Monday, January 20, 2014

A Long Trial, A Fine Conclusion

My jury duty concluded on Saturday afternoon at 3pm. From an observer's standpoint, it is nothing like what you see on television legal dramas or in the movies, although the plaintiff's lead attorney, "Big Daddy" as I called him in my notes, a southern man of a certain age who whistled his S's, was quite the character and had the occasional flare for the dramatic. The defense presented a very clean case, no smoke and mirrors, just very professional across the board. The judge did a great job of keeping everyone on track and making sure we had ample breaks because the amount of information, both medical and legal, thrown at us over the course of those 9 long days was exhausting. The bailiffs took very good care of us.

This was a case of medical negligence. After 9 long trial days we were given our charge and were asked to deliberate beginning on Thursday at 4pm. We broke after 6pm and spend a very intense, 9 hour day on Friday and continued deliberating on Saturday.

We started out at a 7 to 5 split in favor of the plaintiffs, a couple whose baby suffered a traumatic brain injury at birth. We went over every bit of information and evidence that was presented to us. We eventually worked to an 11-1 split in favor of the plaintiffs, by where the judge called us in and asked our foreperson where we stood and on what side. We were delighted when a settlement was reached based on this information. I don't think we ever would have gotten to a unanimous decision but none of us wanted to give up.

I learned after the fact that this case had been tried before and the judge had to declare a mistrial because the jurors, after 8 hours, stated that they were locked and in no way would be able to reach a unanimous vote. They were locked at 10-2 in favor of the defendant, the doctor. I found this fascinating at how 12 different people came to such an opposite conclusion. 

Because it was a civil trial, not criminal, we had to base our decision on the "preponderance of the evidence" rather than proving guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt. Just a feather's weight on the scales of justice was how it was explained to us and to be honest, it really was just the weight of a feather on one side or the other of how we stood. I learned so much, it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and I am sure that I will be a much better nurse for having been a part of this process.

Many tears where shed when all was said and done. I lost much sleep during the course of the trial and none of us took our service lightly.  It was indeed a privilege to serve on this jury alongside such a fine group of kind and dedicated people, not one of them will I forget, and hope I get to see them again under different circumstances.





9 comments:

  1. I am glad this experience didn't kill you - that means it made you stronger!

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  2. It's so nice to hear that a jury really put some much thought and time into a case. Now your civic duty is done for a while! When I got called last, I was really close to sitting on the jury. I was questioned for the alternate pool and then the selected the last one just in front of me. We get 3 years in between jury duties pools here.

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  3. Wow - that sounds like like and intense week+. I think that jury duty is a huge amount of responsibility and kind of intimidating!!!

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  4. It has made me stronger, and is is both intimidating and a huge responsibility.

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  5. Wow, that must have been so hard and tiring. I would take that duty so seriously, it would be such a painful decision to make. As much sympathy as I have for the crushing pain of such an adverse event affecting one's child, if the preponderance of evidence wasn't compelling enough for a case of negligence, there's no way I would throw a member of the medical community under the bus, I have too much respect for them, so the plaintiffs would need a damn good case. Glad to read that you and the jury made such a deliberate job of it - much respect!

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  6. Going through jury duty can be annoying sometimes but as you experienced it's not so bad. I think the thought about jury duty is actually worse than doing jury duty. Glad to see you made it to the other side :)

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  7. Like someone said, "what does not kill you makes you stronger" but I sure am glad it wasn't me :p
    Good thing it's over :)

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  8. Hi Andra,

    I just found your site and want to say - you are inspiring! It's wonderful to read stories about people successfully changing their lifestyle for the better.

    Thank you, and keep it up!!

    -B

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  9. Very interesting indeed to have a complete turnaround on the the results. Wonder if it the plaintiff's attorney during the first trial was "Big Daddy".

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