Meth & mental illness

I’ve been off in a cramped little room yesterday and this morning — I got picked for jury duty! I’ve already been asked how a godless liberal college professor survived the screening to end up on a jury, and it was easy. In previous trials I got picked on by the prosecuting attorney about my opinions of police officers — I don’t trust them — and got excluded because there’s one thing prosecutors want, and that’s deference to authority. This time, they didn’t even ask me any questions, because they spent so much time filtering out prospective jurors who knew or were related to the defendant and the witnesses, and since this is a small town, everyone knows everyone, except me, because I’m a cloistered nerd at the university. I skated in based on my ignorance of local gossip, I guess.

It was an eye-opening experience, because I got to see the other side of town. This was a domestic violence case in a small rural midwestern town, so you can guess who I had to stand in judgment over: poor people intermittently employed in thankless, low-paying jobs, who have a history of meth use, and in the case of the victim, was also bipolar…but she’d given up on her meds and was instead self-medicating with methamphetamine (which doesn’t work at alleviating the symptoms of mental illness). It was a tawdry, ugly case, where the defendant had angrily and viciously punched his partner, and the partner wanted to retract her initial statement and claimed to have forgotten everything that happened that day because she’d been so high, and also she really loved her man and wanted to get back together with him.

We were in one of those situations where the only just recourse would have been to separate these two, give them intense but caring treatment for their addictions, and find them productive, stable employment and a life where they could better themselves, but nope, all we could do is say on the basis of the evidence presented in court whether the guy was guilty or not guilty on two counts of abuse. We found him guilty of one (there was a photo of a nasty, fist-sized bruise taken the day of), and not guilty of the other (we could see he was capable of the crime, and probably did it, but without physical evidence we couldn’t say that the state had made its case).

We learned afterwards, and this was definitely not a factor in the decision, that this guy had prior convictions for domestic violence, making this a felony, and that he’s probably going to spend a handful of years in prison for it. All because I raised my hand in the deliberation room. Well, and because he was in the habit of punching and choking his partner.

So how was your day? I’m going to have to find something uplifting to cheer me up. I may go into the lab and tend to spiders, or something.


  1. says

    Thank you for your service.

    As a veteran, I try to remind civilians that they, also, have two opportunities for “service”: Voting and jury duty. So thank you for not inventing a BS excuse to evade it.

  2. markgisleson says

    Small town juries are in fact hard to put together. My second trial as a juror involved a similar selection process. No, I did not know anyone involved in a shoplifting case. None of the names rang a bell.

    Coming back from break halfway through the trial I saw a guy I knew from numerous parties sitting in the witness box. He waved to me and I started to wave back, then noticed all the lawyers in the room staring at us.

    In fact I did not know his last name. Luckily a witness had moved away and the case fell apart and we acquitted the shoplifter. Who had stolen lots of stuff from this guy I actually knew well enough to have smoked pot with. Justice wasn’t done, but no one got hurt so I think it was a win.

  3. says

    Don’t feel bad about your choices, PZ. Domestic abusers may act worse under the influence but that’s not the underlying cause. It’s about coercive control and it can’t be reliably cured by addiction treatment. Meth addiction is pretty intractable anyway, there’s no medication assisted treatment. The only way to keep the woman safe is to incarcerate the guy. In this case that’s probably the best available option, sad as it may be. You did your civic duty.

    I was on a jury for a trial in which a guy who had a hobby of raping little girls was trying to get out of his civil commitment, even though he refused to engage in treatment and was denying conduct to which he had previously confessed. We had to hear a lot of really disturbing stuff. Then we kept him locked up. Which was the right thing to do.

  4. says

    I just solo moved a 500lb reel of wire rope 100ft and up 2 steps. In other words, I had an easy day compared to yours.

    Meth has replaced alcohol up here and it’s a freakin’ tragedy society has no options or answers. Well, legalizing pot might help. Potheads are a lot less combative and it’s less of a health hazard.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    So how was your day?

    Extremely boring and underpaid. Nothing says “fulfilling career” like living paycheck-to-paycheck, staring at computer all day and asking callers if they made obviously fraudulent debit card purchases on the other side of the planet.

    And I get work mandatory overtime this weekend too.

  6. DonDueed says

    I was expecting a package, but when the delivery truck pulled into the driveway, the driver looked in every corner of his truck then drove away without leaving anything. Totally soul-crushing. Not sure if I can survive.

    Around here, the drugs that make the news are opioids, especially synthetic ones. The other day an 11-year-old girl died, and there are suspicions she might have gotten an accidental dose of fentanyl. That stuff is about as scary as meth, but meth doesn’t seem to be as common in this area.

  7. anxionnat says

    I’ve been called for jury duty three times but never got picked. The first time, I was about 22 and had just graduated from college. The defendant had been caught with one joint. NOBODY wanted people under 30 on the jury. (This was in the early-1970s and college students were thought to be more sympathetic to drug users.) The final time was another drug case. The guy had been busted for having a meth lab. I was in my first year of grad school. The lawyers asked me if I’d ever taken a biochem class (duh–everybody does, at least in my field–Ecology.) They seemed to believe that, because I’d had 3 terms of biochem I’d automatically know something about drugs (eye roll) and would thus be more sympathetic to the defendant. Whereas it wasn’t a problem, having a spouse and a couple of close friends of cops on the jury. There was also a female veterinarian who was excused–apparently for the same reason I’d been excused. The vet and I agreed, as we walked back to our cars, that none of the lawyers wanted anybody with a science background because scientists have a habit of not just deciding “not guilty” or “guilty”, but also coming up with other hypotheses–which the lawyers don’t do. So, yeah, asking a question can be a real deal-breaker. Basically, these lawyers I encountered wanted the vet and me to stop thinking.

  8. brucej says

    It sounds like the case I was a juror on many years ago. A couple of real dunces thought they’d be cool by waving a gun around. We ended up convicting them of three of the five charges against them, although we all agreed that what they actually needed to be convicted of was aggravated dumbfuckishness.

    Also, self-medication is never really intended to treat anything, it’s invariably just people (often desperately) trying to just not be in pain for a little while.

  9. microraptor says

    I’ve been notified twice but both times my juror number was so high that I never came close to being called.

    As far as my day, well, I went to Crossfit this morning, then went out to breakfast with other people from the class and ate too much, the handyman for my apartment complex came and removed a large hairball that had been clogging my shower drain, and I’m relaxing at home with my cat. Good stuff.

    The bad stuff is that I’ve decided I have to leave the D&D game I’ve been in all year. One of the other players is just too disruptive and it’s reached the point where his behavior is preventing me from having fun. I’ve tried talking about it with him but he’s not open to discussion and since we’re friends away from the gaming table I feel that I’m really stuck: I can keep playing D&D or I can keep being friends with him. Not so good stuff.

  10. unclefrogy says

    except for the particular details of your case there many similarities to my experience as a juror, I have been called a few times and served more times than not it has always been disturbing and sometimes rather sad, with 3 strikes in place and all
    Like to echo @2 it is one of our duties and obligations of participating in our democratic system of governing our selves as imperfect as it is.
    uncle frogy

  11. says

    The times I was a juror we were told not to consider the penalty facing the person we might convict. Which is why defense lawyers always try to spin that finding their client guilty would ruin the client’s life. And which is why so many frat boys get away with rape.

  12. schweinhundt says

    The one jury I sat on was a rape case. The prosecution made a strong, compelling argument and the defense made a really weak one. (IMHO, he should have taken a plea deal if one was offered.) Personally, in light of the evidence, I had no problem of locking away a brutal rapist. A few folks had a different reaction. They could accept intellectually that he deserved a guilty verdict but, emotionally, were uncomfortable with being responsible for sentencing someone to prison. It was an interesting dynamic to experience.

  13. schweinhundt says

    Also: This may not help you today but I suggest avoiding The Mule if comes to your local movie house. Stuck me as okay but not really worth leaving the house.

  14. says

    Lucky you my stint was two weeks of boredom mostly locked in a jury room while the lawyers argued with the judge over admissibility of evidence. It was a drugs case where the accused had been caught with 5kg of amphetamines in his backyard barbecue and $30,000 of marked police money on his lounge room bar. It was a sting operation where the police tried to get a low level drug dealer to lead them to his supplier. On the face of it we all thought guilty on the first day but by the trials end we had no choice but to find him not guilty. Transcripts from a royal commission into police corruption were tabled as evidence. This showed the original evidence officer on the raid had a bad habit of planting evidence to secure convictions and there was evidence that this happened in this case. It was a vicarious delight watching the substitute evidence officer squirm trying to explain why she couldn’t locate the original evidence officer to issue the summons for him to appear in court. She squirmed even more when the defense barrister asked to read highlighted extracts from the commission of enquiry to the jury. There were three highlights to the saga. One was the drug dealer who after being granted immunity from prosecution stated he had placed the drugs in the barbecue and had actually got them from his real supplier “Horry the Wog” at the Toxteth Park Hotel in a distant suburb. Connoisseurs of history will know that “Horry the Wog” was actually a dog smuggled into Australia by troops returning from WW2. The hotel in question was a now defunct watering hole for students at Sydney University. Another high point was the prosecutor who had been drinking copious amounts of water being dressed down by a by now irate judge when he asked for an adjournment so he could go and pee. Best of all was the new evidence officer who was a 30 something very attractive female detective. She as the defence barrister put it “sashayed” into court in a hot pink mini dress with matching jacket. As she sat in the witness box she turned to face the jury crossing her legs in a Sharon Stone maneuver revealing a flash of matching pink knickers. The defence barristers summing up of this went something like; “Police officers are trained to engage with the jury when they give evidence but detective ….. practically climbed into the jury box. Another highlight was when the defense barrister caught out two police officers plagiarising their reports. One had copied several paragraphs from the others report complete with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. In the end an extremely frustrated jury had no choice but to deliver a not guilty verdict. The judge thanked the jury and obviously agreed with us when he announced his intention to refer the trial transcript to the police integrity commission.

  15. vucodlak says

    @ kentreniche, #13

    The times I was a juror we were told not to consider the penalty facing the person we might convict.

    The fact that so many people are both willing and able to engage in that kind of compartmentalization is a big reason why the world is in such rotten shape. Rapists don’t escape conviction because people think too much about the consequences of acts, but because they think too little about them. People who let rapists off don’t seriously consider the effects the rapist’s acts had on the victim. They don’t consider the damage to potential future victims. They just look at the rapist in front of them and see only the rapist’s future.

    Any time someone exhorts you to act without considering the consequences, you damn well better think hard about what it is that they want you to do. If it was a good thing, they wouldn’t need to tell you not to think about it.

  16. says

    We were also instructed not to consider the penalty, and weren’t told anything about possible penalties. The judge gave us the additional details after the foreman had given him our signed declaration.

    One juror even asked him what kind of fine he was facing; he told her no, this guy was going to be in prison. We had no clue.

  17. says

    It was a tawdry, ugly case, where the defendant had angrily and viciously punched his partner, and the partner wanted to retract her initial statement and claimed to have forgotten everything that happened that day because she’d been so high, and also she really loved her man and wanted to get back together with him.

    While it’s a sad case of a waste of human potential, you possibly saved that woman’s life.

  18. davidw says

    I’m four for four – four times called, four times picked. In the most recent time, I caught some scuttlebutt during the jury selection process that the prosecuting attorney WANTED me specifically because I was a scientist/academic. Unfortunately, this scientist/academic jury member noticed the during the course of the trial that she never provided any direct evidence that the defendant was guilty! (Thanks, I’m sure, to all my reading of this and similar materials about skepticism, truth, blah blah blah…) I was one of several people arguing that in the jury room, and we rather quickly came to a “NG” verdict. Be careful what you wish for, right?

  19. antigone10 says

    although we all agreed that what they actually needed to be convicted of was aggravated dumbfuckishness.

    What would the penalty be for aggravated dumbfuckishness? I lean to something like having to watch children’s programming about cause and effect, but I’m open to other thoughts.

  20. thirdmill301 says

    I was a trial attorney for 30 years and a judge for ten, so no lawyer in his or her right mind is going to allow me to serve on a jury, although I’d actually like to just to see what it’s like to be on that side of things.

    The reason jurors aren’t supposed to consider the penalty is precisely to avoid a situation such as schweinhundt describes, in which the jury allows its sympathy toward the defendant they see in front of them to override the fact that the defendant really is guilty. A lot of people who do really vile things can be really charming in front of a jury. Plus the limited question they’ve been asked to answer is whether the state proved the defendant did it, and the penalty isn’t really relevant to answering that question.

    I started an attempted murder trial the very day the OJ Simpson jury found him not guilty. We spent the morning seating a jury, went to lunch, and over the lunch hour heard over the news that Simpson had been acquitted. There was a lot of raw, palpable anger at the verdict, and I was afraid my jury would take it out on my client. But they didn’t; my guy was acquitted as well. The fact that the state had a weak case and an incompetent prosecutor helped.

  21. numerobis says

    Sounds like the situation in most of Nunavut. It’s awful, with no good way out.

    Worse is that often there’s no crime that’s been clearly committed — nothing with any likelihood of conviction at least — but the woman is in mortal danger. So she gets evacuated to another town, away from her abuser, but also away from her support structures.

  22. Raucous Indignation says

    @20 I’m with you Giliell. Partner violence is a prelude to partner murder and mass killings.