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News :: Social Welfare
A Funny Thing Happened on Jury Duty
08 Feb 2005
The first trial was for a man accused of selling crack - second offense -
and carrying a gun.
During that jury selection the Judge asked if anyone believed drug
enforcement laws were too harsh or not harsh enough. I raised my hand
and explained that I felt it is wrong that we have our prisons 75% full of
drug addicts when there are so many corporate criminals who are given a
slap on the wrist after stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. The judge
said "Alright Mr. Burbeck, you are excused".

I later found out that this was his second trial on the offense. He was a
member of a gang, and the first trial was thrown out due to jury tampering.
I also found out that he was later found guilty.

The second trial was for an ex-con accused of carrying a gun.

Again, questions were asked of the prospective jury members. "Have any
of you been on a jury before?" I raised my hand and told of the trial in
LA where a man was accused of his third offense of car theft and we
convicted him and sent him away for life (the "three strikes" law). I
explained to the judge that we didn't want to send a man to prison for
life for stealing cars and that I felt the three strikes law should apply to
violent crimes only. "It was a very unpleasant experience, your Honor."
I also mentioned that "white collar" crime
penalties should be updated to reflect the magnitude of corporate
thieves who steal hundreds of millions of dollars. The judge said
"Alright Mr. Burbeck, you are excused".

The third trial was again for a crack cocain dealer. Again there were many
questions to the prospective jurors, one again was do you feel that the
punishments for drug offenses are too harsh or not harsh enough? I
again explained that I feel that the judicial system needs reform when
Michael Milken was fined $200 million dollars after stealing and cheating
the American public out of BILLIONS of dollars. He spent 18 months in
a minimum security prison and was released to spend his loot. "Milken's
punishment for costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars is
comically trivial" - a quote from Benjamin Stein who wrote a book
(License to Steal) on Milken's carreer in crime.

The judge asked "But you can remain impartial and perform you service
as a jury member, couldn't you?" I said "No, I can't say that your Honor."
She said "Alright Mr. Burbeck, you are excused".

At each of these instances I felt a little like I was shirking my responsibility
as a citizen, and then I remembered the trial in LA where we had no choice
but to send a man away for life, when we didn't feel it was appropriate. At
that trial, when we got to the deliberation room and it was clear that
the verdict was going to be guilty, I stopped the proceedings and filed
the form to ask the judge a question. She dragged everyone back into the court
room and read my question - "Can the jury recommend psychological evaluation
of the defendant?" The Judge turned to the jury and rather rudely told us that
our only task was to determine guilt or innocence.

It really was a very horrible experience and I truely believe that the judicial system
needs major reform, so the shirking of responsibility feeling lasted only till I
remembered how I was forced to perpetuate what I feel is a judicial injustice.
In my opinion, they got more than they deserved out of me.

(The quotes are from the best of my recollection and may not be exact. I did
not take notes and recording devices are forbidden).

This work is in the public domain
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