We're in the middle of a series on juror bloggers, inspired by the purple prose of Juror No. 8, the Bad Blogger in California's People v. McNeely case. It's time to speak up for all the good juror bloggers.
They're out there
One of my first posts -- I still really like it -- was on juror blogs and what lawyers could learn from them. The simple act of keeping an eye on jury blogs, a few feed hits every day, can slowly teach you what a mistake it is to assume anything about jurors. We confuse blank faces with blank slates, when in fact the thoughts and attitudes jurors bring to court are incredibly varied. Juror blog entries can be hostile, frustrated, curious, inspired, scared, angry, distracted, or bored -- very, very often bored.
Most of these bloggers never get past the waiting room, and most of the rest leave after voir dire. It's a rare blogger who actually gets to deliberate. When they do get that far, their posts very commonly say they can't talk about the case, and so if there's a description of deliberations, it comes after the verdict or not at all.
Whatever stage of trial it describes, a juror blog entry often has something to teach. The best ones are also a lot of fun.
Viva El Birdos
Last week this blog started getting page hits from a site called Viva El Birdos. Lots of page hits -- from a site by and for fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, where they "take our baseball seriously and in proportion." Turned out that the site's author, Larry Borowsky, had written about jury duty, and Deliberations juror artist David Salvia, a Cardinals fan, had linked to this blog in the comments. So many people read Viva El Birdos that this blip was enough to send a lot of them here.
This blog probably has little to interest Cardinals fans, but Borowsky's completely appropriate jury duty post in Viva El Birdos has plenty of tips for lawyers. To start with, give a gold star to the prosecutor, who asked enough questions to unearth Borowsky's blog. Then admire the defense lawyer, who saw the blog as a moment both to explore the reasonable doubt standard and get in a little self-deprecating humor:
during voir dire, i stated that i make my living as a writer; the prosecuting attorney asked me what type of writing i do, and i gave him a quick description of my client base and said, "that's most of it" or something like that. "most of it," he says; "what's the rest of it?" "i also write a blog."
Q: a blog? [raised eyebrow] about what?
A: the st louis cardinals baseball team.
Q: oh. [pause] how do you feel about mark mcgwire being kept out of the hall of fame?
A: well, i'm not all that interested in the hall. but i do think he cheated with steroids.
i'm not making this up, now; this exchange really took place. (and i'd like to know how the court reporter rendered "mark mcgwire" on that freaky keypad of his.) i think my answer left the prosecutor saying to himself, hell yeah, i'll take this guy on my jury; he's ready to convict the hometown sports hero on nothing more than circumstantial evidence. then the defense attorney gets up there and says:
Q: mr borowsky, how you can you be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that mcgwire used steroids?
A: i'm not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
Q: but you said that you think he cheated with steroids.
A: that's right --- i do think he cheated. but mcgwire's not on trial, so the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard doesn't really apply.
Q: i see. so if you were judging him in a court of law, you'd apply a more rigorous standard of proof before you'd convict him --- is that correct?
A: yes sir.
so now this guy wants me too; he's telling himself, borowsky will give a guy his day in court, even a guy who might look kinda guilty. but the defense attorney's not quite finished:
Q: in the interest of full disclosure, i should tell you that i grew up on chicago's north side. [pause] knowing that, do you think you can give my client a fair trial?
The next day, Borowsky used a sentence to describe the prosecution's allegations against the defendant -- but nothing you wouldn't read in the paper, and only as a nice intro to a rant on Cardinals pitcher Kip Wells. Later Borowsky reported that the case was over, a guilty verdict. He said he might write up the details, and I hope he does. There's nothing like a good jury blog.
(Photo by Tim Lindenbaum at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindenbaum/399058046/; license details there.)