Comment: Mandatory Minimums

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Mandatory Minimums

The courts in California have cracked down on excuses to avoid jury duty to the point that even my former boss, an attorney, had to serve on a jury.

Her case was a three strikes case with mandatory life sentence. She was betrayed by the judge who hid this from the jury. She sent a family man to jail for life over a relatively minor offense (no one was hurt), because of priors when he was much younger.

I had that in mind when I was called for jury duty and I heard the charges read: attempted murder and "being a felon in possession of a hand-gun." If I had gotten on the case, I would have had to think about these charges: "attempted murder" could easily be "self-defense," and then I have to think about whether we all have a right to arm ourselves for that purpose.

It sounded like the prosecution had so much evidence there was no point in having a trial, so I naturally wondered why they hadn't made a deal. 3-strikes was the obvious answer--the defendant had nothing to lose. They don't tell you it's a 3-strikes or mandatory minimum, I did the math.

It's a crazy system and totally unconstitutional: 3-strikes is ex post facto and double-jeopardy (making a prior action a crime after the fact, and re-punishing for it) as is trying children as adults.

I told the judge that I thought ignorance of the law was an excellent excuse these days; that laws make no sense, and that I knew someone who was betrayed by the judge hiding facts from her as a juror. I was thanked and excused.

I'm sorry, now. Juries are the front lines, and we need to be on them.

What do you think?