Behind Closed Doors – Inside Scoop On Jury Deliberations

Well, you can throw out the fallacy that lawyers never get picked to be on a jury. This civil defense attorney sat for three days on a criminal DUI matter. After sitting on the jury and deliberating, three things to consider about your potential jury as you prepare for trial:

  1. The jury gets it. Despite technical issues or convoluted fact patterns, the jury gets it. They pick up on the important facts and corresponding evidence. They will take the time to mull over the evidence, deliberate about it, and return a verdict, if possible.

The facts of the DUI case involved technical issues of full absorption of alcohol, rates of burn off, and rising BAC. The defense did not present any witnesses and rested after the state’s case. Defense counsel tried to create doubt through cross-examination of the state’s witnesses by alluding to problems with the chain of custody, faulty Breathalyzer device, mouth alcohol (Breathalyzer reading higher due to burping/vomiting), and improperly performed field sobriety tests. Kudos for the attempt, Mr. Defense Counsel. However, the jurors readily understood the science of absorption rates, the plausibility of mouth alcohol, and the procedures of the field sobriety tests. The bottom line was that there was no evidence to show the chain of custody had been compromised. The evidence was maintained and reliable.

  1. The jury will throw out contradictory evidence. If there is enough evidence to consider and make a determination, the jury will throw out contradictory evidence.

The defendant’s Breathalyzer results on the side of the road were .08 and .09 at 1:30 a.m. and 1:42 a.m. When the defendant was arrested and had to submit to a chemical test (calibrated Breathalyzer or blood test), the defendant opted to have his blood drawn. The blood was drawn at 2:04 a.m. The results were .09 BAC.

It was shown that the Breathalyzer on the side of the road was reading high based on the calibration reports of the device. For example, the defendant may have actually only had a BAC of .07 at the time he blew in the Breathalyzer, but it was reading high and showing .08. The defense attempted to use this information to undermine the blood test results. The jury opted to not consider the Breathalyzer results because the device was shown to be unreliable. However, the jury determined the blood test result and the effective chain of custody was enough to warrant a guilty verdict.

  1. Emotional pleas will not outweigh the law. The jury is instructed on the law, and they will follow the law.

The defendant was a measly .01 over the legal limit. The defense impassioned the jury to return a not guilty verdict because the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense was really trying to say, “Hey, we are talking about a .01. Give the guy a break.” The jury did not buy it. The law is clear and the jury followed it.

Overall, it was an enlightening experience. I performed my civic duty and my faith in our justice system was reinforced. I am glad I did not go with my original plan to shirk jury duty by wearing my Princess Leia outfit…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Heppenstall graduated from California Western School of Law in 2008. Ms. Heppenstall’s focus is on general liability and personal injury. Contact her at 858.263.41200 or

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