Jury duty

SAM SMITH, 2002 – Your editor had been called to jury duty. On three or four occasions in the past, I have been dismissed owing to my belief in the constitutionality of a jury’s right to judge both the facts and the law and in the  unconstitutionality of the drug war. The last time, the judge and I had a nice bench conversation on the former topic, he noting that he had recently taken part in a debate with Paul Butler, a black professor who has urged African-Americans to make more use of the technique. I told the judge that my problem with Butler’s case was that it was based on ethnicity rather than the much stronger historical arguments. The judge had no objection to me sitting on the jury, but the US Attorney threw me off with one of his preemptory passes.

The only time I actually sat on a jury was on June 6, 1989 and that was for just 20 minutes. It was a White House demonstration case and the defendant, Jon E. Haines, was accused of assaulting a police officer. Haines was of moderate height, with rusty brown hair, a moustache and beard. He was wearing a blue-gray suit and a red and blue tie.

The first witness was a Park Police officer and the first question was would she please identify the defendant. She pointed out Haines’ attorney, Mark L. Goldstone who was of moderate height, with rusty brown hair, a moustache and beard. He was wearing a blue-gray suit and a red and blue tie.

She was dismissed and a second witness, another Park Police officer, was called. Meanwhile Goldstone gave his client his legal pads and papers and told him to “act like a lawyer.” Asked to identify the defendant, the officer also selected Goldstone.

We were sent to the jury room while the law in all its majesty decided what the hell to do. Which was, in the end, to drop the case.

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