Sanna's Bag

“I never seem to have what I need when I need it. I’m going to make a belt-bag that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside, and just carry everything with me.”

Friday, March 14, 2008

My civic duty is done

The court case was interesting and educational. We were hearing the case of a young man who had been arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants. He pled not guilty. His driving was not at fault, but when he got out of his car, a beer can fell out, and a strong smell of alcohol hung about him. Also, he seemed unsteady on his feet, so the arresting officer gave him three field sobriety tests, which he is reported to have failed. The defendant's lawyer contested that he had done well enough on the tests to assure a reasonable doubt of his guilt. The defendant refused to take a breathalyser test. There were some people who felt that there WAS in fact room for reasonable doubt. I felt that, since two officers, the arresting officer, and the officer who was handling the breath analyser, felt that he was clearly intoxicated, and since he had, in fact, failed the tests, he probably WAS under the influence, even though his driving had not been symptomatic. You don't wait till he wipes out a van full of boyscouts if you believe him to be unfit to drive.

The guy we picked as jury foreman was retired police and was luckily trained to facilitate meetings. He kept us on track and moderated our debates. Pretty soon, the people who were unsure began to swing to guilty. He did, after all, fail all three field sobriety tests. There could be excuses for failing any one, but not all three. And if he was innocent, why didn't he take the breathalyser? We wound up with eleven guilty votes and one not guilty. I stayed behind to thank the judge for treating the jury so nicely, and he mentioned that this was the young man's fourth offense and he was headed for prison.

So I have sent a young man to prison. A young man who persists in driving while under the influence of intoxicants. And I strongly doubt that is the extent of his misdemeanors and felonies. Prison is a dreadful place, and he will no doubt emerge as a more hardened and skillful criminal. Is that better than leaving him free as a hazzard to society? In the short term, yes. And if short-term solutions are all you have, then so be it. But what can we do with people who don't WANT to be good? I don't know.


  • At 12:16 PM , Blogger Amy Lane said...

    That question sucks so badly...I hate thinking about that! But I do recognize the 'it wasn't me' sentiment--I see it all the time.

  • At 3:57 PM , Blogger Kate said...

    If they don't want to be good, why should we let them run around driving (possibly) intoxicated? Laws are set down for a reason and if this multiple-offender person is sent to jail and it saves a busload of boyscouts, my sentiments are that it sucks to be the one going to jail.

  • At 4:40 PM , Blogger Warrior Knitter said...

    Glad yours turned out well.

  • At 4:48 PM , Anonymous Norma said...

    You done good. Jurors are not well-enough understood and their decisions are questioned unfairly by the press and by people who weren't there. It's a thankless job, but one that is important, and I always think they take it so seriously. Good for you for coming out of the process thoughtfully.

  • At 6:38 PM , Blogger Donna Lee said...

    I sat on a jury for a murder case. By the time it was over, I was sick at the way the individuals involved looked at life. They were so blase about the guy who was killed. The defendant had spent a good deal of his young life in prison and was going to spend a good deal more and he was "whatever" all over the place. I was so glad to get out of the courtroom and all the negativity. And it went on for 3 weeks. It only looks exciting on television. In real life, a trial is dull and long.

  • At 7:35 PM , Blogger Willow said...

    You can't make any one want to be good. All you can do is make sure he's 'not good' in a way that doesn't hurt/kill other people.

    The Prof sat on a jury (instead of starting our honeymoon!) of a guy contesting his third arrest for drunk driving. It's amazing how a Defense attny will try to get a not guilty verdict for a person HE KNOWS is guilty. Even if the trial hadn't affected our honeymoon, I would have been glad the man was convicted and lost his license--you don't drive drunk and hurt other people!

  • At 4:00 PM , Blogger Jejune said...

    It's a tough call... sounds like the trial went pretty smoothly, and you were fortunate in the choice of jury foreman. My brother (the one who died last December) used to steal cars and drive them while under the influence of drugs - and he'd never had a driving lesson in his life. He did time in prison for 6 such offenses. He only started to feel sorry about it 4 or 5 years later...

    I agree, you needed to get this person off the roads. We had to make the same decision about my elderly FIL some years ago when he was about 80 - his driving (never good at the best of times) was getting much worse with age, and we requested that his GP send him for a practical driving test, which he **comprehensively** failed.

    Although it's a TOTAL pain, and he goes on and on and on (and on) about how losing his licence was someone else's fault (never his, oh no), and it's 'ruined his life', and we have to drive him around, and it's pretty horrible - we knew we had to take this action because he was a threat to everyone on the roads.

    So you did the right thing, and there's no way of making someone want to 'be good', unfortunately.

  • At 2:36 PM , Blogger Lucia said...

    I just took the political compass test again (it's quite an interesting exercise). I come out pretty consistently at about -6, -6 (you'll have to take the test to know what that means). You're asked to agree/disagree with a bunch of statements, and one always gets me: "It's a waste of time trying to rehabilitate some criminals." I actually agree that this is absolutely true, but there's a huge catch: you don't know ahead of time which ones.

    What is true is that responsible people are safer with this guy locked up.

    My dad, who is even further to the lower left and who worked in prisoner advocacy for many years, thinks every felon should get an indefinite sentence ("go to your room and think very hard about what you've done") and have to explain very clearly what steps s/he will take to behave better from now on ("and when you are ready, let me know and we'll talk about this") before being let out.

  • At 4:46 AM , Blogger Jejune said...

    Cool, that Political Compass Test was interesting... I scored -7.88 and -6.77 (way down in the Lefties / Libertarian quadrant)!


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