Monday, March 11, 2013

Kangaroo Court

I spent today doing my civic duty, serving on the jury for a theft case. Despite dreading the original call to serve (because I thought we'd be moving), it turned out to be an interesting and rewarding experience.  

The defendants were  an engaged couple accused of stealing various items from a home they were supposed to be leasing.   The property owner was useless as a witness, as he was an absentee landlord.  His property manager is a glorified cleaning lady who not only isn't certified to serve as a property manager (as required by PA law), she has a criminal record for theft.  She was also a lousy witness, as she didn't seem to remember a key piece of evidence.  The defendant claimed to have bought a tv, washer, and dryer from the owner via the property manager, but the receipt was handwritten by the defendant.  The property manager, upon closer inspection, said the signature on the receipt wasn't hers, but she couldn't remember having seen it before.

Another odd thing was the mysterious missing refrigerator.  It was supposedly in the shed, though there was never any proof that it existed. However, one of the witnesses, a neighbor, claimed to have seen the male defendant loading something that appeared to be a refrigerator in the back of his truck. There were several other items that were never proven to have been on the property, nor was any property ever proven to be in anyone else's possession.

One of the most entertaining aspects of the case was when the female witness testified.  She got rather irritated by the prosecution's cross examination.  When he kept harping on the point about the receipt not appearing legitimate, she took control of the discussion, insisting on giving an explanation when only a yes or no answer was required.  The prosecutor was clearly intimidated, and I kept waiting for the judge to intercede or her lawyer to object to her being "badgered."  As it were, the prosecutor got agitated enough to infer that her mother should testify regarding her honesty, and was shut down by the judge.

The closing statement by the female defendant was amusing, as he compared aspects of this trial to the one in My Cousin Vinny.  I had already drawn the parallels myself, and it was good to be allowed to react to what was said.  It also meant we were closer to finally deliberating. 

Deliberations were brief, as we all readily agreed that the prosecution failed to prove the state's case.  We were all frustrated by this, as we felt that the defendants were definitely guilty of something, as was the property manager (though she wasn't on trial).  I appreciated that the judge took the time to stop in and see us after the verdict was rendered.  She seemed to share our frustration. 
I wonder how long it will be before I get summoned again . . . 

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