The jury trial in Bubba’s fire insurance case started Monday at 9:00 a.m. Bubba decided to try the case ” hisself “. It calls to mind the old saying that a man who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer.
Wewoka Worldwide Insurance showed up to trial with two of those ” tall building lawyers ” from Oklahoma City, experienced and fully prepared. They also brought a legal assistant to help with the details of the trial.
The initial phase of a jury trial is called ” voir dire ” or as Bubba puts it, ” jury picken’ “. The purpose is to find 12 unbiased people to listen to the evidence and make an impartial decision about disputes over the facts. The court clerk called the potential jurors randomly after pulling names from a box full of names.
The lawyers are given the opportunity to ask questions about the jurors’ qualifications to serve in the trial. When Bubba’s turn came, he asked ” Any of ya’ll been cheated by Wewoka Worldwide “? Immediately, Wewoka Worldwide’s lawyers were on their feet objecting the remark was inflammatory.
Judge Smith told the jury to disregard the comment and instructed Bubba to ask appropriate questions. Bubba replied, ” Judge, I figured it was a good idee’ to find out if any these folks mighta’ been rooked out of their money like I wuz. ” The Wewoka attorneys objected again. The judge explained to Bubba that he had to ask questions in a noninflammatory way. Bubba turned back to the jurors and said, ” Alright, are there any of ya’ll that intend to vote for this cheap, no good insurance company that don’t pay folks “? The insurance lawyers were hot and asked for a recess to speak with the Judge in chambers.
Jury selection is often completed in 2 – 3 hours. There’s now a new record for the longest voir dire ever in history of the county. Poor Judge Smith finally granted a mistrial to Wewoka Worldwide due to Bubba’s questions. The Judge also advised voir dire was not going to end in another mistrial when the process started all over again on Tuesday. This time, Judge Smith was going to be asking the potential jurors the questions.
By late afternoon on Tuesday, a large number of the potential jurors had been excused. Three of the prospective jurors were removed for cause by the court, two were drinking buddies of Bubba. Although both assured Judge Smith they could be fair and impartial, ” not giv’n Bubba a penny more than he deserved. ” The judge thought it might be more fair to start the trial without ” the preconceived notion that the insurance company was going to have to pay anything. ”
The third juror excused was Peggy Buthel. The mother of one of Bubba’s old girlfriends, she told Judge Smith that ” Bubba outa get a fair trial before the jury hung em’ “! Judge Smith reminded her there was no death penalty in an insurance lawsuit involving only money. She finally acknowledged that it would be hard to be completely fair unless ” there wuz atleast some hope of lockin’ Bubba up! ” Judge excused her for cause so Bubba could get a fair trial.
The jury panel consisting of 20 people was ” passed for cause ” meaning there are no legal reasons that prevents them serving as jurors. Once a jury is passed for cause, the jury selection is still not over. Each side is allowed to strike three jurors from the panel of 20 people without having to state a reason. Once each side strikes three apiece, it leaves 12 actual jurors and two alternates. It is always a good idea to have alternates in case someone becomes ill or can’t continue for some reason.
Experienced trial lawyers use their jury strikes to remove jurors perceived to be a worry or concern. The decision on who to strike is typically based upon something the person said while answering questions. No reason is given, the attorney just announces the juror’s number and the court allows the juror to leave.
Using a never seen before technique, Bubba looked directly at Juror No. 7 as he flipped a quarter. He told the juror, ” Heads you leave, tails you stay “! The juror won and got to leave. But before Bubba got his next turn to strike another juror, Judge Smith banned the highly sophisticated selection method for the remainder of the trial.
It took nearly two full days and half a bottle of aspirin, but a jury was empaneled.
The next step is opening statements. I hear they start tomorrow morning at 9am.