VIEWS: 9 PAGES: 8 CATEGORY: Fitness POSTED ON: 11/24/2011
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The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 As you readers may recall from earlier postings , I had jury duty yesterday for King County Superior Court. You may also recall that back in January I emailed them, in good faith, a list of principles (you know, those freedoms us libertarian “terrorists” advocate for, despite government objections) I held that I thought would disqualify me from jury duty. Other than an acknowledgment of receipt of my objections, no substantive action on them was taken by the Court. When my day started, I had already been up for 24 hours, partly due to my odd sleep schedule, and partly due to stress over what was likely to be a rough day. Before I continue, I should digress for a moment and talk about my experience with the courthouse security folks with regards to my concealed pistol. I found some instructions on an Internet message board relating instructions for checking your firearms and noting that the security folks were professional. Briefly, just enter from 3rd Ave, approach the double doors on the left (as opposed to the screening line), then motion to the guard off to your front right. Inform him or her that you have a firearm to check. The will get your ID and CPL, and call for a escort to take you inside the courthouse to the location of the lock boxes. After a quick logging and securing of your weapon, you will be escorted back so that you can then pass through the normal screening. I found these guards to be quite pleasant and professional, and the process to be reasonable. The whole process only took about ten minutes, which is far better than checking a gun in baggage at the airport. When I checked in for jury duty, I once again, in good faith, tried to give them my written concerns. The clerk dismissively responded that he recalled seeing them in January, and told me to go sit down in the juror waiting room. After ten minutes of legitimate orientation, followed by an hour of propaganda and appeals for donations to the courthouse's apparent favorite charity (a day-care center in the Kent courthouse, if I recall correctly). If it isn't already a crime, it should be a crime to force people to sit and listen to a fund-raising appeal against their will. 1/8 The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 As luck would have it, the “random” (they probably mean pseudo-random, but they aren't smart enough to know that) pool of potential jurors for a trial required 90 jurors, so obviously it was something major or a “crime” generally unsupported by the general population. That means they were prepared to exclude about 85% of the potential jurors. The trial was in Judge Michael C. Hayden 's courtroom. I later found out it was a murder trial, with a weapons enhancement, for a tall black gentleman named Yobachi Frazier. As luck would have it, I was potential juror number 82. They had us proceed to the courtroom in two groups, being met in the hall by the Judge's bailiff. It didn't occur to me at the time, but looking back with 20/20 hindsight, it would have been good to try to communicate my concerns to the bailiff while we were being shepherded into the courtroom. During the orientation, we were told that the first step in the courtroom would be to have us swear an oath to answer truthfully all of the questions posed to use. That might sound reasonable at first blush, but upon a moment of reflection, serious concerns are raised. There is no limit to the domain of the questions asked: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the communist party? Answer truthfully, and perhaps have your answer used against you later (regardless of whether the answer was yes or no). Refuse to answer, and you have just violated the oath you gave to answer all the questions. Nice Catch-22. Knowing that I would decline to answer any question I felt posed a greater than normal chance of being used against me in the future, I certainly couldn't swear a false oath, which is, I think, a crime all of its own. So which crime do I commit here? Swear a false oath? Refuse to answer some questions? Refuse to swear the oath? I am a combat veteran, and a former city council-member. As you can imagine, I take my oaths seriously. Deadly seriously, in fact, as I committed to dieing or killing to defend the Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is not an oath to be taken lightly, and I might add that it is an open-ended oath—it doesn't end when you are discharged. 2/8 The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 As the first bridge I came to was the swearing of the juror's oath, that's where I had, in good conscience, to make my stand. It is unfortunate that I had to oppose the judge in open court in front of 44 other potential jurors, but my prior good-faith efforts had failed. When the judge told us all to raise our right hand and started to recite the oath, I yelled out “No” loud enough to be heard over the judge's public address system. When challenged to explain myself, I did the best I could to explain my concerns about swearing an oath I knew that I couldn't keep due to concerns of possible self-incrimination. Judge Hayden, of course, won't tolerate anyone with enough gall to stand up for their rights, so he held me in contempt of court for refusing to take the oath. So, off to jail I went. But before I go to jail, some light background on the right to avoid self-incrimination, with my thanks to David Codrea. According to Professor James Duane of Regent Law, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in Ohio v. Reiner, 523 U.S. 17, 20 (2001) (internal punctuation and citations omitted) : “One of the Fifth Amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. Truthful responses of an innocent witness , as well as those of a wrongdoer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker's own mouth.” The Supreme Court says that the right to avoid self-incrimination protected by the Fifth Amendment covers not only those accused, but also innocent witnesses. While innocent accused persons, innocent suspects, and innocent witnesses cannot be forced to self-incriminate themselves, it seems that Judge Hayden feels that jurors have less rights that any other American citizen. The standard is not whether any single statement is sufficient to convict somebody, but whether it could ever potentially be used to help convict them. 3/8 The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 As someone that has put his ass on the line to defend our Constitution, there are no second-class citizens under the law. Equal protection under the law is one of the reasons people like me are willing to die or kill to protect our Constitution. As an aside, of what value is a coerced oath? Why bother with the farce? Just ask the damn questions. Swear this oath, or go to jail indefinitely until you capitulate. Never mind that we let violent muggers and worse out of jail on their own recognizance, but refuse this oath and rot in jail. They want you to swear (or affirm) on your honor, and then they presume that you have none. So I was booked into the county jail. While the booking cops were generally nice, they did screw up my property receipt, which caused problems later on (actually, it was really a bitchy guard that turned a minor human error into high drama). One guard did of course equate standing up for your rights with being a prick. I'm not shocked that such a petty tyrant worked as a guard, but rather that there were many more honorable guards than one might expect. It did seem however, that the closer you got to the jail rooms themselves, the more incompetent the guards seemed. I guess the county figures that they should stick the most incompetent, dishonorable guards in the jail. Never mind that some of the people in there are presumed to be innocent, having not yet had there day in court. All in all, jail wasn't much different from the Army. In some ways it was far easier, in others it was harder or worse. The worst thing was not being able to get the phones to work, so I couldn't call for an attorney, or call to let anyone know that I was in jail. I was being held without bail, so that wasn't an issue, but Alan was expecting me to work that night. The second worse thing was that there was no clock, so there was no way to track time, other than stealing glances at a guard's wristwatch as they moved you from place to place. By the time dinner came around, I hadn't eaten since breakfast, and had been up for about 34 hours. When the trustees finally arrived with dinner, I was quite hungry, though I did think I 4/8 The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 would be getting released any time now. What passed for food was a watery gruel with two hot dogs floating in it, a small pile of iceberg lettuce chunks, and chocolate pudding stretched to the point of absurdity. Is it still pudding when you can drink it almost as easily as chocolate milk? For those unfamiliar with institutional cooking, stretching something means to add filler to create more servings of it. For example, suppose you have ten gallons of tomato soup, but you need twenty gallons. No worries, just add ten gallons of water, et viola! Twice as many servings, just with half the food value! Or suppose you have ten gallons of chili-mac, but need more. Just keep adding extra noodles until you have enough. So each new serving has less and less meat and sauce. I couldn't force myself to eat that slop, but I did win friends and influence people by giving my “food” to the other inmates. Judge Hayden did promise me a public defender after I repeatedly insisted upon legal counsel, and he said I would have one an hour after the bailiff took me into custody. Well, that hour of course turned into almost four hours. I was just about to storm the Bastille to demand that I be allowed to contact an attorney or otherwise let someone know that I was incarcerated, when the long promised public defender finally appeared in the personage of Anne Kenefick of Seattle. Obviously, our meeting is privileged, so I won't discuss it. Up front I would like to say that four hours doesn't seem terribly unreasonable to wait for a free attorney, but rather that the Judge set an unrealistic expectation by promising it within an hour. Anne arranged for a hearing in front of Judge Hayden where after some discussion we agreed that I would agree to truthfully answer any question that I decided to in fact answer. Any question I declined to answer would be discussed, and reasonable accommodations considered in the Judge's sole discretion. As this effectively moved any possible objection of mine from the oath to each question on a case by case basis, I consented. After all, I had been trying since January to get to Court to effectively acknowledge my concerns, and this let me do it, even if it would be one small snippet at a time. While this didn't ensure that I could keep my honor and still get out of jail, it did at least offer the possibility. 5/8 The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 My impression was that the Judge would have behaved better had he been made aware of my concerns in advance. It seems to me the juror clerk should make cases like mine known to the judges so it doesn't come as a surprise to the judge. While I take exception with many things, understandably, nobody likes to be challenged on their own turf. At this point the judge informed me that this was to be a murder trial, with a weapons enhancement. He asked if I had any problems with that. I told him that if I was given the choice of either guilty with the weapons enhancement or innocent, then the defendent would be innocent. These enhancements are asinine. Dead is dead, makes no difference whether a gun or a baseball bat was used. Part of our job as jurors is to prevent this insanity, but of course no modern court will seat jurors that might actually give the accused a fair trial. One of the parties, presumably the prosecution, then challenged me for cause, and I was removed from the jury pool for that trial. Normally, that would put me back in the pool to be selected for another trial, but as I had challenged the Judge in front of 44 other potential jurors, I was excused from the rest of this round of juror duty altogether. I've yet to come up with a plan of attack for the next time I get summoned for jury duty. The judge signed an order purging the contempt and ordering my immediate release. Of course, the Neanderthals in the jail don't understand English, so immediately became six hours later. After about 4.5 hours of waiting to be released in “2-4 hours” I told the guard that I had a signed order from the judge to be immediately released, and demanded to either be released or be allowed to see an attorney. I pressed the issued repeatedly, and about 10 minutes later they began to release me and several others. On the way out, I took issue with several things. First, they wanted me to sign for my cash without being able to count it myself. When they finally did let me count it myself, they had taken my copy of my property receipt, so I knew how much they were giving me, but not how 6/8 The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 much they had taken from me. Of course, insisting that I be able to count my money and compare it to the documentation irritated the previously-mentioned bitchy guard. I asked for my watch and my wallet and was told that they weren't on the property receipt, and were therefore lost. She was upset when I told her I wanted all of my property back, including my watch and my wallet with my license, my CPL, and all my other stuff. Turns out the booking guard had made a simple error by putting that stuff in my property bag without logging it. When she found out that my wallet wasn't actually lost, but that the guard had instead made a simple error, she became enraged, with me of course. So I had to go back into a holding cell for about 15 minutes to pay for her lack of professionalism. All told, I was in jail from about 10:30am to about 9:00pm. Of course, it was too late to be able to retrieve my checked firearm, or to be able to get my laptop, calculus book, my bus ticket, and the bus route information from my bag in the juror room. So of course I had to take a $42 cab ride from the jail to back to Bellevue. I have yet to recover my gun and my other stuff—I wanted to get this down first. I may be one of the few people who ever have to check a gun in order to retrieve a different checked gun. :-) In his lecture to me about jury duty, Judge Hayden argued that we can't permit jurors to not incriminate themselves or to essentially refuse to participate, or else there wouldn't be any jurors available to conduct trials. Seeing that he is a judge, I really hope he doesn't actually believe that nonsense. It doesn't reflect well on him. If it were a matter of law that truthful statements made by a juror during jury duty cannot be used against them, no juror would have to worry about self-incrimination. Congress and state legislators have that right, why shouldn't jurors? Surely a jury is just as important as a legislature, if not more important. Also, perhaps we could stop treating jurors as subjects instead of citizens. National defense is arguably as important as juries, and yet we have a market-set compensation for soldiers (Congress sets the manpower demand, and then the services have to adjust compensation in order to meet that demand). We seem to be able to get the manpower to fight two active wars, one war under a cease-fire, and also to maintain vast numbers of forward deployed forces. 7/8 The Price of Liberty is...Hot Dog Gruel? Written by Mark A. Taff Tuesday, 23 June 2009 05:28 - Last Updated Sunday, 28 June 2009 17:19 If treating people as citizens instead of slaves works for national defense, just maybe it would work for jurors too? My thanks to my attorney for crafting a situation where I could keep my honor and still get out of jail. I'm off get my stuff back. Update: I was able to get my gun, computer, and other stuff back from the courthouse guards without any drama. Once again, they were very professional--one of them had actually left me a voicemail message to remind me that they had my stuff, and inquiring about when I would be in to pick it up. I got the impression that I was the story of the week: "The juror that refused his oath." I am also certain I made an impression on the other 44 potential jurors, and some of those impressions were undoubtedly positive. 8/8
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