Saturday, May 24, 2008
Order in the Court
So I was downtown at the courthouse Tuesday through Thursday. We stayed till 7:45 Thursday night to deliberate. It was a very long day. MARTA worked out fairly well though, Five Points Station is just around the corner.
So Tuesday they herd everyone through long lines to go through the metal detectors and then to check in. you watch this lovely video about the GA justice system. Its getting close to about 10 (you have to be there at 8am) and they still aren't calling any groups back, though they said there was 29 cases that all had to be tried so it would be busy. Great. So I see they actually have a special lactation room (always better than the bathroom) so as I am walking over to try to find someone who will give me a key, they of course start calling names. I am in the first group. They take 36 of us down. I told the bailiff I needed like a 20 minute break and I couldn't wait too long (of course after an awkward conversation about lactation that he wasn't quite catching on to.) So I was #22, they took the first 14 people, put them in the jury box, do some general questions with everyone, we just raise our numbers. Then the individual questions start (I finally got a break at this point) and you can tell the case is about contracting because they ask everyone about their past experience with contractors. And their whole schooling and current job, past if it had to do with contractors or lawyers. This is taking forever. We get a lunch break and then its our groups turn, 14 more people being asked many questions. This is taking hours folks. They say thats enough questions and they go back to decide. Luckily I have a book, which I have read about half of to this point. Finally at about 2:30pm, they come back, dismiss the last group of 14, they never got asked any questions and just had to sit there the whole time, poor folks. But at least they get to go home at this point. My name is of course called. They show us to the jury room, we get to go potty really quick and then it begins. Opening statements. Now I actually love all this lawyer talk. They aren't the greatest lawyers ever (one of them was the mayor of Roswell!) but basically a contractor was suing a couple for about $63,000 of work they did at his house. He had fired them midway through the job and refused to pay them. He had already paid them over $50,000 though. It was all kind of shady, you could tell both parties were not telling the complete truth. Partly was because this happened 4 years ago. The family had a tree rip open their house during the storm here for Hurricane Francis. Insurance covered the damage, but he added all these upgrades and remodels and extended his bedroom and changed the plans 3 times, after they had framed. It was ugly business. Wednesday was testimony all day. There was so many pieces of evidence, pictures, checks, copies of estimates and plans, which no one ever signed! Come on people, lets sign and date documents here. One lawyer kept getting the papers and the numbers they assign to them mixed up, or he would call them 'defense exhibit' instead of 'plaintiff.' Or he would lose them all together and we would have to recess till he found them. Judge was not very paitent with them. But she was great and really snappy which made if funny. It was just all very long. The judge would as if they were getting close to a stopping point (so we could take a break and I could take care of business) and he would say like "just another hour of questioning." An hour! My jury was great though, there were 2 FBI agents, and a court reporter and everyone had a college education, so when it came down to decision time, everyone was pretty smart and it wasn't too bad. It was just 5 o'clock by the time we started and no one wanted to come back Friday. We all were on the side of the contractor, so at least that was easy, but we had to decide on how much he got for the repair work, how much for the remodel work, and if he got attorney fees ($200 an hour!) because the defendant was the cause of all this trouble. I was very vocal of course about how much he should get and after a couple hours or so it was all decided. We put defendant instead of defendants so when we went out the the courtroom, we had to go back to the jury room and get it just right. Its amazing how many details have to go into everything. It all has to be just right. My mother said I should have been a lawyer, but I don't think I could handle it, but I do love to watch. I just wished it moved at Law and Order pace.