Saturday, June 24, 2006

Another Open Letter

To Anyone Ever Called To Testify Before a Grand Jury

Answer the questions asked. That's all.

You don't need to extend the story. You don't need to give us a complete narrative. And you don't need to show us your wounds.

The District Attorney will ask you questions. They may not seem to be interesting questions. They may not even seem to be intelligent questions.

Especially when they are questions like: "Did you ever give (Defendent) permission to (Crime committed) to you?

Answer it anyway. Don't tell us what you think about the defendent. Don't proclaim your victimhood.

The DA's building a box. It's a very specific kind of box. It's a box in which he will put all the stuff for the trial of the defendent. The Grand Jurors don't really need to know what's in the box. Yeah, the Jurors might be curious, but it's not really their job. They just need to make sure the box is sturdy enough to carry the stuff to trial.

And once the Grand Jury gets to its eleventh or twelfth witness of the day, I'm reasonably certain that most of the Jurors aren't even that curious any more.

And to anyone out there who ever has the opportunity to serve on a Grand Jury: take it. It's a great gig.



Blogger Guy Wonders said...

It's no surprise that you would find the jury experience so intriguing. Even in the most mundane cases, the people-watching opportunities in a court environment are terrific.

I used to take a day off once a year to spend at a court house, just to observe the people and the various cases. Your posts on this subject have reminded me that I'm long overdue to do it again. . .

1:35 PM  
Blogger mal said...

most folks are not familiar with the process of formal logic and presentation. Pity, since it is a useful bit of knowledge.

BTW, new blog address is

10:09 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

I think the American justice system has largely become a farce. Paying people for pain and suffering is silly. You can't put a price ont hat and you shouldn't try. Seek justice and no more.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

Sounds fascinating. How long will you be on duty?

2:56 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Guy: I'd love to hear your stories of that.

Mal: Thanks for putting a name on the process. I figured it had one. Why'd you move? Or will that be revealed at the new blog?

UWL: What if, for example, a kid working a summer job gets his foot crushed in an industrial accident, and then loses his leg? What if the accident was caused by negligence by the company for which he worked? Outside of financial renumeration, what other course of action would be 'just' in this situation? How else do you punish a company? What amount of jail time, and for who, would be 'just'?

Notso: I'm on 'til July 14.


3:43 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

The kid gets compensation for hopsital bills, lost time, and wages until retirement age on the assumption that he would have continued to work the same job until the age of 65. I don't think you can put a price on what the courts call pain and suffering. There's just no way to guage how it will effect a person mentally. Pay them what you own them and no more.

4:11 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Oh, and jail time for whomever would have been negligent in that case, assuming it wasn't the kid.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

What if the kid was an athlete? What if he had been given a college scholarship because of his athletic abilities?

Now he's without a way to pay for college, and potentially out millions if he was good enough to turn pro?

Or what if he was training to be a dancer, or an actor, or anything physical?

You've just destined him to good proshtetics and a shit wage (this was a summer job, remember?) for the rest of his life, without the chance of getting any sort of financial renumeration for the potential life lost.

How, other than financial, can this company repay that loss?


11:16 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Oh, and jail time? That would go to the least-powerful supervisor in the organization, even though he or she may not be the person responsible for the accident.

The reason there are pain and suffering awards are twofold, Jesica. One part is to try and put a dollar amount on something that is hard to quantify. How much is a leg worth? An arm? A finger? Yeah, that does seem arbitrary.

The second part is not. It's punishment. Companies exist to make money. They will do anything they can to improve their bottom line. Including skirting safety regulations. If the cost of running unsafe equipment is a few hundred thousand dollars amortized over several decades and the job of a middle manager, why bother spending money on safe equipment?

The way you punish a company for stuff like this is making it lose money. The idea is to make the potential cost of breaking the rules far greater than the cost of abiding by them.


7:40 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Then they pay for him to go to college. My cousin was a soccer player destined for the world cup when he was hit by a car and his ACL needed to be reconstructed. He was paid for hospital bills, his scholarship was replaced, and he was told - and rightly so, that getting a normal job wouldn't kill him, therefore, no more damages were awarded. And the driver of the car didn't get ANY jail time, which I totally disagree with, even if he was an old man. He did, however, have his lisence taken away. Would it have been any less of a tragedy if the kid was a normal kid who couldn't get into college and would have done hard labor for the rest of his life? No. Pain and suffering is impossible to determine and I still believe it's a crock.

Both of my in-laws were killed in a car accident because a guard rail hadn't been replaced. My children will never know them, and my mother in law was planning on taking care of the baby so that I could go back to work. Should we be paid for lost wages now that I have to stay home? What price can we put on a grandparent's love? There HAS to be a separation between law and psychology. Law is exact. Psychology, not so much. You can't pay a person for someting that cannot be determined and lives int he realm of their own mind.

As far as jail time, I agree with you, that's probably the way it would go, but only because the law favors the powerful. If we were going by REAL justice, the person who determined that the machine didn't need to be fixed or refused to front the money for it would be the one to go to jail. I'm not sure what kind of sentence neglegence carries, but having the person who made the decision go to jail IS paying the wronged person for pain and suffering. If that's not enough, that's their own problem.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

You are a hard woman, Jessica. We will disagree on this.


2:45 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Fair enough, though I don't know if you mean hard as in cold or hard as in stubborn.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I'm going to jump in, if you don't mind. To dismiss psychological pain and suffering over physical pain and suffering is ethically wrong. Post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, can be far more costly and harmful to a person than breaking their arm. It too requires medical attention and drastically affects the victim's quality of life. True justice should take into account not only the visible but all the measurable damages incurred.

12:42 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

If it is a condition that requires medical attention, tha falls into the category of paying for medical bills. It needs to be proven that the person suffers from PTSD. If it can't be diagnosed, though, it can't be paid for. There's just no way to determine what it's worth.

9:59 AM  

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