The Gull Reef Club

2/27/2014

The Lady At The Table

Filed under: — Jaime @ 8:03 pm

I had, and sort of still have, every intention on posting my notes from my time at jury duty on Wednesday. In the event I flake out/get lazy and don’t post my notes, I still wanted to share an event that stood out.

The case that needed a jury was for a criminal trial, felony assault. We went through the usual voir dire, and were all asked questions by both the District Attorney and the two Defense Counsel. Throughout the entire time, there was a lady sitting with the DA at the DA’s table, wearing a suit like all the other attorneys. She was listening to the voir dire proceedings, and it appeared she was consulting with the DA on jury selection (lots of leaned-in whispering to each other throughout). It not made clear to us who she was at first. I, and I assume most in there, thought she was another DA.

Toward the end of voir dire, it was mentioned in a very off-hand way (and I can’t even remember who said it now – it was that nonchalant), that the mystery lady at the DA’s table was, in fact, the arresting officer of the Defendant. I don’t know if I was the only one in the room who was confused and a bit surprised by this, but I was certainly the only one to ask for clarification about it. Yeah me. I just love to draw attention to myself, but I couldn’t let it go without knowing for sure.

As soon as I heard her title, I raised my hand and asked Defense Counsel #1*, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure if I heard that right. Did someone up there (in front of the bar) say that lady sitting at the DA’s table is the arresting officer?” DC#1 confirms, “Yes. She is the Arresting Officer.” I then sort of blurt out, “And she is allowed to sit through all this…and the trial?” With that, DC#1 turns to face me full on (meaning her back was completely to the Judge, the DA, and Arresting Officer) makes a face at me that I took as grateful, says very curtly, “Yes. That is how the Court has ruled.” I thanked her and sat down. I know I heard a few gasps and hmms in the room.

So I didn’t get picked for the jury. I don’t know if it is because of my question or not. There are certainly other criteria that may have gotten me kicked.

I’m really hung up on this, though. My gut tells me that it is improper for the arresting officer to be at the DA’s table, especially during jury selection. It affords her the opportunity to shape her testimony to what she thinks the jury wants to hear. I’m not saying this officer would do this purposefully, but it may be the sort of thing that happens subliminally and she wouldn’t even know she was doing it. It could damage the fairness of the Defendant’s trial.

I asked a few attorneys I know/work with, but since we are all immersed in the civil side of the law, no one really had a solid answer for me. I’m curious about the legality of having an arresting officer sit in on jury selection and an entire trial. I have a very high opinion of the Judge overseeing the case and would like to think he did nothing improper. The issue may lie with Georgia law itself, which again, I’m obviously not sure about. Thoughts?

*I didn’t intentionally mean to ask DC#1. I would have asked anyone who would have answered me. It just happened she was the one who responded first when I raised my hand.

2 Responses to “The Lady At The Table”

  1. Erin says:

    Holy moly, I don’t remember the technicalities but I think the police officer gets to sit there b/c he represents the State. Just as the defendant can sit thru the whole trial, including voir dire, which could arguably alter his testimony if he chooses to testify, so can the state. I’m not sure I’ve got that right, but that’s my best guess from my way way back. Hope u r well!

  2. Jaime says:

    Thanks Erin. I got a similar answer from someone else, and I’m thinking that is the reality of it. I still don’t know if I agree with it in principal though. Ruminating…

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