Jury duty was a grind of sorts. The early 90’s voting rolls computing system chruns out a cross section of the population. The clerk of the court may or may not contract out with a local printer to send auto-addressed, cookie cutter stock notices to folks through the county. Yours truly walks to the mailbox and finds the humorously dreadful jury summons.
It says I need to get my happy ass to the jury pool room on the 3rd floor of the courthouse, the same place I go for licenses and various other unpleasurable operations. I do the jury perp walk and get seated in the room. I see a few rough looking 50 somethings that had rough times. Very few younger people. Two men wearing suits, yours truly and one other gentleman. The best spread of what was available. It doesnt look good. Questionaires were filled out, most questions didnt apply. A few did. Afterward, we pile in to the courtroom for voir dire.
I had kind of knew what was going on. I heard the spiel from one of many lawyers among family and friends. Jury duty is a supposedly sacred held right. After I served on this jury, I figured out that this wasnt so. To be innocent until proven guilty is just a formality. The jury was grilled and told how to feel about the law. We were told to ignore the severity of the possible penalty. I believe that this was a slippery slope piece of evidence of my personal theory:
With the given jury pool; this man would not get a fair trial. No one from his neighborhood or part of town was on the jury. The vast majority of us were out in the county residents or folks who lived in the better parts of town. There wasnt anyone who was experienced in the street wise world. The vast majority of the jury had little to no dealings with drugs or the black market economy. We were shlubs that were most likely employed from when we were teenagers and went to church on Sunday.
The idiocy was seen by yours truly in that customary law is largely forgotten. Customary law is what people that dont have access to the courts are forced to use. In times past; we had dueling between gentleman of an even social keel. If they didnt seek it through negotiations and discussion; it came to that.
The introduction of small claims court and increased nanny state action (prhibition) lead to gangland violence. The gentleman on trial did not have legal recourse. He couldnt have a lawyer to sue the other guy for bad merchandise. The filing fees and time off the streets not selling drugs are a punitive barrier. We no longer have duels. He was a man with no options. The other guy got what was coming to him. Street justice is a different form.
Outside of a clear cultural difference; he was in the mercy of a legal entity that he wasnt a party to, district/county criminal courts. His (the purported criminal) people did not operate their own jail and investigative units. The district attorney, being a paid lackey of the legal entity, had an upper hand. Especially when it is within the boundaries of the law to tell people that their opinions werent worth anything.
The defense attorney didnt have the luxury to tell the members of the jury that his client lived outside of our pollyanna legal system. No one explained customary law or concepts of honor to anyone.
I think that we gloss over the ugly truth about our justice system. It only applies to people that have enough mney and actually believe in it. If you believe in antiquated sets of beliefs that mention honor and duty, the legal system will only stand to punish you.