When we last met I was sitting in the seat of Juror #10. Did I mention that the chair was not uncomfortable, although the room was freezing cold? I had learned that on the first day so I always came prepared with layers of clothing and a scarf. Everyone mentioned how cold it was and I joked that they wanted to make sure we stayed awake. We were all wearing masks all the time as mandated by the court. On this first day of the actual trial we were given lanyard badges and a notebook with a pen. We were told we could make notes but that the notebooks had to remain in the courtroom and they would be destroyed at the end of the trial.
Monday we heard from the arresting officer who described the reason for the traffic stop, what he discovered while talking with the defendant and what happened to lead him to making the arrest. Next we heard from a second officer who was on the scene as an interpreter since English was not the first language for the defendant. We watched a video of the body cam from the arresting officer. Then we were given a lunch break. Thank goodness.
After lunch we heard from an expert witness for the prosecution (just typing that made me smile – wasn’t that an Agatha Christie book?) He testified about the machines that were used for testing and the procedures that were followed. He explained the effects of alcohol on the body and how long it takes for the alcohol to leave the body. His testimony took the better part of the afternoon so we were excused for the day and told not to discuss the case with anyone.
Tuesday started with the defense cross examining the expert. Of course he tried to trip the witness up and asked him questions that would put some doubt in our minds about his answers. Then we heard from an expert witness from the defense side. He, of course, disputed everything the prosecution witness testified about. The defendant, himself, did not testify. We broke for lunch. When we got back the attorneys gave their closing arguments. Each one tried to point out the facts and that if we were going to decide only on the facts, their version was the correct one. We were given the instructions from the judge (that took a half hour easily) and sent to the jury room. We picked a foreman and then decided to go home and think about it and start the day fresh on Wednesday.
Side note…court time is interesting. We were told to be there at 9 AM each day but some days we didn’t actually start until 9:15 or 9:30. There was usually a 15 to 20 minute break at about 10:15 or 10:30 and then lunch from noon to 1:30. Another 10 to 15 minute break at 3:15 and then ended the day at 4:30.
Wednesday came and we were escorted straight through to the jury deliberation room. I had foolishly been under the impression that this wouldn’t take long. There were two charges. Driving under the influence was one and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher was the other. It sounds like they should be the same but no. Under the first charge, you consider whether there was erratic driving or lack of attention, etc., not just the alcohol level in the blood, although you COULD count that.
As far as I was concerned, the blood alcohol level at the jail had read .08 which is the number that the State of California says is the limit that means you cannot safely drive a vehicle. If his blood alcohol level at the jail (which was 2 hours after he was stopped) was .08 then it stands to reason that his level while driving must have been at least that while he was operating the vehicle. (Part of the expert witness testimony had been about how long it takes for the alcohol to dissipate from your body. One expert said it decreases by .02% an hour and one said it is .0146%).
In the beginning the ONLY thing all 12 people could agree on was that the man was driving a car! We went back and forth about different aspects of the case and finally we were able to decide that yes, on the second count of having a blood alcohol level of .08 and driving, he was guilty. We watched portions of the video again. We asked the court reporter to read back parts of testimony. We broke for lunch. Finally, at about 4 PM we realized that we were not going to agree on the first count and sent a message to the judge. We were afraid she was going to make us come back again Thursday but I guess the parties decided that they would have to make do with what we had decided.
Back into the courtroom we all went. The foreman read the verdict to the judge and then the attorneys wanted us polled to see if we were truly unanimous on the decision. I have to admit for a brief moment I was afraid someone was going to say they did not agree but no one did. She asked again if we were sure we could not agree on the first count and we said yes. Then the judge thanked us and excused us. We don’t know what the sentence of the defendant is.
There you have it. I feel sorry for the father of my daughter’s friend who was the alternate. He had to sit and listen to the whole trial but then was sent home when we started to deliberate. He was told not to leave the area until the trial was over. I did let him know what the verdict was. Also, I am so grateful that I got called for this case and not the one that was going on down the hall. We saw at least 300 people called for that one which was a murder trial that was expected to last for months! The judge said as she was dismissing us that she would see us again next year. I sincerely hope not!