November 9, 2021
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Just spent the last few days serving on a jury, and here are my takeaways – Since it’s over we are allowed to discuss openly…

-Due to COVID precautions, they don’t call you in to sit in a room all day waiting, you’re only called in if they are sending you DIRECTLY to jury selection on a case. So that’s a way better use of everyone’s time.

-I had been on one jury in the past, about 15 years ago where it turned into a minor 12 Angry Men case. I remember they asked me to be the foreman which I refused (felt strange in my mid 20’s being in charge of so many people older than I was) with the other 11 jurors each immediately doing a “straw poll” where they found him guilty. I was the ONLY holdout saying NOT guilty. I then spent 2 hours forcing them to actually go through the evidence, and by the time we were done we actually all found that defendant NOT guilty of the higher charge (intent to sell) though still guilty of the lesser charge (possession). This has bothered me for years knowing that had I not been there it would have been a 5 minute deliberation with an entirely different outcome.

-(Oh the difference another 12 jurors or different lawyers can make in the outcome of a trial, it’s quite terrifying that the truth is not what gets decided each time, but that particular presentation and perception of the truth, on that particular day.)

-This one was a domestic battery situation;, the man was on trial with no witnesses and the woman not pressing charges (as is often the case).

-Of note, the entire courtroom was made up of women. The judge, the clerk, the prosecutor and the public defender. Oh, and even the bailiff.

-The judge was great at explaining things throughout, and when we convened to start deliberation, the first thing they did was ask me to be foreman (“What IS it about me?” I asked” “You talk a lot!” they replied. lol)

-THANKFULLY this time recharged my faith in the judicial system. I replied, “I will be the foreman on 2 conditions:

  1. No matter what we all think right now, EVEN if it turns out we all unanimously think it should be guilty or not guilty, we still discuss the case and go through it, I assure you we will realize things as we bounce them off each other. EVERYONE AGREED.
  2. We don’t pressure anyone to decide faster or to agree with us. If the day is going to end and none of us want to come back the next day, too bad if anyone isn’t comfortable with where they are in the decision making process, and no guilt given. EVERYONE AGREED.

-And I’m truly proud of my fellow jurors this time. Some were pretty quiet, barely saying a single word. (Though we always made them ultimately answer agreement/dissent before moving on). I made a new friend there, and she wrote on the chalkboard keeping us organized. And we went through the evidence, even requesting the defendant’s testimony to read (which meant we were brought back into the courtroom where everyone reconvened, and the poor little court reporter had to spend half an hour reading us that entire portion of the trial, bad words and all). And by the end we ALL felt extremely comfortable finding the defendant NOT GUILTY on both the higher and lesser charges of battery. (It was a misdemeanor not a felony btw).

-One of the most valuable parts of the experience was when we left court both the defense attorney and the prosecutor asked if any of us would stay to discuss feedback on them and the case. I’ve been asked after a movie to discuss my thoughts, and this was something far more impactful! Half of us stayed and talked to them; the prosecutor asked me to stay one on one to discuss further, and I was brutally honest what was wrong with her case (the main cop didn’t testify – apparently he got COVID – the manager of the homeless housing where it happened didn’t testify – apparently she ignored her subpoena so they either jail her or let it fly – and the alleged victim didn’t testify – she just didn’t want to).

Then the prosecutor told me the funniest thing: she said she was strongly considering using her juror veto power to get rid of me, but then talked to her Jewish colleague who said “keep him, he’ll probably help you analyze things at every angle” and I totally did.

-The prosecutor told me she’s really grateful I was on the case, and honestly was expecting a not guilty verdict, but that we took far longer than most to deliberate. She said we took the amount of time that juries take for far longer trials with 4 times the evidence to go through, but when she saw yesterday end and continue today, she knew we were taking our duties seriously, and was really impressed. (Sadly, she said 15 minutes later they often have a verdict, which implies not much is discussed other than a straw poll verdict with likely peer pressure involved. Yikes.)

-When we finished, the alternate juror put her hand on my shoulder and said THANK GOD YOU GUYS VOTED THAT WAY I WAS SO NERVOUS AND YOU MADE THE RIGHT DECISION!

I’m really proud of how seriously we took our duties, and given that I get paid if it coincides with work anyway, I’m more than happy to get another experience in the future and be a part of the process. Even if at times it gets tedious, it’s always interesting and important.

NOTE: I didn’t get into any details of the case because I don’t know how interesting that would be, but if you have curiosities about it I don’t mind; it’s now public record and we were told as much.

Boaz Hepner grew up in LA in Pico/Robertson and now lives here with his wife and daughter. Thus, the neighborhood is very important to him. He helped clean up the area by adding the dozens of trash cans that can still be seen from Roxbury to La Cienega. When he is not working as a Registered Nurse in Santa Monica, he can be found with his family enjoying his passions: his multitude of friends, movies, poker and traveling.

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