. I want to make the right choice. Cases like this, where no matter what happens someone will hurt, just suck. I can't think of a better system, actually, but this one is just brutal to everyone concerned.

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14 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
manawolf From: manawolf Date: May 23rd, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe I missed an earlier post, but I thought you weren't allowed to discuss the goings-on? That's what they told me when I showed up for duty, and I know my mom couldn't talk about the case she was on while she was serving...
blackcoat From: blackcoat Date: May 23rd, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
He's done.
elfs From: elfs Date: May 23rd, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, I'm done with it. It's just taking me a long time to put all of my notes and thoughts together, and blog about it. This is a saga, 8800 words all told, so far.
manawolf From: manawolf Date: May 23rd, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whooo go me for not paying attention. Carry on.

(Like you need my permission.)

I fail the Internet...
urox From: urox Date: May 23rd, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
"He says, 'Yes, sir,' a lot to the lawyers."

My parents taught me to say this when I was younger (perhaps because both of them are children of a father who was in the military). I've found that many people say it at my work and that I've found it rather nice.

Seats are tricky things. Ever since getting pregnant, I cannot sit in many chairs for very long without my tailbone hurting where I previously had no problem (and I haven't gained pregnancy weight yet). Yet currently I'm in this hotel recliner which hasn't caused me a single problem yet.
omahas From: omahas Date: May 23rd, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ever sit in a court room? I have, as juror, plaintiff/defendant, and viewer. Believe me, they are not meant to be comfy, even when they have padded seats.

And I've sat in those particular seats in that particular court room (or court house, I should restate).
urox From: urox Date: May 23rd, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
The jury seats at the San Jose, CA courthouse are pretty plush. They're nicer than my ergo-seat at work even. I was rather surprised that the city/county had seemed to spend that much money on jury chairs.
omahas From: omahas Date: May 24th, 2008 06:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Eh, you California people, you get all the breaks. ;)
bunnybutt From: bunnybutt Date: May 23rd, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
A question and a comment.

Question: when you talk about possible burden on the defendant - is this about a claim to his insurance, or liability out of his personal pocket because his insurance has been exhausted? Systemically, it probably shouldn't matter, but in reality it kind of does, in terms of the balance of burden.

Comment: Which kind of has a question built in. Suffering from chronic pain myself, I know that I can't sit for a long period of time *unmedicated*. Dosed up, I do much better. However, I'm not good for much of anything else in terms of cogent thought (e.g., I wouldn't be able to work at anything more mentally taxing than a sit-com). Do you have any sense of whether the plaintiff was medicated during the proceedings?

Invisible disabilities are often judged more harshly because of the limits of outside perception of them. It can be tough to live with.
elfs From: elfs Date: May 23rd, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
To answer your question, you'll have to wait until Episode nine, I'm afraid. Let's say it did come up, but we the jury to the best of our ability tried to disregard it as the law says we should.

I did not get the impression during her testimony that Miss T was in any way doped up or otherwise medicated during the proceedings.
bunnybutt From: bunnybutt Date: May 23rd, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, of course the law says you should disregard whether or not it's personal or insurance liability - but since you had specifically mentioned potential burden, I was curious whether that entered into it. Can't wait for the rest of the story!

With regard to the drugs... "during her testimony" could be a really different thing than "sitting quietly at the plaintiff's table" for long stretches. And of course, you have only her word, and that of her family, that she's in significant pain.

This seems illustrative of something I've had to think about more, since I rather spectacularly tore a rotator cuff a few years ago. Wearing or not wearing the dramatic sling the surgeon gave me makes no difference at all to my pain levels, but a significant difference as to how I'm treated by others, which I find curious. Likewise, if I take narcotics and don't mention it, people don't seem to notice that I'm "impaired", whereas if I mention it, they discount what I say as "the drugs talking". It's been a fascinating experience in comparing my own reality to how I'm clearly judged by others, and has affected how I view others.
lisakit From: lisakit Date: May 25th, 2008 06:30 am (UTC) (Link)

"Invisible disabilities..."

Sigh. I'm so with you there. I have chronic pain issues as well and the past year or so I've had to resort to a cane from time to time. When I'm using my cane, people are so much more patient with my slow pace and my co-workers are more "understanding". They still don't really understand, but it many ways it's easier for me to deal. I'm trying very hard not to become dependent on the cane, but the change in attitudes when my problem becomes suddenly visible just ads to my inclination to laziness in that area.
kengr From: kengr Date: May 24th, 2008 09:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Just a note. Sitting still for two hours can be "is comfortable" or can be "has learned that squirming *hurts* far more than than sitting still does"
lisakit From: lisakit Date: May 25th, 2008 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh hell yah.

One indicator of whether or not she was in pain could be was she paying attention to the trial or did she seem to be more internalized? I tend to concentrate more on myself rather than my surroundings or the events when my pain is greater as I have to work more to deal with it.
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