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The trial was scheduled for five days. Columns written in the evenings after a day absorbed in court and without benefit of real-time experience in the minute-by-minute news cycle of the Trump age ... they wouldn't feel the same.

I did not want to be on the jury.

I was confident I'd get rejected by one side or the other if called into the box. That's what has happened every other time.

Once a lawyer asked if any of the prospective jurors knew one of the defendants in a civil suit. I said I knew him from tennis. Then the lawyer asked if anyone knew a second defendant. I raised my hand and said that fellow also played tennis. Then the lawyer asked about a third defendant, and, when I raised my hand, the lawyer said he'd assume this gentleman also played tennis. "Left-hander," I said.

I got struck from that jury.

Lawyers tell me I can expect to be dismissed every time. They say it's because my job is to have opinions. They also suggest that I might be adjudged as the type to think I know as much or more than the lawyers and expert witnesses.

In a criminal case, the prosecutor will probably think I'm a criminal-coddler, because I get called liberal. In a civil case for money, one side or the other will probably deem me pre-disposed. Failing that, I'll probably know somebody in the case.

This time, I was intrigued. This was a wrongful-death case seeking what the plaintiffs' lawyer warned would be a "big number."

An 18-year-old male had died. Some time previously, he'd gone to the emergency room. An X-ray would have revealed the rare disorder that killed him, and presumably led to treatment. But the doctor didn't order one. The parents were suing him.

I suspect the doctor's lawyer scratched through my name the moment it was the 22nd drawn for a 22-person pool from which the lawyers would seat 12 jurors and an alternate. If not at that moment, then the doctor's lawyer surely rejected me when I told the plaintiffs' lawyer that I write an opinion column for the newspaper and that, over the years, I had written a position on medical damage caps.

I'm against damage caps and other "tort reform" special privileges. I resent medical providers seeking to impose special protections for themselves against regular people seeking redress of grievances in court.

It's like not trusting the voters in a presidential race and setting up an electoral college. You see the fine mess that got us.

The truth, though, was that I was sitting there mildly troubled by the notion that parents would seek millions representing the lost lifetime earnings of their surely beloved son. The lost earnings would be the departed son's, not theirs. I was struggling with an economic compensator for parents in a child's death.

And I've been in frenetic emergency rooms and found myself sensitive to delays--and even understanding of errors.

When Mom slipped along the side of the bed in the nursing home and hit her behind on the hard floor and complained of hip pain, and I wondered why she had not yet been attended to in the emergency room, I said simply, "oh, OK," when an attendant explained that three gunshot victims had just been brought in.

But then I've encountered aloof, arrogant doctors in emergency rooms.

In the courtroom Monday, I was skeptical, curious, dubious--of both sides, thus objective. I didn't think I knew everything. I thought I knew approximately nothing.

I was ready to absorb the facts of the case and apply the law as the judge instructed. I'd have been an ideal juror.

After hoping I'd be struck, I got my feelings hurt when it happened.

But the obstetrician-gynecologist also was dismissed, after she said she was having trouble with the instruction to consider only the evidence and not apply her independent knowledge. The man who was an emergency room nurse--and who knew all about the drugs and procedures that the plaintiff's lawyer asked about ... he was, like me, not called back into the box for the final seating of the jury. And the woman who worked in some sort of administrative review of hospital procedures, and who said that she acknowledges that everyone makes mistakes but couldn't ever understand leaving a foreign or extraneous object inside a body after surgery ... she didn't make it to the jury either.

I get that. The lawyers had voluminous files representing their arduous preparations. They wanted the case decided on their studied presentations, not colored by two or three jurors ad-libbing during deliberations.

They wanted not dumb people, but competent people who brought blank slates and evident neutrality.

It's not a perfect system. But it's the world's best.

And there's always an appeal to an electoral college.

To a higher court, I mean.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 04/19/2018

Print Headline: Wading in the pool

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  • GeneralMac
    April 19, 2018 at 8:23 a.m.

    John Brummett is still crying about the electoral college.

    John is not a " day late and a dollar short", John is 17 years late.
    Where were you John in 2001 after the 2000 election?

    Were you organizing people and congress to try and get rid of the electoral college method of electing presidents?

    I assume you were doing like you do today.
    Sucking your thumb and crying !

  • Rightside
    April 19, 2018 at 8:31 a.m.

    Comey, Clinton, McCabe and Lynch Officially Referred For Criminal Investigation. If they are charged and go to trial hope the jury are not dumb people, but competent people who brought blank slates and evident neutrality. It's not a perfect system. But it's the world's best.

  • TimberTopper
    April 19, 2018 at 9:08 a.m.

    Good humorous read John! I see the haters have already been here with probably more to come. Maybe those that come later will have a high enough I Q to understand your lighthearted offering.

  • GeneralMac
    April 19, 2018 at 9:28 a.m.

    I can top John Brummett's tales of jury duty.

    I got called to jury duty in a city of 70,000 ( not in Arkansas)
    I was one who got questioned by the judge in a DWI jury case.

    I told the judge I recognized the name/face of the defendant's lawyer because he always posted his ultra liberal views on a newspaper internet site .

    I stated I wouldn't believe a word he said but would try to be impartial because his client deserved a fair trial.

    All the other prospective jurors broke out laughing in astonishment on what I dared to say.
    The woman judged said..."SILENCE" .... and ordered both lawyers into her chambers.

    After quite a long time, while the prospective jurors praised me for my candor, they emerged and she said...................." you are excused "

  • WhododueDiligence
    April 19, 2018 at 9:52 a.m.

    "I stated I wouldn't believe a word he said but would try to be impartial because his client deserved a fair trial."
    Those two statements are contradictory. Admitting you wouldn't believe a word he said is an admission of pre-judgment which is incompatible with trying to be impartial.
    The good thing is you got yourself kicked out because obviously you shouldn't have been on that jury. The bad thing is it's possible you lessened the fairness of the trial by influencing one or more of the jurors who were selected.

  • GeneralMac
    April 19, 2018 at 10:04 a.m.

    I got to hear the opening arguments from both sides.
    The next day the lawyer informed me his client was found " not guilty" by a posting to me on that newspaper site.

    I replied.........." I would have voted the same way . Cop didn't prove his case "

  • hah406
    April 19, 2018 at 10:53 a.m.

    What fake news site did you read that on Rightside? Not going to happen. Trump can yell "crimes" all he wants, but just like the thousands of other lies he has told, him saying it doesn't make it true.

  • RBear
    April 19, 2018 at 11:35 a.m.

    hah it's a valid point, but it's from a bunch of no-name congressmen and women who are just trying to get in front of the cameras before the mid-terms. Reading through the letter of allegations, it's pretty much a rehash from the right wing troll sites and probably will not get out of the Justice Department. It feeds the tin-foil hat folks like Rightside, but has very little credibility elsewhere.

  • hah406
    April 19, 2018 at 11:49 a.m.

    Thanks RBear. You know, I have decided that Mac is just a cranky old man. When he isn't on here spouting off, he is probably sitting on his porch yelling at kids to stay off of his lawn.

  • Rightside
    April 19, 2018 at 11:56 a.m.

    hah406 why don't you google "Comey, Clinton, McCabe and Lynch Officially Referred For Criminal Investigation"
    Than you can apologize.