Ryan Hall

Ryan Hall

Nate pointed me to a great article on a Christian named Ryan Hall who hails from Big Bear (just outside of Los Angeles) and recently ran the men's marathon in the Beijing Olympics.

The pre-Olympics Runner's World article is here, his post Olympic blog entry is here.

A great quote from the first article was the following:

"Surely our feelings regarding athletes who choose to bring their faith to the field reflect the state of our own souls"

The last line of the article was also great, but that would spoil the article. ;)

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Jury Duty in Orange County


This is my account of being called to jury duty in Orange County:

Day one:

I spent the morning in the Orange County Jury Assembly room trying to get my laptop to connect to the internet using my GPRS phone. The Jury Assembly room was a big room filled with ~150 people. It was reminiscent of the DMV, but it was a little nicer and the people were dressed better than at the DMV. My local friends tell me that this is because of which court this is, not because it is *a* court in general. A woman with an English accent, friendly, but no nonsense, was in charge of managing this mostly disgruntled group of potential jurors. The role of the people in this room was to hang out for 8 hours in case there was a trial which needed a jury. In fact there were at least three. For each trial about 30 people were called out of the room. From each pool of 30, 12 jurors get picked for a trial.

Two trials called in jurors in the morning. After a long lunch break at the local Starbucks, a third trial was started and my name was called to be a potential juror for this one. I entered the court of Judge Everett W. Dickey for the start of a painfully slow and deliberate process. Because you never know who the jurors are, the judge repeats everything in excruciatingly clear detail. The result is a clear understanding of what is going on, but - uggh - kill me with a spoon.

Once in the court room, the 30 of us sat in the audience of the courtroom while the court clerk called 12 potential jurors to the stand. 5 were excused for various hardship reasons. Hardship, of course, is easily exaggerated for those who would rather not be there. I was called up in the second round. I was interested in going through the process so I didn't dig for a hardship excuse. Three more rounds of hardship replacements and we were recessed for 20 minutes. This required a potential juror to argue in front of the entire courtroom why being on the jury is a hardship. If you had the guts to make your stupid argument in front of the whole courtroom, you basically got off, regardless of how dumb the hardship was.

After the recess we were called back in and the judge asked a few clarifying questions. These questions were a bit dramatic because they were asked in front of the judge and the 11 other jurors and about 30 just-in-case jurors in audience, the judge clarified that some of the jurors were widows, that one woman was divorced, what people did for a living, etc. At that last point, I suddenly felt a little pressure as the judge clarified that I was a professor in front of everyone. He asked me what I taught ("Computer Science") and how long I had been doing it ("one year"). During this phase it became clear that the trial was about a hit-and -run accident.

Then the lawyers got to question us. The defense attorney reminds me of Sophie, a friend from Seattle. The plantiff's attorney looks like Matthew Perry from Friends. Again I felt the pressure as the defense attorney asked me a question and phrased it as "Professor, where do you know the term beyond a reasonable doubt from?" Being called professor, while accurate, felt strange. Then when the district attorney asked whether anyone would have a problem convicting someone based on circumstantial evidence, I felt the need to speak up. I said that I wouldn't be comfortable convicting someone just based on circumstantial evidence. He was trying to make this point that not everything in the trial was going to be "direct evidence" which he raised in contrast to circumstantial evidence. I think those are false categories though. How circumstantial evidence is just relates to how many reasonable alternate interpretations of the information there are. Apparently I came across as someone who was going to take the process seriously as opposed to someone who was going to be a problem during deliberations because neither attorney used one of their wildcard kick-the-guy-off-the-jury-for-whatever-reasons plays on me. They did use them on some others though.

Anyway, after a little heat from the D.A. (such drama), the judge excused us until 9am in the morning.

Day Two:

For some reason today I felt like I was in a television program. The attorney from the D.A.'s office looks more and more like Matthew Perry every minute. He seems somewhat angry and adequate, but not brilliant at what he's doing. He has a hard time phrasing the questions in a way that the defense attorney doesn't object to.

After we settled on the final jurors, we were sworn in.

Now the characters in the case start to emerge. The defendant, although he hasn't said anything looks like a character out of a movie. He has a woman in the courtroom with dyed magenta hair and heavy leather bracelets and dark eyeshadow taking notes in a round notebook. Every now and then some one comes in or out and sits on the defendant's side. First a tall skinny guy, plain, except for a dramatic sweeping gelled in place hair cut. He leaves. Then a plain looking Asian guy comes in with big disk earring things.

The plaintiff is an annoying woman from New York who it turns out had to be subpoenaed in order to appear. Since this was a criminal trial, not a civil trial, it was out of her hands once the D.A. took it on. She was proud of being from New York, repeatedly emphasized how overworked she is and was flippant to the judge and the rest of the court officials. She is "so tired", "works really long hours" and "wishes she had never called the police". This of course makes me wonder about the defendant and why there is such a push to get him tried for the hit-and-run accident.

The other witness for the plaintiff is a sugary-sweet young woman who copes with the stress of the courtroom questioning by giggling and pretending that everyone in the courtroom thinks the whole event was a pain, but basically fun.

The conclusion was that the guy was guilty of a hit and run accident on I-5. He hit the defendant while exiting off of the highway. He pretended to pull into the IKEA parking lot and then took off when she got out of her car. Two days later he applied for a driver's license (pretty convicting circumstantial evidence).

Turns out it was the D.A.'s first case to go to trial. Hence some of the weirdness I sensed in his demeanor. We didn't find that out until afterward.

The deliberations when we were locked in the jury room were fun. Particularly the guy who managed the Red Lobster who kept saying "what do I know? I sell shrimp for a living".

Overall I was very impressed with how seriously the jurors, the judge and everyone in the procedure took the whole process. I can't help but think that if this is what everyone is experiencing our justice system is in pretty good shape. Horribly inefficient, but at least its fair.

(Musings) Permanent Link made 9:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


The red lobster guy is hilarious.

Posted by: Andrea and Nate at October 6, 2008 4:26 AM

Stop Destroying Our Planet. It's Where I Keep All My Stuff

t-shirt Threadless T-Shirts

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Inbox 3165


Ugh, vacation was relaxing, but the inbox/todo list blossomed in my absence. Green is a metric which captures my overall workload.

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Magic is crazy wierd

The amazing color changing card trick

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The Humans Are Dead

The Humans Are Dead by Flight of the Conchords

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