Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Civics Lesson and Yours

Vero Beach, Florida

On Monday I did something I've never done before.  I witnessed a real jury trial.   In my own life, I've never been in court, nor summoned for jury duty.  I wanted to see how it really works instead of being satisfied by Hollywood's version.     In New Bern, I tried to do the same thing but I was thwarted by unfriendly court employees who made it difficult for me to discover where and when jury trials would be held.  I managed only to witness,  a session for minor crimes and traffic tickets that gave each person his 30 seconds to stand before the court.

The clerk in Vero was very friendly, and told me exactly where to go and when, so I did it.  Which trial, civil or criminal, and the nature of the case were completely random.  I had no idea when I went.  But my random choice turned out very well for me.   The trial turned out to be a "summary judgement" trial.  I never heard that term before. The judge was not present.   One of the defendants was not present.  There were no live witnesses.  Instead, an entire 2-3 week long trial (according to one of the attorneys) was compressed into a single four-step day.  Jury selection, a 60 minute presentation by the plaintiff, a 60 minute presentation by the defendant, jury deliberations, and verdict.   The attorneys (there were 6 of them, 2 for plaintiff, 2 for defendant 1, and 2 for defendant 2) had deposed very many witnesses and experts in advance.   Their presentations were summaries of what the witnesses said.  No live witnesses, no objections, no cross examinations; it was a very streamlines process.   For me, it meant that I could observe the entire process in only 10% of the time.

The subject of the suit was a medical malpractice civil suit.  In Vero with plenty of rich people, plus hordes of doctors and lawyers, there must be many such cases.

Everyone, jury pool, attorneys and clerks behaved very well in my opinion.  I saw no frivolous or cynical attitudes.   The jury pool predictably was motivated to be dismissed and to go about their lives.  That could be accomplished by giving an outrageous answer to any question.   I did hear some surprising answers.  One man said, "I blame malpractice awards for making my insurance premiums raise by a factor of 10 to the point where I can no longer afford them."  When the attorney asked how many others in the pool felt the same, half raised their hands.    A woman who was a nurse at a private practice in Vero said this about the local hospital, "Unless I was dying and on my final breath I would beg to be taken anywhere in the world other than Indian River Medical Center."   In the end, those jurors in the pool who never answered in the affirmative to any question were selected.   Nevertheless, I felt that all the answers given sounded sincere.

After listening to both sides, I decided that the plaintiff should win.  The plaintiff's attorney gave a very logical and coherent presentation that laid out the whole sad story of the plaintiff's misfortune, including specifics of where the doctors failed to meet established standards of care.   The defendant's lawyers sniped and rambled incoherently and never addressed the specific allegations.  At first I thought that they didn't have enough time.  Two defendants, and only 30 minutes each to make their case.  Then I thought that the defense attorneys weren't as competent as the plaintiffs.  Finally I realized that they avoided the allegations because they were guilty, and the best defense was to avoid the issues and talk about what fine doctors they were.

I skipped out before hearing the jury's verdict.  I made up my own mind instead.

Now for your civics lesson.  The issue of NSA, and general government spying on citizens is an issue I am very passionate about.   Many of my friends say, "I don't care as long as it fights terrorism." or "I'm not one of those who distrusts government." or "I opposed it when Bush/Cheney were in charge but I trust Obama.."  I urge you to look deeper. I believe that if public apathy prevails that we could be doomed to an Orwellian hell in the future.  

"... the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." -- Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring
Even if you don't feel like I do, it is your civic duty to be better informed than the political pundits on the news can make you.  Read the most recent issue of Bruce Schneier's Cryptogram newsletter.   Bruce is a security expert who is very well informed, a deep thinker, and a good writer.  The stuff may be more technical than you like, but stick with it.  Pay particular attention to the following sub-topics.

The whole thing should take no more than 15 minutes to read.

1 comment:

  1. Snowden is an American Hero.

    We are already so close to corporate totalitarianism, it is scary and anyone who isn't scared, angry or both is not paying attention.

    I fully expected a rash of protests over the Snowden thing. The silence was deafening and depressed me to no end.


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