Friday, March 26, 2010

Jury Selection in King County

A discussion with my friend Andrew prompted me to do a bit of research regarding jury selection in King County.  I was explaining to him how I have been summoned for jury duty to both of the different courthouses in the county (Seattle and Kent), incidentally twice to each of them at this point.  He pointed out that in his county there are two courthouses, one serving the east side of the county and one the west side of the county, but you only can get summoned to the side of the county in which you live.

Interesting, I thought.  So today while I was wandering around online, I decided to do a bit of research and find out some answers.  In fact, King County for many years since the construction of the Kent Regional Justice Center has drawn its jury pools for each of their courthouses from the entire county.  However, in 2005 the Washington State Legislature enacted a law that allowed counties with multiple courthouses to divide their jury selection geographically among the courthouses.  King County started doing this for a while in 2007, but then stopped after its constitutionality was challenged on the grounds that the state constitution guarantees a right to a jury trial comprised of jurors from the county, not PART of the county.

The State Supreme Court upheld the law in 2009, and since mid-2009 King County now summons its jurors based on geography, with two assignment areas.  I couldn't find a reference to what specifically the boundaries of those areas are, but it appears to be based on zip code, primarily with those areas south of Seattle & I-90 in the Kent area, and within Seattle and north of I-90 in the Seattle area.  Though they do claim to intend to adjust the boundaries based on census data, to ensure a fair and balanced representation of both juries.  Seems reasonable.

What this means is, considering I now live on the northern border of the county, I should never be summoned to jury duty in Kent again.  At least that should limit my options a bit. :)  Though it should also save the court some money, as let me tell you, mileage from my house to Kent added up to about 62 miles round trip @ $0.55/mile =  $34.10 + $10.00 = $44.10/day for serving jury duty.  Of course, I actually donated that to the court's child care program, because it's a good thing.  But still, that's far more money than they really need to spend to get qualified jurors.

Jury Duty - Episode IV - Conclusion

It was fortunate I was placed on such a short case.  After starting jury service on Monday, my service was completed by Wednesday afternoon, after completing an entire case.  A not-so-brief summary of the case follows:  

In May 2009, a 1994 Plymouth Voyager minivan was stolen from an apartment complex in Federal Way around 3am. There were no witnesses to the crime, however a (fairly useless) security camera caught the vehicle driving away from the complex, along with another vehicle, around that time.  No person was identifiable from the video.  

Around 3pm that same afternoon, the minivan was waiting for the light to change at an intersection in downtown Kent.  As is typical for a NW afternoon in May, rain was pouring down.  A Kent police officer happened to pull up along the right side of the minivan at the same light, and noticed the van had a broken out passenger-side window, with shards of broken glass still remaining around the edge of the window, and rain streaming into the vehicle through it.  The officer noticed one driver in the vehicle, who proceeded to look straight ahead and not look over to the police officer to his right.  The officer found this itself somewhat odd, as "most people will turn to look at me when I pull up next to them, simply out of curiosity."  After the light changed, she slowed and pulled up behind the van and began to follow him, while running the plates through the computer in her cruiser.  To not much surprise, the plates turned up a stolen vehicle, which she verified with dispatch and alerted nearby officers who soon joined her.  

She turned on her lights, and chirped her siren several times, instructing the van to pull over.  Instead of pulling over, he continued driving forward to the approaching red light, where a car was stopped in the right lane waiting for the light to change.  He proceeded to pull out to the inside lane, and without stopping executed a right turn around the stopped car and continued.  The officer continued pursuit, at this point firing up the siren.  Down the succeeding two-lane road, at a 4-way stop with another car stopped ahead of him at the stop sign, he proceeded to cut over into the oncoming lane around the stopped car, and run the stop sign, continuing down the street where he turned into a dead-end apartment complex.  As he was approaching the dead end, officer still in pursuit, with the van slowing but still moving, he bailed out of the driver-side door and headed into a swampy area down a ravine on foot.  

Other police units circled to the other side of the swampy area to cut him off, while the pursuing officer remained on the van-side of the swamp watching the suspect.  He proceeded to surrender to the police on the opposite side, now wet up to above his knees and having lost his shoes in the swamp.  He was taken into custody by the Kent police.  An inspection of items on his person included a bottle of prescription pain killers belonging to the owner of the vehicle who testified that the pills were in his backpack that was in the vehicle when it was stolen.  

The officers inspected and took pictures of the stolen minivan.  A variety of items were strewn about the vehicle, including a screwdriver (which the vehicle's owner admitted to also having been in the backpack).  The passenger window was busted in, and shattered glass was all over the area of the passenger seat, as well as plenty of water from the ensuing rainfall.  The ignition had been punched out and was sitting on the floor between the driver and passenger seats, and the car had obviously been started using the screwdriver.  

The defendant was charged with two counts:  (1) Possession of a Stolen Vehicle, and (2) Attempting to Elude a Pursuing Police Vehicle.  

Testimony came primarily from the victim (the owner of the vehicle) and the various police officers and detectives who had responded to the incident.  The detective who interrogated the suspect shortly after the arrest asked him several questions, paraphrased:  

Detective:  "Where did you get the car?"  
Suspect:  "I got it from a friend."
D:  "What's your friend's name?" 
S:  "I can't tell you."
D:  "Did you know the car was stolen?"
S:  "No."
D:  "Why did you run from the police?"
S:  "Because I had a warrant."

During the course of testimony, were were also made aware of a prior conviction for auto theft of a 1994 Plymouth Voyager minivan, similar method of starting using a screwdriver.  The jury was provided limiting instructions as to this evidence, that it may only be considered to establish whether or not the defendant had knowledge that the vehicle was stolen.  

Following the prosecution resting their case, the defense was provided as follows:  

"The defense waives opening, and rests."

No defense was provided for the case.  The question for the jury would be simply based on whether or not the State had proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

As to the first count, Possession of a Stolen Vehicle, the State needed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that:  
(1) The defendant was in posession of the car.  
(2) The defendant acted with the knowledge that the car was stolen.  

The first was hard to argue with... he was caught in the vehicle... mostly.  The officer was not able to positively identify him within the vehicle, other than a profile view.  However, the officer could positively identify him in the swamp, and it is highly unlikely there was any sort of switcheroo pulled within the swamp itself.  Additionally, the stolen pills that were identified as being contained within the vehicle, were found in the pocket of the defendant after arrest.  12 members of the jury were satisfied with this.  

The second part was slightly more challenging.  There was no concrete evidence that the defendant knew the car was stolen.  Reasonable doubt had to be applied to consider whether a reasonable person who stepped into a car that had a busted out window, glass everywhere, a punched ignition, started by a screwdriver; would reasonably believe that the car was stolen.  11 jurors agreed that a reasonable person would, 1 juror was not satisfied.  Not because he didn't believe the defendant was guilty, but more that he didn't believe the prosecutor fully proved its case.  It seemed to the 11 of us in agreement that the 1 juror didn't have a firm grasp of "reasonable doubt".  After about an hour of "discussion", said juror finally agreed that he was probably over analyzing the jury instructions provided, and agreed that the defendant was guilty.  

Moving on to count 2, Attempting to Elude a Pursuing Police Vehicle, the State needed to establish a bit more:  
(1)  The defendant was in control of the vehicle.
(2)  The police were identifiable as police.
(3)  The police signaled the defendant to stop, either visually, verbally, or with siren or some other hand gesture.  
(4)  That the defendant, in an attempt to elude, was driving in a reckless manner. 

The first 3 were fairly well-established.  The only question was the matter of whether his actions constituted "driving in a reckless manner", of which on initial deliberation the jury was divided 8-4.  In this case, his actions were fairly well established, including the aforementioned illegal maneuvers, running lights and stop signs, and abandoning a moving vehicle; but it was up to the jury to determine if that indeed met the level of recklessness.  If not, we were also given the option of finding the defendant guilty of the lesser included charge of "Failure to Obey a Police Officer".  After a fair bit of deliberation, it was the jury's consensus that any one of his illegal maneuvers individually would probably not have constituted recklessness.  But the compounding of his multiple behaviors during the pursuit did meet the standard of driving in a reckless manner.  

After a total of 2 hours of deliberations, the defendant was found guilty on both counts.  

It took about an hour for the court to be reassembled (while in deliberations in the jury room, the court had already begun voir dire on another case, with different jurors and different counsel).  The defendant and both counsel were brought into the courtroom, and the jury returned where the verdict was given to the judge who gave it to the clerk to be read.  The clerk then polled each individual juror:  "Juror Number 1: Is this your verdict? ("Yes")  Is this the verdict of the jury? ("Yes")..."  The jury was dismissed to return to the jury room while the courtroom was cleared. (Throughout the entire trial, we were never present when the defendant was brought in or taken out of the courtroom.  Our only indication he was in custody was the King County Jailer who was always present in the corner of the room whenever the defendant was present.)  

Following the case, the judge stopped into the jury room to thank us for our time and service and asked if we had any questions about the case.  This was the only time we had been addressed by anyone other than the court bailiff outside of the recorded proceedings of the courtroom.  Following that we went out into the cleared courtroom where both the prosecutor and defense attorney were still packing up their things, and most of the jurors spent about a half hour just talking with the attorneys about the case.  We were curious what we weren't told about the case, specifically about the prior convictions of the defendant.  In fact, the defense attorney told us he had about 8 prior convictions for auto theft, 6 of which were concerning the exact same year and model of car that he was convicted of in this case.  At the age of nearly 23, they figured he's been out of jail for a total of about 6 months since he was 18.  He was not exactly a model citizen.  We were curious why the defense didn't present any case, and the defender goes "I had nothing!"  Apparently they had tried to get the defendant to take a plea, but he refused and wanted his day in court.  The defender told him "there's no way you're getting off on this one", and he was obviously right.  His only question to us was "what took you so long?!  I thought you'd be done in 20 minutes."  It was very interesting, both for us the jurors and for them the lawyers.  The prosecutor had mentioned that this is the most he has ever had a jury want to talk to him, and we were definitely the most interested about things after the case had been done.  Apparently most jurors just want to get their job done and get out.  We offered them both some tips that might help them in future cases.  (We all want a fair trial, of course, but if the bad guy's guilty, a little help getting the conviction doesn't hurt.)  

And so it goes.  Jury Duty experience #4.  Will next time be next year, or 20 years from now?  Hard to say, but if past experience is any indication, it won't be too long until my next summons.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jury Duty - Episode IV - Part 5

No updates the last day or so as it's been not much more than sitting in the courtroom and hearing the case.  It's now Wednesday at lunch, and after lunch we will begin deliberations.  We'll see how long that takes... but all hopes are that we'll wrap things up this afternoon and be off the hook for tomorrow.  At which point a lengthier blog about the case can commence.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion... coming up next!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jury Duty - Episode IV - Part 4

Home at last, and after a long, restful nap, I'll provide an update from the rest of the day.

When we last left our story, I had been selected for a prospective jury, my designation 11 of 40.  While I am now bound by a standard prohibition from disclosing any details about the case until it's over, I can still give you a bit about the process up to this point, and say that this is a criminal case, with an expected duration of less than a week.

The bailiff assembled us in numerical order (we were proud of our ability to handle that), then led us into the courtroom.  After providing us some brief details about the type of case we would be hearing, and the anticipated length of time, the judge asked for those with any undue hardships that would prevent them from fulfilling their jury service to raise their numbers.  Then one by one she asked each to explain his or her hardship, some of which were more hardships than others, but after all was said and done, most of the 10 or so who requested excusal were indeed excused from service.

Voir dire commenced, and both the prosecution and defense had 20 minutes to question the jury.  I was asked no questions by either the prosecutor nor the defense attorney.  Now, they both had a copy of my juror bio form, which had standard information such as name, age, education, and occupation.  Perhaps something on that made me either very easy to accept, or very easy to challenge.  But the day was over, so we are now returning to the courtroom at 9am tomorrow morning, where voir dire will complete, and we'll be whittled down to just the 12 + an alternate in the jury.  I may be in it, or I may be returned to the jury pool to start the process all over again.  We'll find out tomorrow.

Jury Duty - Episode IV - Part 3

11:35am - Another jury panel, this time of 45 potential jurors.  Again, it's an honor not to be selected.  Or is it?

You know, for as often as I get "randomly selected" to get jury duty, it's becoming exceedingly rare that I actually get "randomly selected" for a jury panel once I'm here.  I guess it's not the worst in the world, because it usually means I sit around for a couple of days then go home.  However, those two days are incredibly boring.

11:45am - Lunch break until 1:30pm.  An hour and 45 minutes.  THIS is why the government is so slow people.  Honestly, who takes that long of a lunch in the real world?  I'm lucky to take a half-hour let alone an hour and a half.  If they spent less time taking lunch, maybe we could leave by like 3:00pm or something.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

1:15pm - Back from lunch, though had to wait a good 15 minutes to get through the metal detectors at the front door.

1:48pm - Still sitting here waiting for something to happen.  Ooohhh, an update!  One more panel to choose... 40 more names to be selected.  10 down... #11 is me.  Well, time to see what the excitement will happen.  It's usually not a good sign if you're in the first half of the panel... that means you pretty much have to get challenged off the jury in order not to serve. Woe is me.  At least I'm doing something!  More to come later...

Jury Duty - Episode IV - Part 2

9:40am - First Jury Panel called... will I be selected?  Panel of 37...  10 down... 20 down... 30 down... 37 down.  It's an honor not to be selected.

10:05am - Break time.  20 minutes to get out of the room, but why bother?

Hurry up and wait...

Jury Duty - Episode IV

There's something wrong when your blog has a whole category dedicated to "juryduty".  This week is my first adventure for the King County Superior Court in Seattle (though I've done KCSC in Kent twice, as well as Seattle Municipal Court once).  That's not to say I haven't been summoned for this court before, that just happened to be the one I got out of because I had already served recently.  So that makes this Jury Service #4, out of 5 summons in 5 years.

Annoyance number one:  reporting time is 8am.  Of course, I had the privilege of taking public transportation... though getting to the courthouse is fantastically easy.  One bus from door to door is as convenient as things can be, makes me want to work downtown so it could be so simple.  Alas, I think this will be the extent of my use of the #77 North City/Maple Leaf Express.  Now, the annoyance isn't the reporting time itself, 8am is perfectly reasonable, but that means I showed up, along with probably 70% of the jurors, around 7:45am or so.  Of course, nothing actually starts until at least 8:30am, to make up for the 30% of people who can't manage to show up on time.  So WHY DO I BOTHER SHOWING UP EARLY?!  Oh yes, I know... for one of the coveted "good seats" in the Jury Assembly Room.  The ones against the wall, near a power outlet, are most precious.  Very important.  Anyway...

We had the obligatory visit from one of the judges, who read his prepared statement regarding how important Jury Duty is.  And now are watching the fantastic "How to be a Juror" video, which I've seen so many times I don't really pay attention.  One old guy is snoring loudly on the other side of the room (that's how I know he's snoring loudly.)

It is now about 9am.  No indication yet as to what the docket looks like for today.  Maybe this will be a mercifully slow day in the court.  Though somehow I doubt it... I can't be so lucky too many times.  Then again, I'm "lucky" enough to get selected 5 times in 5 years, so maybe I can.

More updates throughout the day...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Disney Withdrawal

I'm kinda surprised that it's happened so soon.  But as usual, the last of my currently scheduled "vacations" are over and now I'm starting to feel the first twinges of Disney withdrawal again.  I was just at Disneyland in January, but about 7 months after being in WDW last August, I'm now getting the WDW cravings again.  I need another excuse to go to WDW sometime.  I think it may be because I just came back from a "not quite much of a vacation" vacation, that I am looking for something that will be ultimately vacatable.  Plus it's still so darn cheap to go to WDW, I should go again before the economy recovers... yeah, that's my own rationalization.  :)

So much other new happenings at Disney these days... in the roundup today...

New Muppets Animation Cel

A new Muppets cel that they are releasing, limited edition of 1500, that is way cool.  You have to attend the release event at WDW to get it, but still pretty neat.  Strangely enough, my Disney art collection doesn't have much in the way of Muppets at this point, but this would still be cool.

Disney's Premier Passport

For the first time in history, you can get an annual pass that is good at BOTH Disneyland and WDW Resorts. One ticket, every North American park Disney has, and you're in the gate.  More an amusement than anything to me, because I think most people are more likely to use it at one more than the other.  So the hefty $700 price tag probably isn't so inspiring to most people.  The perks aren't so much different than the premium APs at WDW or DLR individually, so unless you are a cross-country Disney-obsessed park hopper, I don't see who would bother.  But it is indeed interesting to see that they are integrating their two ticketing systems, at least enough that they can even handle a pass good at both resorts.

Photo courtesy of

The last several times I've been to the parks, I've started seeing these new figures called "Vinylmation" all over the place.  Disney first released these in the parks in December of 2008, and now you see them pretty much everywhere.  These little vinyl Mouse-eared figurines come in dozens of different "collectible" styles and designs.  And if you ask me, each as completely awful as the next.  It seems to me that Disney is making a vain attempt at creating a new "collectible" in an attempt to extend and capitalize on something similar to the pin-collecting craze that has swept over Disney parks in recent years.  My analysis:  fail.  I think the concept would be good, if not for the fact that the darn things are pretty much creepy.  And at a retail price of $9.95 each, who buys these things?  People see words like "limited edition" and "collectible" and think "oooh, I need that, it may be worth something someday."  Perhaps so -- I think they'll be worth probably about $0.99 on eBay in a few years.  Even the new Muppets edition they are releasing soon creeps me out.

Rizzo the Rat looks almost tolerable, probably because he's in the shape of a mouse, but Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is utterly terrifying.  Maybe when they're on clearance for $1.00 each, I might get a few and hide them under the bed for a few decades.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Olympics Recap

For the past 2 weeks, I've been trying to get a blog update posted, but I kept getting sidetracked by that which I was trying to blog about:  The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games!


About 2 weeks go, I went up to Vancouver the day before the Opening Ceremony.  We had rented a condo for two nights just a couple of blocks from BC Place where the Opening Ceremony was being held.  Little did we know this would be right in the center of the action.  The day before the event, we went downtown were all of the excitement was just getting fired up.  We visited the downtown Olympics Superstore at The Bay, and I swear this is the only time I've ever waited in line to get into a store.  It was fantastic!  At that point, they had tons of cool stuff, where I also got my own pair of the coveted red mittens that everyone wanted later.

Fast forward to the day of the ceremony.  We're taking a leisurely morning before heading over to the OC, and what did we find looking out the window?  The Olympic Torch coming across the water and into the Vancouver downtown, right before our eyes.  Way cool.  Around 2pm (4 hours before the ceremony started), we made it over to BC Place right when the gates opened.  At that point, security lines weren't so bad, but it was much like going through airport security getting in.  Metal detectors and x-ray machines or full bag searches.  Nothing slipped in undetected.  We made it into our seats, right in the second row of the upper deck with a clear view of pretty much everything, by about 2:30pm.

In each seat was a specific "audience participation kit" containing a bunch of goodies for use during various portions of the ceremony.  One of the more interesting items was a drumstick, which we quickly determined was for use with the kit box itself, which was a cardboard drum.  Countless hours of entertainment ensued.  But as for the ceremony itself, I can't begin to describe how incredibly awesome it was seeing it live.  Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, though if I had another reasonable opportunity to attend one, I'd absolutely do it.  What a production!

We came home Saturday morning after the ceremony.  Border crossing was fortunately not bad at all, and we made it home in time to enjoy the rest of the leisurely 3-day weekend, and watch plenty of the Olympics.


A week later on Tuesday, I drove back up for the day to see one of the curling events at the Vancouver Olympic Centre.  The venue is in the middle of a residential area, south of downtown Vancouver.  We parked in Richmond and took the fabulous Canada Line train, after which we walked about 10 minutes through the neighborhood to reach the centre.  The organizers did a good job of building a new venue that would meet the needs of the Olympic event, but then could be turned into something more usable after the Olympics were done.  But as a result, much of the facility was nothing more than a giant tent wrapped around the side of the actual building, with the primary restrooms being a tent filled with portapotties, and much bleachers fit into the actual arena.  But it should turn into a great little community facility when it's all dismantled.

We watched 4 matchups, Canada-China, Sweden-Denmark, Norway-Great Britain, and France-Switzerland.  Of course, by my calculations, 85% of those attending were there cheering for the home team of Canada, 5% for some other country, and the other 10% had absolutely no clue what was going on.  That last figure may be a bit higher, actually.  But regardless, it was amazingly cool.  With the USA done and not playing in the draw we attended, we just took to cheering for whichever teams were doing good at any particular moment.  We like excitement.

After the curling was over, we dropped downtown and visited the Olympic Superstore, which was vastly picked through and much of the cool stuff we saw a week and a half earlier was nowhere to be found.  I bought a poster I didn't see the first time, but besides that, there wasn't much need for buying anything great.  We then went down to visit the Olympic Cauldron ablaze, which will be pretty neat to see up close once all of the drama and heightened security of the games is finally over.


I have to admit, as usual I was captivated for 2 weeks watching Olympics television coverage without fail.  Yesterday's Gold Medal Hockey match between USA and Canada was enough to turn even a rare ice hockey follower such as myself into a die-hard hockey fan, for a day at least.

The closing ceremony left something to be desired, mainly with NBC's coverage.  The ceremony itself was entertaining, and at least they didn't remix O Canada to an absurd degree like they did during the opening ceremony.  It's nice that Canadians can make fun of themselves.  I actually find most Canadian humo(u)r funny, unlike British humo(u)r which I abhor.  Good times.

Now I begin my 879 days of Olympics withdrawal, until the opening of the 2012 summer games in London on July 27th, 2012.  I can only hope in the meantime that NBC comes to their collective senses, and decides to actually give me some live coverage, even if it's just the ability to stream it over the internet.  Hey, I can hope, can't I?