Eleven slightly irritated people of mixed gender

So I got selected for the jury. I suspect it was because I was juror #3 as we walked in for selection, and I didn’t say or do anything that was disagreeable enough for either side to eliminate me. I was a little shocked when they called my name to go sit in the jury box. This was completely outside my experience – I don’t think I’ve ever even discussed jury duty with anyone before.

Now that I’ve gone through it, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Sitting in a 1940’s-era wooden chair with cheap padding isn’t exactly fun, but the lawyers and witnesses on both sides did very good jobs of conveying information to us. Not all of the information seemed especially relevant to the case, but I did my best to absorb it all and process it.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

A few years ago, Mr. Cash and his wife were flying their twin-turboprop private plane from Anglefire back to Texas, having just spent some time in a cabin they have up there. Mr. Cash has been flying for years and uses his plane for business and pleasure. Over the mountains, the left engine suddenly lost power. It was still running, but it wasn’t generating enough power to produce any thrust. They had to make an emergency landing.

Mr. Cash contacted Madripoor Motors, the company that manufactured their plane’s engine. Within two days, Madripoor had delivered a new cylinder to replace the one that had failed. It appeared that the intake valve for on that cylinder had broken. The cause of the breakage was never determined.

A few months later, Mr. Cash and his wife (and their two dogs) were again flying their plane, this time from Texas to Anglefire, when the exact same symptoms appeared. The left engine’s power dropped suddenly. It spewed oil onto the fuselage. Another emergency landing took place. Everyone was fine, including the dogs, but they were very shaken up and very upset.

It turns out that it wasn’t the same failure as the first time. This time, the exhaust valve had failed rather than the intake valve. And instead of the valve stem breaking, the entire valve stem had been ingested into the cylinder. This did some pretty spectacular damage to the inside of the cylinder (which we got to see in court). The plaintiffs and the defense both agreed that sucking the valve inside the cylinder and ripping the aluminum inside to chunks is not typical behavior in an aircraft engine.

This time, Madripoor Motors asked Mr. Cash to return the entire engine to them. They said they’d need it for 8 to 10 weeks, and if they determined that there were problems due to their manufactured parts, they’d provide warranty service. Mr. Cash wanted them to handle it the same way they’d handled the last issue, namely by sending a replacement cylinder. Madripoor refused and asked him what would make him happy.

Mr. Cash had his lawyer send them a letter saying that he wanted a new engine. The letter went unanswered for about a month and a half. Mr. Cash filed a lawsuit.

Three years later, a jury was selected and the case was heard. After three days of testimony and evidence, we retired to the sumptuous jury room (yes, I am being ironic) and deliberated. We’d been at it for about five minutes when the bailiff called us out into the hall again. One of the jurors, I believe he was #1 in the original lineup, was asked into the courtroom while the rest of us waited outside. A few minutes later he emerged. A few minutes after that, he was called in again. When he emerged the second time, he walked right on past us down the hall to the elevators. He’d been excused and we were told that the lawyers on both sides had agreed to continue with only eleven jurors.

The deliberation process was very interesting because we were given a set of questions written in legalese and very sparse instructions on how to continue. The only procedural guidance we were really given was to select a foreman and have them be responsible for sending back any questions and for giving the final verdict to the judge. The nature of our discussion was left entirely up to us. Oh, we were told not to draw lots or flip coins.

In the end, ten of us decided that Madripoor bore no fault at all. I was the only one who didn’t sign their name to the verdict. I thought that it was unconscionable that Madripoor should have broken off communications with Mr. Cash after he sent a letter from his lawyer. Granted, that’s a pretty heavy-handed way to engage in negotionations, but I didn’t think it warranted Madripoor’s withdrawal from the negotiation process. Everyone else pointed at the letter that Madripoor sent which said “please send us your engine so we can examine it” and said that with that act alone, Madripoor had fulfilled their warranty obligations.

Not the first time I’ve been the only one in the room who saw things a certain way. I suspect it won’t be the last.

I really enjoyed the process though. I have a high opinon of all of my fellow jurors save one – the one who got himself excused. After the case was done, the judge let us come back into the courtroom to tell us that the gentleman had been released because he’d gone up to the plaintiff outside of court to ask him about his airplane engines.

I mean, come on. That was just stupid.

No Responses to “Eleven slightly irritated people of mixed gender”

  1. marnie Says:

    Remember Ambrose Bierce’s defintion of “a jury of one’s peers”? Twelve innocent people whose status has suddenly been reduced to that of a homicidal maniac.

    Sounds like a neat experience. All this and the princely pay of $24!