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My Jury Duty Experience

Lisa Thinks…
8 min readApr 23, 2024


As I listen to media people speculating about the jury in the Trump case, the discussion brings back memories of some of my jury experiences. Although it was a long time ago, aspects are relevant to today's discussion.

It was the late mid-to-late 90s and I was summoned for jury duty in downtown Los Angeles. At the time, people had to serve 10 days even if they just sat around for 10 days and were never assigned to a case. I packed up reading material and headed to downtown.

I started at the criminal court building. I checked in and waited.

Finally, my number came up and a group of us headed to a courtroom where they briefed us on the details of the case. The defendant was accused of beating, drugging, and killing his girlfriend. Part of what they wanted to know was (1) did we have experiences with domestic violence that might prejudice us and (2) could we deal with graphic pictures? I was wondering why we needed to see a lot of graphic pictures. Sure we need to see those that link to evidence and, if found guilty, it may point to the punishment but we were there to determine guilt or innocence first and foremost.

But I digress. They started calling people up and questioning them but did not finish so we were dismissed for the day.

The next day, however, some courtroom employees at the criminal courts building went on strike so we were all moved to the civil courts building.


Anyway, we checked in there. It was a similar process but the building and vibe were far more relaxed. I was called up like last time. This time it was a civil suit. Bank of America was being sued by a currency exchange business in Mexico.

They started going through the process of selecting a jury. I don’t remember the details but I ended up on the jury. It was supposed to be about 7 days so I would be within my company paid benefits of 10 days.

It was a somewhat complicated case. It involved Mexican law, the currency exchange rates at a time when the currency was fluctuating a lot, American law, and Christmas Holidays. The incident happened before Christmas and the problem was addressed after Christmas. Holidays were different between Mexico and the US that year — Mexico was open December 26th but the US was closed on the 26th because Christmas fell on Sunday. All that was relevant but I will spare you the details.

In the end, we had to rule on whether B of A was negligent based on specific instructions. If they were negligent, then we needed to come up with a dollar amount of damages.

Our jury was, like Trump’s, an odd combination. We had a criminal prosecuting attorney, a criminal defense attorney, a priest, a cop, several engineers (different defense and water companies), and a graphic designer to name a few of the occupations.

So, while people are surprised that there are two attorneys on Trump’s jury, it happened here too.

A couple of things to note:

  1. The attorneys did not dominate. The prosecuting attorney was selected to be the foreman and the defense attorney was a sub who could listen but not engage in the discussion until he replaced someone who was on the jury.
  2. The prosecuting attorney did not dominate the discussion even as foreman. Other educated people were not cowed by his presence.
  3. The defense attorney was assigned to the jury after someone had to leave. The attorneys did not agree (which probably could have been foreseeable). Significantly, the addition of the defense attorney did not change the dynamics.
  4. People had a tendency to believe B of A because B of A admitted errors (stipulated) and B of A just had more credibility in their minds — even though their employee made a mistake and told 3 different stories — none of which was consistent with their actions or others actions while the Mexican company’s story did not change — their actions (documented) were consistent with their story and with the actions of other Bank of America people. I sided with the Mexican company and was one of the lead people with that position while the prosecuting attorney took the position in favor of Bank of America. (The defense attorney later took my side.)
  5. Eventually, we were able to get a consensus that Bank of America was negligent but we could not agree with the dollar amount. The issues with Mexican law, American Law, and differing legal holidays played a role in our disagreement. The range of damages varied from $0 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. (I don’t remember the exact highest amounts.) The top lines that media provide don’t get into this level of detail and you would never know until you are in the room.
  6. In the end, we were a hung jury. The judge asked us to come back one more day, by that time there were 9 of us because the case ran many days longer than expected. A verdict would require that we all agree which was not going to happen so we sat around and talked for a day. We asked the attorneys about what they thought about the odd jury composition and they agreed (yes, they could agree on something) that both sides probably felt they had a good case so they wanted people who could understand it.

After the verdict was announced, we talked to the attorneys from each side one-on-one. One of the questions we, as jurors had, was why it took so long to get to the courts. I spoke to the plaintiff's attorneys who said that it took them that long to get the documents and to get B of A to admit that they made a mistake. (I thought that was the case having worked in business for a multinational corporation.)

I saw the prosecuting attorney downstairs getting his parking validated. I explained the delay and he was shocked. He could not believe that B of A would deny that they made a mistake and had given them a lot of credit for admitting their error. He looked like he wanted to reconsider everything knowing that they denied it for so long.

Key takeaways:

  1. People will come in with preconceived notions and credibility assignments. Those preconceived notions can be reinforced with stipulations — even when the rest of the evidence submitted shows that the B of A story was consistently inconsistent. This is where Trump would have likely benefited if his attorneys said that Trump did a lot of rotten things but they were not illegal. They could have gained credibility with some people and the focus would have been exactly on whether the actions were illegal.
  2. We started with a vote but would have been better off if we worked through the evidence from beginning to end and highlighted the inconsistencies. We then could have focused our time on the amount of the damages and not whether B of A was negligent. Instead much of the discussion involved explaining and defending our position on negligence instead of looking at the totality of the evidence and damages.
  3. EVERYTHING hinges on the specific instructions given to the jury. Media coverage is so lax when it comes to this point.

Flash forward a couple of years. I am at the criminal courts building also in downtown Los Angeles. The case involves a gang shooting. The evidence presented by both the prosecutors and defense was a mess. One of the people testifying is a bad cop. An extremely bad cop but he was on the side of the prosecutors offering evidence — evidence that I could not count as being accurate but then I was not sure where that left me as far as a verdict.

I was chosen to be the foreman. I had no idea what to think and knew that if I was confused, others were also. I also knew that there were two ladies who would never be able to decide if things were not super clear, so I suggested that we go through the evidence before taking a vote. I understood the impact it had at the B of A trial.

People agreed and that is what we did. We talked about every single bit of evidence and came to an agreement about what it likely meant before moving to the next piece. Those who were not credible — were discarded.

In the end, I read the jury instructions and what needed to be proven. Since we had discussed everything piece by piece, it was relatively fast to make the decisions. The two ladies I knew would find making the decisions challenging at first said that they could not decide with absolute certainty so we got what beyond reasonable doubt meant and talked to them. I was so happy to see that everyone was ok with them doing what they believed and did not pressure them. We just wanted to make sure they understood what reasonable doubt was.

I was instructed to turn in each decision when made.

There were two charges.

I turned in the first one and came back to the jury. Within seconds, we had a unanimous decision with the second.

I turned the second verdict in to the surprised bailiff who asked why I did not turn them in at the same time. I explained that we were instructed to hand them in when done.

They called everyone into the courtroom and the verdicts were read aloud. There were two charges and I think everyone expected the verdicts to go the same way — two guilty or two not guilty verdicts. I would have also from the outside but based on the evidence and the instructions, we came up with one guilty and one not guilty.

What everyone seemed to miss is that he was charged with shooting at two people. He did shoot one person at close range — but then the other person took off down the other side of the street and there was zero evidence to show that he shot at the other person.

So, again, it comes down to instructions and evidence. No one from the outside would have seen our verdict coming. And I mean no one. We went through every piece of evidence and went through the specific charges and this was the only possible outcome.

Another point of discussion about Trump’s trial is that there are questions of bias and whether anyone can be unbiased. As I mentioned with B of A, subtle bias can play a role but in Trump's case, I think he can get a fair trial. I personally don’t like the guy. I think he is a cheat and a scoundrel. BUT, the jurors will be presented with evidence and jury instructions with very specific criteria that need to be proven. The prosecutors will or will not have proven it. That part is not hard.

I can think a guy can be a serial killer (not saying Trump is) but it does not mean that he is guilty of shoplifting or car theft. Things are separate.

The key is to not have a sandbagger who has a fixed position regardless. If there is clearly a person like that on the jury, it could create a backlash either way.

We will all form ideas about what should happen but not having it televised makes it impossible to understand it and no one knows until we have the very specific jury instructions to compare to what was presented.

Hold judgment. Yes, I think he is a scoundrel but that does not mean that the prosecutors will prove their case as it applies to the instructions given. We don’t even know what those specific instructions are.

SIDE NOTE: The judge of the B of A case was handling motions related to Tupac Shakur’s estate while our case was going on and then when we were deliberating, he was hearing the case itself. And for the case at the criminal courts building, our courtroom was across from Judge Ito of OJ fame. LA is a funny place.



Lisa Thinks…

I work to understand and explain the world in a very simple way. I have written Mind, Media and Madness, Embrace Life/Embrace Change (by Lisa Snow)