The Supreme Court has made it a tad easier to send people to death row by ruling that people that object to the death penalty when there is a Life Without Possibility of Parole option can be disqualified from serving. The concern is that once you remove those people from the jury pool, you’re not only more likely to get a jury that will execute (which would be the goal) but you’re likely to get a jury that is more predisposed to find the defendant guilty.

Several years ago I was a death penalty opponent that was a candidate for a capital crime jury.

It was shortly before I left Colosse for Deseret and the whole process lasted longer than the eventual trial did. I was unemployed and really had nothing better to do than go to the county courthouse and spent a day or two listening to some traffic complaint. When my number was called out along with 119 others and I was given a packet of 160 questions I figured that this might not be some piddly traffic violation. Particularly when it started asking about my views on the death penalty, my political affiliations, any “radical” organizations I belong to, opposition to government actions, opposition to law enforcement behavior, and so on and so on. By the time I was done I knew it was the real deal. I also figured that there was no way in the world I would get on that jury because I put down clear as day that I am against the death penalty.

It turns out that it’s not quite that simple. There are some idiosyncrasies in Delosian law wherein the jury does not actually sentence someone to die. Rather they answer four or five questions about whether or not a particular murder meets the minimum requirements for the death penalty to be applied (was the murder an attempt at covering up or evading arrest for another crime, is the person a threat to human life in the future, and a couple other things along those lines, is there any mitigating reason why this particular defendant should be spared the death penalty). If any two of the five are int he affirmative and if the death penalty is being sought, the convicted goes to death row.

Had the question been put any other way I almost certainly would have had to recuse myself from the jury. I could not, in good conscience, tell a judge to have a prison guard kill a person. But my mind draws a clear distinction between that and answering the questions that I was asked. The only question that went to the heart of moral feelings about the death penalty was the one about mitigating circumstances. Truth be told, though, if we’re going to have a death penalty it should be as fairly applied as possible. As such it would not be fair of me say that there were mitigating circumstances when there weren’t. So despite my opposition to capital punishment, I was good to go.

What followed afterwards was a pointed attempt by the prosecution to demonstrate that I was not, in fact, good to go at all. I got a battery of extremely harsh questions. The prosecution tried paint me as a lilly-livered bleading heart, an American-hating peacenik (the questionnaire had asked if I had opposed any American military action in my lifetime, which I had), and an anarchist. After he was done to me, the defense attorney got up and asked if I had a problem with people with long hair. I answered in the negative and he was done with me.

The prosecution was trying to get the judge to disqualify me as prejudicial without having to waste a strike on me. The goal I think was to rattle me or maybe get me to indicate that I really didn’t like the prosecution (or prosecutors in general). But I never rattled. The closest I got was when he likened the “war on crime” to an actual war overseas and I was sorely tempted to say something to the effect of “If this is war then why are we wasting our time on trials?” I bit my tongue, though. He had succeeded in getting me to not like him, but at some point I realized that the biggest way I could be a pain in his arse was to force him to use a strike on me.

As luck would have it, the judge absolutely loved me. I’m really not sure why considering that the first thing he learned about me was that I was a softy on capital crimes (he wasn’t). In any case, either he really wanted to keep me around or I convinced him pretty thoroughly that I could be impartial. but he shot down all the prosecution’s objections.

The outcome was never in doubt. Colosse County is pretty Republican (even if the city isn’t) and a hotbed of law and order conservatism. I was an outlier and surely the prosecution had enough strikes to kick by bum to the curb. There was no doubt that the guy did it along with a number of other awful things and I didn’t figure that the jury would have any problem sending him to his chemical death. Sure enough, just a few weeks after I was shown the door he was sentenced to death.

Doing a quick google, he has apparently found Jesus and taken to writing poetry (in English and German) as he awaits execution.

Category: Courthouse

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3 Responses to Taking A Strike

  1. Peter says:

    So Colosse is a county? I had thought it was a state, along the lines of Estacado and Deseret.

  2. trumwill says:

    Colosse is a city and a county, though I am referring to the city or the metro area unless I specify otherwise. Colosse is inside Delosa (formerly Dixona).

  3. Webmaster says:

    I still like the Dixona name better, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there for the time being.

    I’ve served on a jury once in my lifetime (was tapped twice but they had to rescind it due to finding out that I didn’t meet the residency requirement the second time).

    I’ll have to post on that case at a later time. It was intriguing.

    Interesting thing about the Delosa capital punishment system; I think that the questionnaire makes a lot of sense.

    It’s also interesting how many “find Jesus” (or Allah, or whoever else) while on death row; the charitable would say that maybe the threat of death scares them and could actually cause them to turn around, the cynical would see it as a ploy. Every case is unique, but I suppose I’m cynical as I see most of them just using it as a sympathy ploy to make their appeals look better.

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