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Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

Posted August 20, 2014 9:03 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: career engineer jury duty

Jury duty is often described as a consequence of citizenship. "It's a civic duty!" and "Give back to your community!" are two of the more guilt-laced arguments which pressure people to fulfill this monotonous service.

Even though CSI and Law & Order can make jury duty seem just like Hollywood, first-time jurors are almost always disappointed. I've been called for jury duty twice in my life and here is the sequence.

1. Arrive on time. Wait.

2. Walk into a room. Wait.

3. File brief paperwork and drink bad coffee. Wait.

4. Walk into a courtroom-wait for judge.

5. Get excused.

6. Wait for 5-10 years for another jury duty notice.

It could be a lot worse. I could get stuck on a trial that takes months to deliberate. Or it could be a menial tax trial or grand jury. Instead, my inconvenience is getting to read only one chapter of the book I brought. After all, most jury summons include a paid excuse from work.

So while I'm not an engineer, and never claim to be, it could be that my occupation in a technical field (tech writing) has eliminated me from prior juror pools. I'm exposed to scientific principles, arithmetic, and engineering resources quite often, and it's not impossible that my familiarity with Socratic method has tainted my perspective.

Apparently, it's quite common for scientists and engineers to be eliminated from juror pools. There are a couple of reasons why this might be. In many cases, lawyers argue passionately for their side based on a series of assumptions-a liberty scientists and engineers do not have and often fail to entertain. Prosecutors and defense attorneys might be intimidated by a well-cultivated mind; it's rumored doctors, even retired ones, are often excused from criminal cases as well.

Bloggers at Scienctopia recognized two issues when they examined why jury duty should be hated by everyone, not just scientists. First, jurors are instructed to arrive at a conclusion based on the "preponderance of evidence." That means that a person who is able to analyze information and draw conclusions, without the interpretation of the lawyer, can't be (or at least shouldn't be) swayed by an emotional argument. Second, "beyond a reasonable doubt" is pretty much nonsense. Evidence either is or isn't; there is no open interpretation of the circumstances set forth.

While researching this blog post, I came across this reddit comment where the user mentioned his professor was excused because he needed to know what confidence interval described "beyond reasonable doubt." I wonder what unit of measure they used?

While this is a humorous way to examine why engineers get tossed from juror pools, it beautifully illustrates how constructive information processing affects decision making in unforeseen ways, and is also understood by other professionals, even if it goes unobserved amongst peers.

Interestingly, the jury selection system used in the United States is known as scientific jury selection (seems like an oxymoron). So do engineers have an internal bias that can't be overlooked? Would less wrongfully convicted people end up on death row or with a life sentence if more intelligent people served on juries? Can this question even really be answered?

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#1

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 10:36 AM

I've also been called for jury duty twice in the UK. I was astounded at the way jurors arrive at decisions based largely on personal prejudices. In one trial a juror claimed that the accusations were a conspiracy by gypsies, this apparently based on the defendants surname.

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#2

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 11:02 AM

"It's a civic duty!" and "Give back to your community!"

Its not a guilt laced arguments, and I like to borrow a quip from Yogi Berra and modify it, 'It ain't bragging guilt-laced arguments if it's true.'

I was called to Jury Duty a number of times (about 1 every 3-4 years. and only once did I have to appear for selection.'

Most of what you said is true about the process may be true. But that is how the process is set up, and I'm comfortable with it.

Or would you rather be judged not by your peers, but by a jury of hard line political parties.

Also about Neil deGrasse Tyson, it's one thing to make light of something but another thing of trying to be clever and then failing at it.

I used to really enjoy as well as respect him, but now I've become more selective of what Tyson is discussing on whether to listen or walk away. He should keep his mouth shut at times instead of lowering his talent to the level of a politician by trying to be clever. Stick to your strengths and integrity, which is science.

Jury duty is a civic duty, and with a civic duty, comes responsibility. And in its essence should be taken seriously.

Responsibility is a dying attribute, this dying attribute is in science, and now its in engineering, thank you very much.

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#3

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 11:08 AM

I got called and figured I was going to be deselected in 10 seconds after they asked, "Have you ever used marijuana?"

Strait faced I looked at the attorney and judge and said, "Yes, but I didn't exhale."

I never saw a judge laugh to the point of burying his head in his hands on the desk.

I ended up as an alternate and was finally dismissed at the end when the jury was called to deliberate. I wasn't needed after all.

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#24
In reply to #3

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 12:00 PM

Well, your answer showed:

1) Honesty in your responses, and

2) that your previous experience with Marijuana has not dulled your mind, or if it had dulled it, you were still a sharper knife than around 98-99% of the people who normally get interviewed in that courtroom.

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#26
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 1:17 PM

Jury selection, counter to what most people expect, is not simply looking for bright honest people.

Attorneys and prosecutors each select individuals based on what they see as being favorable candidates for persuasion toward their intended arguments.

A significant component in legal decisions is actually emotional pleas and not so much technicalities of the law. So each side seeks people that that they feel might be more likely to be sympathetic to their end game. Being analytical and critical in your thinking is not necessarily a desired trait in the pool.

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#27
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 3:21 PM

I know that, I've called for Jury Duty twice, and served once (the other time I sat in the Jury pool all day, and was never called for jury selection).

I was pointing out why the JUDGE (who has no dog involved in the horserace, to ... utterly mangle metaphors) was so amused by your response. Think about the usual caliber of people he has to watch answering the lawyers' leading, often borderline 'not-allowed' questions...

"...My fate is being determined by twelve people who are not clever enough to get out of jury duty..."

Or to use the wonderful line from Blazing Saddles"

"You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons."

(Oh and the case I did sit in on, it was a case where the two defendants were charged with assaulting police officers, but the recording of the 911 call was missing, so it was just a case of 'he said/she said.' The police testimony was good, but with only one witness providing testimony, you have a limited view (the second officer's testimony would have mirrored the first's, they stayed together during the leadup to the altercation, so they either both saw something or they both missed it) and the testimony for the defense was a muddled mess, only starting after the melee had started, and claiming that there was no dialog before the fighting, rather out of character, even for Chicago's Finest. In the end it was a verdict of 'not guilty,' based, on my part, by the City simply failing to make a good case. The defense could have stayed home without changing the outcome, in fact with the wackoes they called up as witnesses, they almost got a conviction from their own testimony.)

(I also had a feeling that there was a lot more History behind this case, it felt like this apartment complex had been attracting officers to 'sort out the petty arguments' on an almost regular basis.)

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#4

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 12:54 PM

I was reading Nick Herbert's Quantum Reality and they made me jury foreman. Go figure.

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#5
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 1:28 PM

If you would have slept in a Holiday Inn Express the night before, I'm sure the same would have happened.

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#6
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 1:32 PM

No, they saw me reading the book. I swore to them I didn't understand one bluddy word of it but to no avail. Next time I'll bring a copy of Roots and see if that makes any difference.

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#7
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 1:43 PM

ahhh, a lot can be said about first impressions...

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#8

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 2:01 PM

On an international forum, we had a thread on this subject. It varies from place to place around the country and around the world. In Delaware County PA where I live, they don't want critical thinkers on the juries because they learned their courtroom styles from "Popular Romances" and the like, logic is honored by it's absence!

Once, being out of work, I did the supermarket shopping during the week. There was a lady looking for signatures for her petition to be a judge, (she was the County Sheriff). I signed and she asked what I normally did for a living; when I told her I was PE, she said, "Oh, one of those people we never put on a jury".

My wife was on a jury, an auto accident with a death. They allowed all the damage and loss evidence before they decided liability for the accident!

It is all very well claiming it is a duty, but I have wasted many single days since becoming a citizen, just sitting, knowing that I will not be selected.

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#9
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 2:35 PM

What is interesting, When I was at college, one of the liberal arts classes I took (I had to take) was Sociology. (Actually it was called American Institutions).

But one thing the professor said that stuck with me (he actually said a few things that stuck)

If you're going to complain about something, also bring to the table a solution.

I liked that, so lets take a quick look at it....

- is jury duty a waste of time?

only if you put a money value on it.

- Does it have value?

As a society to be judged by your peers, yes

- Do you have to enjoy it?

What ever you make of it.

As I said before, it is a responsibility. And at this time, its the best that is available. And since so far there are no suggested alternatives there really isn't another alternatives for discussions.

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#12
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 5:08 PM

Good for your prof. but that is not the thrust of this thread.

Stepping OT. The solution is to get rid of arbitrary strikes. Me, I would get rid of all jury strikes except people connected with the court, lawyers, insurance companies if involved, police etc.

On one occasion, I was on a panel and was called to the Judges office. It was to do with unsuccessful back surgery, and my back had been fixed. Obviously, if I say it was a good experience, the plaintiff will strike me, if not good, the surgeon will strike me. When I got there and answered their questions, I asked them why we play this time wasting game, one or the other will strike me even if they both don't for being an engineer. Judge says, "This is the established way." I was struck.

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#14
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 8:08 PM

That is why their are (I'm not sure what the number is) but atleast 4 to 5 times the needed number of possible jury's are selected. The fee they pay is paltry, most employers compensate the difference.

The engineering aspect... Yes, especially when you apply logic, or become very anal on detail that is far above the norm or appear to be, They will strike.

I'm sure as an engineer that was probably the reason I wasn't selected.... But, I'd still go when called, I'd may complain a bit, because of the interruption. But, other than that I can live with it. Plus, my company also believes in it....even waste a half day for selection just to get scratched, the company don't expect you back for a half a day (unless of a emergence at the plant). So that takes away some of the difficulty.

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#18
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 4:26 AM

We don't get paid for jury service in the UK, we get compensated for loss of earnings & travel costs, also the prosecution or defense don't get to choose the jury members. If a judge thinks that the trial will be a long one you will be excused if it might affect your work so those juries tend to be made up of unemployed or retired people.

As an aside, at one place I worked we used to get regular visits from the police looking for volunteers to stand in line-ups. I've done that several times (never got picked out) & got paid £5 each time.

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#19
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 7:06 AM

jury pay is small, your suppose to turn it in to the company, but its so small that our company says they'll just pay you the regular amount because it's not worth the effort of account interruption

So its like a small bonus,..... something like $20.00.

But as far as company reimbursement, not all companies do this.

Those line ups,..... if its line up for witnesses to select the intruder..... what happens if they did select you?

Hate to think that.... it would be like living the movie "The Fugitive" or "Conspiracy Theory"

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#20
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 8:02 AM

It was that sort of line-up but I never got picked out, I guess you would have some questions to answer.

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#10

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 3:03 PM

I have been on juries twice. Once was for someone contesting a traffic ticket. That one was only mildly interesting. The second time was for a month of Grand Jury duty. That was extremely interesting. I learned so much practical information about the judicial system. I would gladly perform Grand Jury duty again.

As for all those times I sat at the courthouse waiting for them to decide if we were needed or could go home? None of those were a waste of my time. I brought a book to read.

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#11
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 3:26 PM

Just don't bring Herbert's 'Quantum Reality' whatever you do.

That case was interesting as well. The defendant had been ticketed for putting the shoulder strap behind his daughter. Had he not done this the strap would have stretched across her face and would have snapped her neck in a head-on collision. His was an older car which did not have airbags and there was no way to adjust the strap to keep it away from her face. One of the jury members was this rabid trophy wife who vehemently insisted he be found guilty because "we must always obey the rules!" Well, there are times common sense should trump 'rules' where applicable and what this man did he did to ensure his daughter's safety, damn the rules. She persisted and I reminded her that Nazis were also very good at blind obedience and look what happened to them! I held out and would have done so until the Second Coming. Eventually the rest came round - she was the last - and we declared the defendant 'not guilty.'

I should also mention that if anything was patently obvious in their deliberations, it was their incredible racial bias. This man was black, black in a shithole redneck Texas town that hated blacks. I often saw people wearing their shoulder straps behind them - white people - but never were they ticketed. This guy wasn't ticketed for that shoulder strap, no, he was ticketed because he was black and that shoulder-strap bit was just an excuse. I was determined to wear that jury out and I did. We were there a long time.

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#13

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 5:50 PM

While researching this blog post, I came across this reddit comment where the user mentioned his professor was excused because he needed to know what confidence interval described "beyond reasonable doubt."
I'll have to remember that for next time I get called!
I've gotten called a number of times and one time made it on the jury. That time I got invited to leave by the defense attorney , although I can't say it was for being an engineer.

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#15
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 8:09 PM

Statically speaking.... It is a good one. :-)

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#16

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 9:46 PM

A jury of your peers will judge you.

In most cases that would be a pot smoking gang member who has a rap sheet as long as your arm and is driving a stolen car with a joint and a gun hidden under the seat.

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#25
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 1:13 PM

As a defendant, your fate depends on 12 angry people who don't want to be there any more than you do.

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#17

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/20/2014 10:43 PM

How can you ever make an accurate assessment at any TRIAL? I refuse to be on a jury. I simply write: "I will NEVER CONVICT" on the application form and I have never been called up. It has worked for all my friends too. Imagine if you convicted and then found the DNA was switched????
What a fool you would feel.
50% of the black inmates in the USA are innocent - or even if it is 10%. I don't want to be part of the 1%. I don't want to be part of anyone else's bad decisions in life. It's hard enough living your own life without being involved in other people's problems and to make a mistake on a conviction is something you will regret all your life.
On Dr Phil's program a girl identified a black person as the rapist and he got life. After 14 years, the DNA was re-analysed and the person was released. See how simple it is to make a mistake.

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#22
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 10:50 AM

I believe that, from what you say, you truly need to be on the jury. When prosecutors argue that the results of two DNA tests, one saying it was not the defendant and the other result being inconclusive, we need someone on the jury who can realize the prosecutor is an ignorant fool when he argures that the inconclusive test means the defendant still might have done it. (This example from a news article I read just this week.)

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#28
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/22/2014 11:02 AM

If no one is ever convicted of a crime, we might as well just shut down the courts, abolish all laws and stock up on ammo to defend ourselves.

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#30
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/22/2014 6:48 PM

Not everyone wants a more just society.

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#35
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/23/2014 8:43 AM

"If no one is ever convicted of a crime, we might as well just shut down the courts, abolish all laws and stock up on ammo to defend ourselves. "
You say nothing of actual guilt? So as long as someone pays the price, all is good.

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#37
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/23/2014 5:40 PM

OK, to clarify:

"If no one is ever a person proven guilty is never convicted of a crime, we might as well just shut down the courts, abolish all laws and stock up on ammo to defend ourselves.

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#42
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/26/2014 3:02 PM

Perhaps you could help me with my language skills, I seem to be missing some subtle nuances.

How can someone be 'proven guilty' without being 'convicted of a crime'? To my poor, feeble mind those two phrases seem to be saying the same thing.

Unless we are talking about the OJ Simpson trials, where he was found Not Guilty of the crime of murder, then in a civil trial he was found 'liable for the deaths.' He didn't kill them, but he's financially responsible for their deaths? What does that even mean?

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#29
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/22/2014 11:32 AM

I read your response with some interest, until I got the, "Dr. Phil" part.

You watch that drivel but won't serve on a jury?

You've lost me completely, and are living in the wrong country.

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#31
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/22/2014 7:10 PM

"until I got the, "Dr. Phil" part. You watch that drivel"
Show me where else you are going to hear about peoples plights and injustices.
Please list me the 10 other sources:
..................
.......................
..........................

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#32
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/22/2014 9:46 PM

Jerry Springer, Oprah and many others, too numerous to mention.

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#34
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/23/2014 8:06 AM

Too bad there is no way to uninvent television...

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#41
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Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/26/2014 2:55 PM

Does Oprah could as a separate source than Dr. Phil? She is his mother, after all.

Not in the biological sense, obviously, but Dr. Phil got his start as a regular guest on Oprah.

When it comes to daytime talk shows, I miss good ol' boring Donahue. He never did the sensationalist crap, at least in the early/middle years. If he had someone on, it was probably someone whose story you needed to hear, and it was also most likely a real person, not someone making up characters to use on the 'trash TV' circuit. (aka 'Last week we were inbred cousins fighting for custody of our sister/cousin's baby on Springer, next week we'll be on Geraldo as crack obsessed gay lovers trying to hide the fact that we're cheating on each other with the SAME WOMAN.') (Now I'm afraid I'll find out that both those 'storylines' have been shown on trash TV somewhere. I tried to be over the top and ridiculous, I really did.)

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#33
In reply to #29

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/23/2014 1:24 AM

"...and are living in the wrong country...."

.

Hold on a sec. Are you suggesting that Dr. Phil isn't a US specific aberration?

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#36
In reply to #33

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/23/2014 9:49 AM

I think that there are Dr. Phils all over the world.

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#21

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 8:22 AM

Oh but the right judge can make it a bit interesting. On my first call, while the jury pool was being thinned by the lawyers, the local judge pulled out a history book and read it to us.

One thing for certain about people in the judicial end of the legal system, they know how to read and talk to a crowd.

Doesn't that sound like a great way to spend time away from your job?

By the way, I wasn't selected for the jury. I pretty much figured, as you have, that my engineering background eliminated me from consideration.

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#23
In reply to #21

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/21/2014 11:24 AM

I agree with that.

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#38

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/26/2014 6:20 AM

I think I must be in too many government data bases, I've never been called and neither has my wife! But, I too would like to know what the measurement is for "beyond reasonable doubt"...or even "within reasonable doubt".

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/26/2014 6:51 AM

"beyond reasonable doubt"...or even "within reasonable doubt".

I think that is discussed during jury deliberation.

Then is a matter of convincing you or others of your interpretations. And what your comfortable with.

Knowing some engineers that over analyze things like this.... no good will come of it. Most likely a Hung jury.

Hence, your free pass.

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#40
In reply to #38

Re: Engineering Degree? Your 'Get Out of Jury Duty Free' Card

08/26/2014 2:40 PM

The "Reasonable Man" is a fiction assumed in the legal world. Would the ordinary person with ordinary prudence accept this as evidence of guilt? Would this person act in the same way as the defendant? If this reasonable man does not accept the evidence, then there is reasonable doubt. There is no quantifiable definition.

Economics has a similar hypothetical construct. Economists assume that a reasonable person will gather all the information and make the choice best for themselves. It is to their credit that the Nobel Committee awarded a Prize in Economics to two psychologists, Kanneman and Tversky(sp?), who demonstrated this is not true. However, it seems to me that most economists still roll along as if the assumption is true.

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