Petit Jury

Why the dearth of postings here this time? Well, I spent the last week serving on a jury at the King County Regional Justice Center. Lucky me. The summons arrived when I was in San Francisco, but Kathy was kind enough to email a picture of it to me so I could feel the full joy as soon as possible.

King County Superior Court holds trials in two locations, the King County Courthouse and the Maleng Regional Justice Center. The King County Courthouse is an easy bus ride or 15-minute drive from here and houses two thirds of the county’s courtrooms. The RJC is 30 miles south in Kent–a 40 minute drive at best and 75 minute drive in traffic–and houses just a third of the courtrooms. Naturally, I got called to jury duty at the RJC. Again. When I served on a jury in 2003, I was down there, too. Grumble, grumble.

In King County, you must serve for two days or one trial, whichever is longer. On my first day, only one jury was selected and they let the rest of us go home for the day by mid-afternoon. The second day, I was selected for a trial and went through the voir dire process. I started out as juror 25 in a pool of 40. No one was excused for cause, but both attorneys used enough of their peremptory challenges to put me in the jury box.

It was a criminal trial: a young woman charged with residential burglary and 2nd degree assault. She basically pushed her way into her ex-boyfriend’s apartment to “catch him in the act” with his new girlfriend. New girlfriend ran into the bedroom to get away and feared for her life as the defendant raged outside the door. When boyfriend’s (female) roommate arrived home with a friend, they hauled the defendant outside, but the roommate got stuck outside with her. Somewhere along the line, the defendant managed to dislocate the roommate’s shoulder. When a cop arrived moments later, the defendant had the roommate in a headlock. To add a little extra spice, it turns out the defendant and her ex have three kids together, he has spent time in jail, and he completely ignored his summons to appear in this case. Oh, and the defendant had been egged on over several months by the new girlfriend’s roommate, who would apparently call to let her know when “she’s with him.” Curiously, this same roommate had apparently slept with the ex-boyfriend herself. Nifty. With friends like these… Oh, and the defendant drove there that night with her three kids in the car. At least she had someone meet here there to watch the kids.

Ultimately, few of the facts of the case were disputed. Monday morning, we received jury instructions and heard closing arguments. I went into deliberations with an open mind, but honestly expected to be done by lunch. Sadly, that was not to be. One juror in particular saw things a little differently. By Tuesday afternoon, it was clear we were getting nowhere. We ended up finding her guilty of the lesser crimes of criminal trespass and 3rd degree assault (both gross misdemeanors). Though she clearly deserved a guilty verdict, I don’t think any of us were particularly happy about it. I can only hope it helps her put some things behind her and move on.

So that’s my jury duty story. The judge in my trial was Laura Gene Middaugh, who is up for reelection this year. She certainly has my vote! Reading up after the trial, I learned that there’s an interesting story about her woefully unqualified opponent, Matt Hale. It seems Judge Middaugh is married to state Senator Adam Kline. Senator Kline wrote a brutally honest email that offended Washington’s “Off-Highway Vehicle” enthusiasts, so they’re throwing their support behind Hale in his race against Judge Middaugh. Ah, politics.