Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The story you have just read is true. Only the names were changed to protect the innocent. That would be me and the other jurors. The two maroons suing each other certainly weren’t.
(In case you didn't read the story, you can find its various components HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.)
Having heard seven days worth of testimony concerning how rotten two neighbors could be, we now had to decide if one of them was more rotten than the other. We also had to decide if being less rotten deserved any sort of monetary reward.
The counts being contested were…
By French, Against Irish:
1 – Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress
2 – Nuisance
3 – Abuse Of Process
4 – Malicious Prosecution
5 – Assault
6 – Assault & Battery
Counts 3 and 4 were tied together. They both had to do with Mrs. Irish’s accusation that Mr. French flashed her. As you’ll recall, he was found not guilty of that charge in a previous trial. Our feeling was that this was probably the truth. At the least, we found her testimony conflicted with some of the physical evidence we were shown. The assault charge was for Irish driving up onto French’s lawn and almost running him over. Had he actually run him over, it would have been assault and battery. The assault & battery charge concerned French being kicked in the balls, or perhaps it was about him being trapped under the motorcycle while Irish beat him with his own shoe; I forget.
By Irish, Against French:
1 – Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress
2 – Nuisance
3 – Invasion Of Privacy
After giving us a thorough reading of what the law was concerning each count, the judge gave each of us a series of xeroxed sheets containing the 31 questions we needed to decide in order to reach a verdict.
31 things? Yes. There were 9 counts, but after deciding guilt or innocence, we needed to decide if actual damages had been done, and, if so, what monetary award we might wish to attach to that damage. With the inclusion of wives in a couple of the questions, we had 31 total decisions to make.
We were escorted into the deliberation room, where we began dissecting all that we had heard during the seven days. Since we were under strict orders to not discuss the case prior to deliberations, we now freely let our opinions fly. The one opinion that flew higher than any of the others was that both of these guys were flaming assholes. Not everybody used those exact words, but the superlatives actually used were most certainly synonyms.
Our foreman decided that things would go more smoothly if we first decided the guilt or innocence on all counts, after which we would revisit each of the questions to decide on the money. He was right. The decisions concerning guilt or innocence were simple. We found both of the jerks guilty, on every count, and we also wished to add qualifiers. We wanted to go into the courtroom and say...
"Your Honor, we not only find both of these fucktards monumentally guilty, but we would like to add some counts of our own. They are also guilty of Intentional Infliction Of Mental Cruelty On A Jury; Gross Lack Of Common Sense; and An Indiscriminate Waste Of The Taxpayer's Money. We feel they should pay each of us 10 times the salary we lost sitting here listening to them, as well as make a reimbursement to the state treasury for all costs incurred. In addition, we recommend that they both be pilloried. In that way, if we somehow got our verdicts wrong, the neighbors of these dickweeds will no doubt see that the balance is evened out."
Unfortunately, we weren't allowed commentary, so we did the best we could with the tools at our disposal. We found Irish guilty on all counts brought against him by French, and we found French guilty of all counts brought against him by Irish. On 6 of the 9 counts, even though we said that, yes, damage was done, we awarded the winning party ZERO dollars as compensation. They were both dicks. We weren't about to award them anything for dickishness done to them when they were just as dickish in reciprocating.
The three counts we awarded money on were:
Malicious Prosecution - We felt that this did a disservice to French that went beyond anything he had done to Irish. French was still employed as a police officer at the time of the charge, but was immediately dropped when the charge was made. However, he was only working part-time, as a "special police officer" - the guy who stands by a hole being dug, directing traffic, if he isn't too busy chatting with a backhoe operator - so we believed the salary loss was somewhat minimal. The major amount of the award was to recoup his defense fees, for that trial and a portion of the one for which we currently sat in judgment. The award was $30,000.
(More on this at the end.)
Assault & Battery - We awarded French $5,000. We felt it was reasonable because he had been the recipient of actual physical harm from Irish, whereas (so far as we knew) Irish had not received any actual physical harm at the hands of French. It was a relatively small amount only because French had never sought medical aid for any of the injuries he suffered.
On the other hand, we awarded $10,000 to Irish on the count of Invasion Of Privacy. There was some argument among us concerning the amount. A few wanted to even things out completely, awarding $35,000 to Irish. They felt that this - a total of zero dollars changing hands, once all was totaled - would send the unequivocal message that both of them should grow up. On the other hand, some wished the amount we awarded to be less than what we finally did award. In the end, we reached a compromise on the figure of $10,000.
Final monetary judgment, in total, was $25,000 to Mr. French.
We signaled the court officer that we were ready. Deliberations had taken perhaps six hours in total. We were done, finished, through, completed, and mentally exhausted. We trooped back into the courtroom and had our paperwork handed to the judge, who then handed it to the court clerk to be read aloud. As each verdict was read, he asked our foreman if it was correct. When the foreman answered in the affirmative, he then questioned the remainder of the jury. What with all of the reading, questioning, and answering, the delivery of the verdicts took about ten minutes.
After all had been verified, the judge turned to face us. She thanked us for our time and effort, adding that she felt we were an unusually attentive and perceptive jury. I took this to mean that she also thought that both of these guys were a-holes, same as we did, only she wasn't really allowed to say as much while seated behind the bench.
We were led out of court, back to the deliberation room. We were told that the judge wished to speak to us, and that she would answer any questions we might have, too.
The judge walked into our room, and she again thanked us for sitting through such a mess. She assured us that it was one of the most convoluted and bizarre suits she had ever had to sit through. She again said that we had shown great sagacity via our decisions. She said that, in private conversations with the other court personnel, many of them expressed the opinion that both Irish and French should have been locked in the same jail cell, left to settle their differences in whatever way they wished, and thus saved us all a load of time.
Now, a couple of closing notes of some import.
Do you remember me mentioning that we were never seated in the jury box prior to 9:15, even though we were asked to report by 8:30am? The judge told us the reason for that. Irish was in custody, awaiting trial on different criminal complaints. She couldn't tell us this while the trial was ongoing, since it would possibly have prejudiced our decisions. So, while Irish was being escorted by guards each morning, we had to cool our heels. One of the charges facing him was a contempt of court, which our judge would be hearing the Monday following. God bless her. She had to sit through at least one more day of it than we did. Irish was also due to appear in small claims court, where he was being sued by (yup) French for the destruction done by shooting at French's lights and house with the BB gun.
As for the legal fees we assumed we were reimbursing French... In a newspaper account which I read after the trial, it was mentioned that French had spent $100,000 for his attorneys.
One Hundred Thousand Dollars.
That still boggles my mind. We had heard a figure of $10,000 bandied about during the trial itself, so perhaps that was a misprint which included an extra zero. If that figure is true, though, then the sum total of the trial reads:
Irish - Minus $25,000
French - Minus $75,000
Which is somehow fitting, that they both lost money on the thing, although perhaps a bit tilted in Irish's favor. However, I expect that Irish may end up paying via the additional trials and also via loss of property value when he sells his place, since who in hell would want to move next door to French?
In closing, I'd like to thank both of these guys for one thing, and one thing only. I know that, from this point onward, whenever I see a happy Christmas bear on somebody's lawn, I'll smile. If the bear is mooning me, I'll laugh out loud. That sort of thing adds years to your life, or so I'm told.
Soon, with more better stuff.