Friday, April 21, 2006

Speaking of trials... and juries...

The jury that convicted former Illinois Governor George Ryan and his pal Larry Warner here in Chicago recently seems itself on trial now as defense attorneys research the veracity of every statement made by every juror on their initial questionnaires (and presumably during voir dire as well).

It has been alleged that not all of the jurors were entirely truthful in what they told the court and counsel prior to their selection.

Imagine: A jury of liars deciding whether a politician has told the truth. Is that the definition of irony or what?

Not all the alleged misrepresentations are equally serious, nor is the materiality of many of these alleged misrepresentations immediately apparent. Some surely are both old and trivial. Nevertheless, the cumulative weight of these misstatements, omissions, and forgotten past encounters with the law may be enough to overturn the guilty verdicts. Maybe.

But here's the part that I don't get: Usually people lie to get out of jury service. Anyone who's picked a jury has encountered more than one man or woman who will say nearly anything to avoid being selected. In my most recent trial, a woman had already talked herself off the jury -- but, not being certain, continued to spin additional tales of woe about her small business out in the hallway as the judge was trying to tell her she could leave. The people who are now being attacked in the Ryan case apparently told fibs so they could serve for months.

There were no surprises for the Ryan jurors in terms of the time commitment that they were being asked to make; they knew they'd be tied up for months on this case. And yet they were willing to serve. They may have even fibbed, or stretched the truth, in an effort to secure this duty. I'm not sure what to make of this.

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