The jury’s still out on this one | AspenTimes.com
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The jury’s still out on this one

Barry SmithAspen, CO Colorado

“When I hear the words ‘liquidated damages’ I have an attack of narcolepsy,” I told the attorney, making sure the judge could hear me. Ahhhh … that oughta do it. That, along with proclaiming my love of the TV show “America’s Funniest Home Videos” should guarantee that I not get selected for this jury.Wrong! I didn’t anticipate that so many people would give “Dancing With the Stars” as an answer to the “What do you like to watch on TV?” question. Apparently THAT was the magic answer that gets you excused. Why do they ask such a question to prospective jurors? I have no idea, but they do. It’s too bad there never was a sitcom called “Jury Duty Sucks!” Though “Dancing With the Stars” still would have trumped it, I bet.So, the next thing I know, I’m raising my right hand and swearing before a judge to be fair and to do my best. Nooooooo! Fairness and effort are the two things that I’ve worked hardest in my life to avoid.The shock of being selected didn’t wear off until our lunch break, at which time I was informed that jurors no longer get free lunches. So right back into shock I went.Once I was sworn in, I really did do my best. I thought it only fair (and legal) that I behave in a way that I’d want a juror to behave if, God forbid, I ever find my fate being decided by a bunch of lame-TV-show-watching people like me.So, for example, when the defense attorney said he’d like to present Exhibit M, and the prosecuting attorney said, “Exhibit what?” and the defense attorney replied, “M … as in Monday,” I did my ABSOLUTE best to not think of all the other m-word examples he could have used; money-grubbing, manipulation, malpractice and several that I can’t print. No, I didn’t think these thoughts, because whenever I did (a little) I started to smile, and I could feel a stifled Beavis and Butt-Head giggle bubble up, and giggling is exactly what I just swore to NOT do, right? This was not easy, since the attorney gave a letter example with each new exhibit. And they weren’t in order, so I couldn’t brace myself for them. Exhibit F was particularly difficult, and I nearly hemorrhaged with the introduction of Exhibit D.The case was mildly interesting: a rich guy from Florida brought his girlfriend out to Aspen to attend the Food & Wine Classic and ended up buying a condo and including the girlfriend’s name on the title. (Lesson learned – do NOT buy real estate while attending an event that offers hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine available for “tasting.”) That was 10 years ago, and since then the romance has gone bad, but the girlfriend’s name is still on the title.Girlfriend (now ex) suggests guy buy her out for $350K; not bad considering she’s never paid a cent of mortgage. Guy agrees. Contracts are drawn up and signed. Ex-girlfriend decides, at the literal last minute, that she wants more money, so she breaks the contract, hires hotshot Denver attorney to find flimsy loophole in contract, then Barry has to spend two beautiful spring days in a courtroom while she explains how she deserves more money.A highlight/low point of the case was when she produced an old love letter her boyfriend had given her, intimating that it is some sort of legally binding document. Ouch. I think it was Exhibit B, which seemed fitting. Though calling it Exhibit C would have worked, too.The hardest part of jury duty is that you can’t discuss the case with anyone, not even fellow jurors, until all the evidence had been presented. So after listening to ex-girlfriend drone on about how she once had to telephone a contractor to repair the row of improperly installed French doors, and THAT’S why she deserves a million dollars today – we’d be excused for (not free) lunch and NOT be able to turn to one another and scream, “Are you freakin’ kidding me!?” Ahhh … but you could see it in our eyes.As it turns out, I was the “alternate” juror – the juror spare tire – something undisclosed until it was time to deliberate. Two days of civic duty, no free lunch, and when it came time to actually decide the case, I was told to scamper on along.And I did – I went straight home and programmed my TiVo to record “Dancing With the Stars.” Barry Smith’s column appears on Mondays. Read more on Barry’s blog, http://www.barrysmith.wordpress.com.


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