The Case, the Jury, and the Verdict
December 22, 2006
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This is the first chance I’ve had to finish telling you about my jury duty experience.
The CASE: The plaintiff was a developer/builder who was going to build some high-end apartment buildings here in the valley and then convert them to condominiums in 10 years. He had contracted a civil engineer firm to provide his civil engineer plans, and there was a dispute over the contract, the work, and the reasonable care that was due to him. We (the jury) looked at emails for about two solid weeks while lawyers on both sides of the case presented their arguments.
The case was finally turned over to the jury and yours truly was elected Jury Foreman. I did not think or feel that the job of being Jury Foreman was a difficult assignment. I tried my best to let everyone have ample time to let their opinions be heard and to allow those who needed extra time to look back over the evidence to reach their own conclusion. All you need in a civil trial is a 9-3 vote based on the “preponderance of the evidence.” We were pretty much an 8-2 split on most things. Two of the jurors were for the defense on just about every issue. And eight of us were pretty much on the builder’s side. So we usually had two jurists who just needed to be clear on all the issues. Ultimately we sided with the builder and awarded him a little under 4 million dollars. We could have awarded him 20 million dollars PLUS many more millions in punitive damages.
The JURY: What a joy to get to meet and interact with 11 other folks like myself who all live busy lives and yet desire to serve to the best of their ability. The gentleman next to me, “King Arthur,” serves as an Elder at Hollywood Presbyterian Church where Lloyd Ogilvie used to serve. He was a funny guy who helped get me through the 15-day trial with his wit and humor. He had some classic one-liners that only under Oath would I ever repeat.
Next to Art was Cecelia, a math teacher who is somewhere on vacation right now–hopefully someplace warm. She had a great personality and was fun to be around. Cecelia I’m praying for you girl. Be careful with those shoes and it was a joy to get to know you.
Then we had Rea, who was for the plaintiff 100 percent. I believe she is a nurse and she did NOT mess around. She could have voted in 10 seconds for the Plaintiff. A very smart woman, I might add. Rea, Thank you for all that you added to our group.
Roberta. Oh my Roberta. A very very very smart juror who at a critical time in the deliberations found an email in evidence that was KEY. Roberta has a son who serves in the military and did NOT look old to enough to have a 30-year-old son who is flying around in a B-2 bomber.
Then there was Renee. I liked Renee for many reasons. We were both born in the same hospital (St. Johns) in the same city (Tulsa) just a year apart. Renee is also the name of my wife. 🙂 And…She was for the Defense 100 percent. She was absolutely AGAINST giving the Plaintiff a dime. I liked her because she stood her position even though it was different than the opinion of the majority. That is never an easy thing to do.
My man Jay is next, who is a lighting guy in Hollywood and one day he came to help look at our lights in our church. But he left towards the end with a bad back, and one of our alternates, Theresa, took his place. I missed Jay and would have LOVED to have known his opinion, but he left, and with that void, the door opened for Theresa to serve.
I called her Mother Theresa. I liked EVERYTHING about her but her Raiders jacket. Theresa was usually against the Plaintiff, and she hopes to be a lawyer herself one day. I believe she’s attended our church from time to time, and I pray that one day she comes to her senses and starts to root for the Cowboys.
Then there was Mark. Mark is also a church-going man who is a very sharp and bright individual. He has such a calm disposition and for some reason, every time he spoke in the deliberations, I agreed with everything he said. Mark… I usually don’t agree with anyone. He would have made a great Jury Foreman and hopefully he will stay in touch.
Next we have a gentleman by the name of Tolie. Tolie is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He is a safety expert for companies who are involved with Nuclear power. He too is involved in his church and the thing I remember about Tolie is that he had a great mind for seeing the timeline. Tolie travels two hours (one-way) by train to work every day… it’s the only thing I question about his smarts :). Tolie, please be careful in your job.
Millie was a very elegant woman who sided with the Plaintiff on almost every issue. She too goes to church and is a scientist. That’s right, a scientist. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Scientist before. But Millie was a great juror. I think I heard her snoring one day.. (just kidding) Millie, didn’t need to take a lot of notes. I think she memorized every email–something that only scientist can do.
And then we have Jason. Jason was the one guy who I wondered if he was going to be able to make a wise decision, and then we got to the deliberations and was I ever wrong to question him! Jason was a walking encyclopedia, a brilliant mind. Helped keep us on track, and had a gift for clarifying all the issues. Jason, you were HUGE in the deliberations. I would say Jason was the most influential in the jury room.
Then Debra. Debbie sat just a few chairs from me and what I enjoyed MOST about her was the conversation afterwards concerning her faith. Debbie was an awesome jurist who truly studied the details of this case. She was very fair and is just a great person. Deb…I hope you’re reading that book I gave you, and I hope you stay in touch.
Sandra was our last remaining alternate. She is a new mother and I’m sure it was difficult for her to be away from her child. She relayed to me that she would have been for the Plaintiff. This collective group was extremely diligent and careful in their deliberating. They were thorough, careful, considerate and wise. I am going to miss seeing them and hopefully they will come visit us sometime at Shepherd.
The VERDICT: As I mentioned earlier, the jury sided with the plaintiff. On most issues we were 10-2. We felt that that civil engineer firm had mislead the developer with promises that they ultimately did not keep. We ALL had wished that this had never come to trial. That both parties would have had such a good working relationship that the trial could have been adverted. I am NOT comfortable going into all the details of this case, and perhaps some of the other jurist will want to post, but I can assure you that we did our best with the evidence that was presented to make the right decision.
I wish I had more time to tell you about our Judge. Perhaps next week if some of you are interested I will tell you of my conversations with him afterwards and what I learned from him. Check back in a week or two and see if I have a follow up.
It was an enjoyable process. I learned a lot. Our judicial system is NOT perfect but it’s worked for over 200 years. If you ever get a chance to serve, you need to, and I want to thank my fellow jurists for a time that I will never ever forget. You are a remarkable group and I will keep you in my prayers. I truly miss each and every one of you.
Dudley C. Rutherford
Juror #1 (Only in my mothers eyes)