October 13, 2008

Our Hero, in: A Jury of One's Peers

Once upon a time in Alexandria VA, a woman t-boned a police cruiser (lights & siren ablaze) crossing the intersection en route to an emergency call. Both she and the cruiser careened into other stationary vehicles. She received a $250 ticket for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. Issues of injuries, insurance and damage to other vehicles were irrelevant to this discussion at least as it pertained to me.

She could've paid it. She could've contested it in traffic court. And as a last resort, she had the right to hire a defense attorney and contest it in district court before a judge and a 7-member jury. She opted for the latter. Hence there I was this past Friday, one of said seven, wondering along with the other six, the judge, the prosecutors, the half-dozen witnesses and probably her own DA just what the fuck we were all doing there on such a lovely day.

Said her expertly-coiffed ambulance chaser DA: "Ladies and gentlemen, it's just a traffic ticket. But it's a matter of principle."

Some witnesses testified that the cop stopped at the median, others that the cop did not. Some witnesses testified that the woman was speeding, others that she was not. Some witnesses claimed that there were cars in the turning lane obstructing the woman's view, others that there were none. Overhead satellite photos of the intersection were examined. Photos of the crash scene were handed around.

Four hours later, after some 10 minutes' deliberation, she was found guilty and ordered to pay a reduced fine of $150 (plus court costs), and we departed for long-overdue lunches at various places along King Street.

Twelve prospective jurors were called in for this trial. Assuming they had to take a day off from work, the day's affair cost each jurors or their employers a full day's pay. Also, considering the court cost, taxpayer burden, lawyer fees, our $30 compensation, etc., the amount of money spent on this trial exceeded her fine by a factor of twenty at least.

But then of course, it's all a matter of principle...

1 comment:

Michael Clark said...

Well, her court costs were hopefully at least $210 (7 jurors times $30 each). Any way of knowing what her court costs were?

What principle was she contesting? I totally understand the principle of always fighting a ticket.

Why was her fine reduced by $100? This totally fits into the principle of going to court, it saved her $100.