My day in court

Today, I was given the pleasure of attending the jury duty process at the San Diego Hall of Justice. The morning started out with a drive down to the trolley station in Old Town and riding the trolly downtown. I have not been on the trolley since it last stranded us at night with no ride back to our car (had to take a cab). The ride was uneventful. I walked the three blocks from the station to the court house.

Once I arrived, I had to pass through a metal detector and X-Ray machine. Other than having to take off my belt (WHY PEOPLE?) it was uneventful. At least I could keep my shoes on. I found a seat in the large jury room and waited for the orientation. Once the orientation was over, we waited about 20 minutes while people were called to deal with paperwork. They gave us a 15 minute break and then started calling names to the courtrooms.

I was called in the 1st group. Once we arrived at the court room, we discovered this could be a very long trial, going all the way until Jun 1st. At least the court proceeding would be Monday-Thursday from 9:30-4:30. I was not called as one of the first 24 names, so I was hopeful. After several people where excused because of scheduling issues (I don’t know why people don’t listen to directions, to avoid this problem) I was called to be juror number 7.

During the court questioning, I determined this was a case about an airplane crash that resulted in the Plaintiffs parents dying in a crash that may or may not have been due to faulty navigation equipment. Since I was ultimately excused, I was able to do research and found the accident listed on the net:

During the jury questioning phase it was amazing to hear some of the excuses people tried to use to get out of jury duty. The most interesting one was “I have no faith in the legal system, so I would not be impartial”. I just had to laugh.

When I disclosed the fact I was a private pilot. I was told that being a subject matter expert on flying didn’t disqualify me, not that I was trying to be. I was questioned about my flight experience, specifically instrument flying. I explained my experience and they asked me some specific equipment usage questions.

After this direct questioning, the group was asked things like experience with flying, quality assurance and human factors. I raised my hand and told them I had a degree in Cognitive Science. He actually knew what that was 😉 He then asked about anyone with experience in psychology. I raised my hand and had to explain my degree a bit more. 😀 He also asked people if they had been a witness to an aviation investigation. I again raised my hand, and he said he would get back to me (he never did). He asked a few other questions, then asked if anyone had any experience in aerospace. I raised my hand. I explained I had worked on the shuttle project and helped with the building of the Discovery. A few more questions for the group and then we took a recess.

After the recess, I was called back into the room as an individual. I was asked more questions about my flying experience and then answered all the questions on the personal questionnaire. I was then excused from the courtroom and others were brought in one-on-one.

The Bailiff then brought everyone back in and two more people where excused. The defense attorneys then  asked their questions. He asked me directly about what I did with the space shuttle. I explained the work and he asked me if I knew who Robert Gibson was? I explained I knew who he was, but never met or worked with him. He then told me he would be called as an expert witness and wanted to know if I could be impartial knowing his status as a shuttle pilot. I said that I could.

There were a few more questions for the jurors and then the plaintiff’s lawyers didn’t accept the jurors as seated, so the lawyers and judge had a side bar outside the courtroom. When the lawyers came back into the courtroom, the judge instructed the lawyers they could now decide if they wanted to excuse any jurors. It was interesting to see the lawyers reaction because he seem caught off-guard. He said, “You want me to excuse them in open court?”.

After shuffling papers, and getting the seating chart, then counting the seats, he excuse jury 7 ME! I figured it was my work on the shuttle and knowledge of one of the witnesses that got me excused. Alas, I will never know. Perhaps one of my lawyer friends can provide me some insight? It might also been the fact I had a psychology degree?

Anyway, this was an interesting experience and I really wanted to be on this case because of the subject matter. It’s something that would have really interested me. So, this was my day in court.


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