"Totally coup, yo."

Murphy's Law VII: Jury Selection and Shit-Water




Jury selection is like playing poker for your freedom. And before I get into all that, I should say hello to the jurors. Hello! The judge explicitly told you not to visit The BEAST, so I presume that’s exactly what most of you are going to do. It’s kind of like that time my buddy told me never to Google “Goatse”. I also do not recommend that. But you’re probably curious about that now, too, so…I told you! Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I’m going to pretend like you fine, and very reasonable, people are not reading this. Otherwise, I’m going to keep talking about how I live with and care for my disabled mother. It’s true. I’m a good person. I prepare all her meals, do all the household chores, and have generally sacrificed my well-being for hers. No shit. I also used to roam the streets of Buffalo at night handing out sandwiches to homeless people. Sometimes I even let them crash at my place. And let’s not forget that time I saved a kitten from certain death. I’ll stop now. Sorry. See how polite I am! Seriously, though, I’m done…but, by the way, you looked amazing today! Have you been working out? It shows!


So, yeah, it’s like playing poker. You get what you’re dealt, you throw back the weak cards, and just hope you get a decent hand. And since my unlawful arrest occurred at a National Organization for Marriage hate-rally against same sex marriage in New York, I was genuinely hoping for a bunch of queens. No such luck. But I think we did OK. Having never witnessed the jury selection process, I have to say, it was rather interesting/terrifying. And I won’t call this an important legal case, but it struck me today how very much it is a current legal case. My lawyer grilled prospective jurors on the freedom of the press (because I was arrested for filming a cop in my capacity as a journalist), whether they’d believe the word of a preacher over that of an atheist (a preacher’s come forward to lie about my activities that day. Why? Good question!), and their views on gay marriage (because, as mentioned, this all happened at a NOM rally). As if she’d been chatting with Jay Carney, one woman said her views on gay marriage were “evolving.”

Some of the potential jurors surprised me with their suburban idiocy. Maybe they were just trying to get out of jury duty, but two guys literally said that they believed if someone had been arrested then they must have done something wrong or illegal. White guys, naturally. A couple other dudes surprised me by flatly stating that they’d never trust an atheist. That kind of thing shouldn’t surprise me, as the faithless consistently rank among the least-trusted groups in ‘Murka. We’re less trusted less than terrorists. For real.

It’s an ironic process. For a misdemeanor trial you need 6 jurors and 2 alternates. And, basically, you’ve got to try to sniff out their prejudices using your own. It becomes less about blatant profiling once the questioning begins and, for me, it was an object lesson in why profiling is bad. Two examples were the young white kid and the old black guy. The kid had a tattoo. I thought he’d be…open minded, but he was one of the guys who believes that an arrest equals guilt. And the older black guy was a gamble. On the one hand, demographically speaking, the only way he could be more religious would be if he had a vagina. On the other, as an older black man, he’s surely seen a shit-ton of police abuse. He knows that cops often lie.

We ditched the kid with “cause.” Cause sounds exactly like what it is. You have a good reason to boot someone off the jury, like they worship the police contrary to all evidence outside of the suburban-Matrix, and you have an unlimited amount of times you can do that — just as long as the judge goes for it. The other way to boot a potentially biased juror is through preemptive dismissal. In a New York misdemeanor trial with 6 total jurors, you get to do this 3 times, as does the prosecution — they’re also allowed to nix someone out of cause. These are tricky decisions. You don’t know what these people really think. Of course, I thought, a Latina is not a good choice for us. That’s a mighty religious group, statistically. She outright said that she thinks that a preacher is incapable of lying, so we got to get rid of her with cause, but the preemptive decisions were tough calls.

One guy is a self-described Born Again Christian. Immediate red flag. He’s taken part in Operation Rescue, the pro-life crusade. Huge flag. But he was also arrested for protesting, and left that outfit because he didn’t like the the group’s hateful ways. Smaller flag. And after he talked a while, he seemed like a totally reasonable guy — you know, aside from believing that God’s zombie-son lives in space heaven, or whatever the hell. He was certainly better than the guy who blurted, “I just don’t see why someone wouldn’t believe in God!” and “How can an atheist be believed if he doesn’t swear on the bible!” and “If God don’t exist, we’re going to have to change our money!” He was literally the worst person in the room — because the arresting officer Donna Donovan wasn’t there. My lawyer cannot wait to question her, btw, because her numerous and varied accounts are so much Swiss cheese. If Swiss cheese were made out of lying pieces of pig shit.

Where was I? I just had to clean up a full inch of shit-water that overflowed in my mom’s bathroom. I totally forgot…jury selection! This is not a stressful time in my life at all. Nope. Fucking roses. Anyway, the worst guy in the room also said that I couldn’t be believed because I’m a “gonzo journalist,” a phrase introduced into the process by my lawyer. “If he’s always making jokes, why should anyone believe him?” You hear that, Louis CK? If you witness a murder, your testimony doesn’t count. OK? Good.

I really lost my focus with that shit-water, so I’m going to stop now. Shame. I had all these great thoughts about…I don’t even. One piece of good news, however: the judge ruled that the prosecution isn’t allowed to use the massive poster they made of me during opening arguments because it’s not relevant and would prejudice the jury. And since you beautiful, fantastic people may be reading this, you’re going to have to just find it on your own. Shouldn’t be too hard. But just remember: if you saw a photo of a guy posing with a knife in his hand, it wouldn’t mean he ever used that knife to commit a crime. You people get that, right? I fucking hope you do.

More tomorrow.

UPDATE (9:45 pm): I took a shower, I no longer want to throw up, and I remembered some things. A few of the would-be jurors had heard about my Scott Walker prank. One guy said it was improper journalism, though he admitted that there’s no other way to get that kind of information out of a politician. Tell it to the Society of Professional Journalists, man. The prank was discussed enough that the judge had to specify that the case “has nothing to do with the Wisconsin Governor.” It’s a kind of scary thought that the jurors may be litigating my past. Hell, maybe that’s why I was arrested. Dunno. And it’s frightening to think that what’s offensive to some may mean jail for another. Although that’s technically what this case is about, that’s sure-as-shit what the prosecution is going to try to make it. But more on that later. Also, some dildo-talk came up, just to see if anyone absolutely hates rubber dongs. One guy laughed his ass off, and another said that I might be “mentally ill” and “sexually confused.”


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  • http://facebook.com/ChanceJonathon Jonathon Chance

    I woulda been your lawyer for free. I don’t have a law degree or anything, but I’ve seen A FEW GOOD MEN like 50 times!

  • darcy

    good luck… hopefully none of the jurors turn out to be the fucking morons that comment on Buffalo News stories…

  • KAB

    Good Men – Good Luck. Hopefully Goodness will have something to do with it. Having served on a jury (selected without being asked any questions by either the defense or prosecution) I resolved that if I were ever on trial – no matter how innocent – I would cop a plea. Community Service might not look so bad on a resume.

  • robert van bakel

    I remember the decision of Judge Jones in the ‘Kitzmiller-Dover Area School board’ case, and how the Prez Bush appointed judge described the ding-bat proponents of ID as, ‘breattakingly inane’; superb! Don’t worry about your judge, if she shows half Judge Jonse’s nouse you’ll be home and hosed. Especially when the brain dead fat chick talks:)
    Lots of facts. No luck involved you see:)

  • Backwards feminism

    Going up against the south buffalo machine. yikes!

  • http://youtu.be/ALr09YehzP0 Joe Dixon

    The black juror will do whatever everyone else is doing. He’s sheep just like the vast majority of the population. I don’t care how many crappy encounters he’s had or his family has had with the police. It’s funny because I was just reading TalkLeft and some dope over there was commenting about how having blacks on the jury meant a sure vote for conviction for Zimmerman.

    Too funny. All anyone has to do is recall the case of Amadou Diallo (to site but one of many examples.). There were blacks on that jury. Didn’t stop the white cops who shot Diallo dead from being acquitted.

    I don’t know if it’s casual racism or what but (white) people seem to think that black people don’t bend to authority figures but we do all the time. Or maybe they can’t get past OJ. Simpson. Here’s what people don’t seem to get about the OJ murder case. OJ wasn’t acquitted because he was black. He was acquitted because he was famous and rich and LA is a starfucker town. Period.

    No, don’t put any hope on that black juror. And certainly don’t think any of the jurors disregarded the judges demand to not read the Beast. They will do EXACTLY as they are told. Of this I have no doubt. An authority figure in a black robe told them what they should do and they’ll do it.

    12 Angry Men is fiction. There are precious few Juror Number Eights out there. Still, hopefully, the judge will be professional. If so he’ll instruct the jury properly. On the face of it, there was no cause to arrest you. The police over stepped there bounds. You were covering/satirizing a public protest. As it was in public you could film anyone you liked or ask questions of anyone you wanted.

    Anyway, good luck.

  • admin

    Yes, well, that was sort of the subtext here: casual racism. It’s not scientific, by any means, but that’s how (I learned) jury selection is done. You assume things about people based on scant and superficial information. And as our side assumed the black juror may have a better understanding of what dickwads cops can be (knowing this might not be the case), the prosecution assumed that the kid with gay friends would automatically find me innocent, so they booted him. It’s prejudicial gambling. Honestly, it should be done behind a screen with a voice modulator or something, like you’re auditioning for an orchestra.

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