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Friday, March 28, 2014

Jury duty

On Sunday night I'll find out whether I am needed for the jury pool in federal court (the Eastern District of North Carolina) over the next two weeks. I am not averse to serving; it is a civic duty that my employer respects. Besides, I have served on two juries and each time the case was very interesting. Here are summaries of testimony in open court at those trials.

Wake County Superior Court: A woman goes into a Home Depot to purchase a strong cleaning solution. She finds it on the top shelf. She reaches up to grab it, but the top comes off the plastic bottle and the solution splashes in her eyes. There was supposed to be an eye wash station at the store, but that day it was out of service. She goes to the front of the store and asks the store manager to call 9-1-1, but he asks her to sign a waiver of liability first. The woman's husband finally seizes the phone and makes the 9-1-1 call himself. She is suing Home Depot for damages, pain and suffering.

U.S. District Court:A man who hasn't filed a tax return in many years goes to the ticket counter at RDU and buys a one-way, first class ticket on a non-stop flight to a Caribbean island. As he passes through security, his briefcase is found to contain $67,000 in cash. A dog trained to smell drugs barks at him, but no drugs can be found. He is arrested and charged with not filing a Customs form when leaving the country with more than $10,000 in cash — a serious federal crime. In those days, a passenger wanting to obtain the Customs form at RDU had to clear security and then walk to the office where the form was available. He could have obtained the form on a prior day, however.

In the first case, a settlement was reached before the defendant, Home Depot, offered its own testimony. In the second case, a plea bargain was reached during trial. Both juries were dismissed without having to render a verdict. How might you have voted? Remember, not all testimony had been heard and neither judge had a chance to instruct the jury.