October 5, 1996
I wanted to talk about the courts some more, but before I do,
I want to mention that this web site, Kauai Net is where these
columns originated and were conceived. I had allowed another web
site to post them also, but that didn't work out. So, I will only
be on this site from now on. If you sent me e-mail at the other
site, I won't get it. I asked that the columns be removed from
that site. It is unfortunate things didn't work out on that site,
but it created too many problems for me. If you sent e-mail to me
at the other site, you can send it again at the e-mail address on
this site and it will be sent to me. But my direct mailing
address (snail mail) is on this site and it is much faster
getting to me. I'm sorry if I didn't get your letters from the
other site, but that is one of the reasons why I am not on there
anymore. I had allowed the other site to post these columns in
order to reach more people, but it turned out to be a big
headache and not worth the trouble.
The last time I wrote, I talked about the layout of the
courtroom and briefly talked about the jury process in a death
penalty trial. I mentioned that all of the potential jurors fill
out a questionnaire asking a wide range of questions. This
questionnaire is composed of questions that the Judge, Prosecutor
and Defense counsel contribute. The purpose is to get as clear a
picture of the person as possible, so when that potential juror
is brought into the courtroom for the jury selection interview,
everyone will already have a sense of what sorts of questions
they want to follow up on with this person. Obviously, there are
certain things that the Judge and Prosecutor look for, and there
are specific things that the Defense looks for from their
Sitting and listening to the questions and answers from the
potential jurors is very interesting. The old adage of
"don't judge a book by its cover", really is
appropriate in a process like this. You hear some of the most
incredible things from people you would least expect o hear them
from. There are certain exchanges that really stick out in my
mind. One of them went something like this:
Prosecutor: I see from your questionnaire, you say you do not
believe in the death penalty. Is this correct?
Juror: Yes, that is correct.
Prosecutor: Does this mean you could never sentence a person
to death, regardless of the circumstances?
Juror: Yes, that's correct. I don't believe in the death
penalty for any reason. I'm sorry, but I just can't support it.
Judge: There is no reason to apologize because of how you
feel. We are glad that you were honest about it.
Juror: (looking at the judge as if explaining to a child) I'm
not apologizing for how I feel. I think it is wrong for the state
to kill anyone. I am proud that I do not support the death
penalty. I would never apologize for how I feel.
Judge: (exchanging an embarrassed look with the prosecutor)
Thank you for your time, you are excused from any further service
in this trial.
Juror: Thank you.
My attorney leans over and mutters to me,"Damn! Why do
the good ones have to be so forceful in what they feel?".
But most jurors are at the other end of the spectrum. The typical
exchange might go something like this:
Defense: Your answer on the questionnaire regarding how you
feel about the death penalty says you would never consider giving
someone life in prison. And you think that anyone found guilty
should get the death penalty. So, we can assume that you would
never be able to do anything except sentence the defendant to
death. Is this how you feel?
Juror: Yes, that's how I feel.
Defense: So, you would always sentence a person to death and
never consider life in prison without the possibility of getting
Juror: Yes, that's how I feel.
Defense: Thank you. I have no more questions.
Prosecutor: You say you would never consider a life without
parole sentence. But what if there was something the defense told
you that is very compelling, couldn't you be open minded enough
to consider sentencing the defendant to prison for the rest of
his life, rather than sentence him to death?
Juror: (reluctantly) Well, I don't know what it could be, but
I am open minded and would consider it.
Prosecutor: So you are saying that you COULD consider a life
in prison without parole sentence and wouldn't automatically give
the defendant the death penalty?
Juror: Yeah, I suppose, but I don't know what it could be that
would make me consider it.
Judge: So, you would be able to be open minded and consider
the sentence of life in prison without parole, as much as you
would the death sentence?
Juror: Yeah, I guess so.
Judge: Okay, you are excused for now, but you are to report
back on this date for the picking of the jury in this case.
Defense: But your honor ....
I think that one of the most interesting things that I learned
during the process of picking the jury was that people who were
adamantly against the right for a woman to choose in the abortion
issue, were also the same ones who were the strongest supporters
of the death penalty. It struck me as rather hypocritical. They
argue so passionately that killing is wrong, and by having an
abortion, you are killing a human being. Yet, when questioned
about the death penalty, they argue just as passionately it is
perfectly okay to execute a person. Ironically, a large number of
people who are anti-abortion are most adamantly for the death
Before I go, I'd like to answer a couple of questions I've
been asked. One was why I don't talk about my case. Another is
why I don't talk about personal things regarding myself. Well, as
I stated before, I only mention my innocence so you would
understand where I was coming from in what I write. If I used
these columns as a vehicle to promote that sort of thing, I feel
it would be wrong. And the reason I don't talk about myself is
it's not relevant to what I write about. My case will be decided
in the courts, not on the Internet. Some people accused me of
using this site to proclaim my innocence, etc. Well, believe me,
if I wanted to use this page as a forum to proclaim my innocence,
I have numerous issues I could use to do so. So, to those of you
who had sent me letters saying that I was only trying to proclaim
my innocence, I think it would be very clear if I did that . . .
and I wouldn't be subtle about it.