While we go about our busy lives, some struggle in the trenches on the front lines of the war on drugs. Yes that was sarcasm or candor as I prefer to call it. I often say that the courtroom is one of the best places to get an education that has real value and Monday Oct 22 was no exception.
The “Green team ” showed up after lunch as court began late and the initial screening process was still underway. Judge Janice Claire Croft smiled from the bench. Judge Croft has turned out to be possibly one of the most fair and pleasant judges I have ever witnessed. Now remember this is a case involving a small backyard grow more than three years ago. Judge Croft went over the witness list that included 9 cops,2 law enforcement photographers, and 12 civilians. I couldn’t help but think about the huge waste of time and fuel and $ that over 60 jurors that were ultimately disqualified spent not to mention the court and staff tied up over a plant that never hurt anyone.
The judge went on to say, “When you make your decision, it should be one that next week,next month or next year you should feel good about.” She also told the prospects to listen to fellow jurors and to tell them what you think. finally she referred to this as a serious lawsuit although I thought it was actually a criminal trial.
Then things started to get interesting
In an amazing display of aptitude, public defender Rodriguez began to question the jury prospects.He wasn’t the best speaker but had questions… great questions. He asked the prospects with regard to the presumption of innocence “if no evidence was presented, how many of you would vote not guilty?”
No one raised their hands!
The judge had a puzzled look on her face and again in an elegant way explained how our system was supposed to work. I looked at the blank expressions on the jurors faces and became troubled. Judge Croft asked the jurors, ” if the defense chose not to put on a case and said nothing in his defense, would any of you assume he was guilty?” 1 lady raised her hand.. the judge said, ” Even though the defendant has a lawful right to remain silent?” The juror said ” I would just want to hear his side of it” and it went on…..
Rodriguez went on with a series of questions about medical marijuana and jurors feelings. He was able to expose many of their biases. ( a move that ultimately was able to eliminate said prospects without having to use his limited number of peremptory challenges.) This and so much more can be learned in court school.
One Juror had never heard of Medical Marijuana in California. I thought I would explode and the judge seemed perplexed as well as these comments oozed out of the jurors mouths.
“Police and DA’s aren’t here to lie”
“The police aren’t going to wast their time on a case unless they have something ”
“I don’t believe in it”
“I’m against growing it”
“My father recently died of cancer and they never even offered it”
“Growing is out of control and I pay my taxes”
remember, this is a case of a prop 215 compliant grow with only a few members and no charges of weapons, sales or the like… To all those that spend energy attacking storefront operators, this is a state case!! How about just standing against prohibition as a united front for once??
One juror when asked, ” If the judge instructs you that the law allows the activities the two defendants are accused of would you be able to acquit?” said, ” I would still have trouble saying not guilty”
Finally, there were two prospective jurors that clearly did not have any command of the English language yet did not request a translator.
I found it ironic that when a recess was called, several of the “biased” jurors went outside the courthouse to smoke cigarettes…..
I later spoke with the Rodriguez and learned that he has worked in the public defenders office for 18 years and has tried many many cases. I commended him on his work and assured him that he was a minority and that most PD’s do nothing but try and settle cases with plea deals.
I can’t help but wonder how this would look if those that support the rights of patients and the will of the people would rather than try and get removed from jury duty, would try to serve…..
I was unable to make court yesterday but learned that 10 of the biased prospects were removed by the judge and a 3rd day of selection is continuing today! We’re heading out there and welcome anyone that wants to be or become a superhero to join us… We always make a difference Join the green team today!