Posted 11/18/14 (Tue)
One of the great things about the United States is our right to “trial by jury.” If you are accused of a crime, a jury of your peers can judge you. Now a lot of people tell me “they don’t want to be judged by someone too dumb to get out of jury duty.” I’m not sure if that is the right attitude to take.
This week Shirley received a notice that she could be called for jury duty. I was reading through the “Frequently asked questions sheet.” Question nine, and I quote, “I’m 71 years of age and hard of hearing. I have diabetes, heart problems, cancer, emphysema, lung disease, and I can’t sit for long periods of time. May I be excused?”
Man, I tell you what. You have much greater problems than jury duty! You had better be calling the ambulance!
I had the opportunity to serve on a jury in Dunn County several years ago. It was either during or shortly after my Senate sentence. The prosecuting attorney was an assistant attorney general that I knew. The case involved a landowner who had opened a “can of whoopass” on a hunter trespassing on his land. The landowner was charged with assault. And maybe battery, but I don’t know what battery is.
I was just an alternate, so when the case went to jury, I was excused since all jurors were still in attendance. So I went across the street for a beer with the prosecuting attorney (things were more relaxed decades ago). Now the prosecuting attorney was pretty confident he would get a conviction. The landowner had admitted he had beaten the guy pretty good. And in hindsight maybe he should have just reported the trespasser instead of giving him a licking.
In our discussion, I suggested I thought he would be found innocent, since a jury of his peers was trying him. And most were landowners that had, at one time or another wanted to whip a trespasser. The jury didn’t deliberate too long and we were called back. “A good sign,” my attorney friend said. He was flabbergasted when the landowner was found innocent of all charges!
And that reminds me of a story from long, long ago.
We had a semi that we hauled cattle with. Not commercially, but just a farm-licensed truck. I had asked a neighbor to haul some cattle for me and he was picked up at the Williston scale. I could haul farm to market, or market to farm. I couldn’t haul from market to market, and I had bought some cattle that I was hauling to another market that I hoped was better.
Anyway, he was fined a hundred dollars. I decided that I could win this argument in court and wouldn’t pay it.
This is back when Grandpa Jack was a legislator. I figured that Jack had written the laws; he should be able to defend me.
Now, if you knew Grandpa Jack, you know he voted against nearly every spending bill. I swear he voted no when they took roll call.
Jack introduced himself to the judge when the hearing started. The judge asked if he was the same Jack Murphy that had voted against the pay increases and retirement plan for the judiciary system? When Jack and the judge got into a hollering match about how many hours a judge worked compared to a rancher, I felt my hopes of vindication slipping away.
When things calmed back down, without any testimony from me, my fine went from $100 to $400!
But Grandpa Jack, being a man of integrity paid the extra $300, and said it was “Worth every damn penny to tell that judge what he thought of him!”