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Jury duty, Part II - The opening statements

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On the morning of the first day of the trial we arrived at the court and proceeded to the same location as the selection day. We didn't know each other yet, we only knew that were selected for jury for the trial.

After some time passed, we were called in as a group by the bailiff and followed him through a hallway to the deliberation room. A small room that barely fit a table and the chairs around it. We soon learned that this room doubled as a holding area for the jury prior to the court going into session. As it was the case during the whole trial, we were always the last to be ushered in and the first to be excused out of the court.

The trial finally commenced and we were taken to the court room. The proceedings opened with the customary roll call and swear in and the judge began by allowing us to take our seats. There in the jury box, overlooking the court, the judge, the clerk, the stenographer, the plaintiff, the defendant, and their lawyers, it finally sunk in that I was now ensconced in the judicial process. The judge started with the usual pep talk of gratitude that we were there to perform our duties and admonished us about mentioning or researching anything about the case until he sends us off to deliberate.

We then received an overview of how civil cases work. Unlike criminal cases (in those cases the plaintiff is the state and the lawyer is the prosecutor), guilt is not to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case guilt is proven by the preponderance of the evidence. In other words it is a subjective process as to the credibility of each side. And even then, a percentage of fault can be assigned to either side, which is then used to compute the damages assessed.

The opening statements went as expected. The plaintiff's lawyer spoke of the injuries sustained to his client, and the defendant's lawyer did his best to offer his client's innocence. The battle had begun.


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