Sandra Jessee Case: How Juror Prospect Escaped Duty Today

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A lone 2009 juror thwarted a Jessee conviction in first trial
Scan the faces of potential jurors waiting in an Orange County courtroom and you'll undoubtedly see people who can't hide that their brains are furiously crafting mini-speeches that will allow them to escape jury duty.

This phenomena is particularly noticeable when the case involves a gory murder and the trial may last a month or more.

Today inside Superior Court Judge James Stotler's Santa Ana courtroom, prosecutor Michael F. Murray and defense lawyer Derek J. Bercher selected jurors for the upcoming case of Sandra Jessee, who is on trial for allegedly hiring a $50,000 hit man to kill her husband in Placentia.

Over and over, potential jurors--mostly retired folks--assured the lawyers how fair they could be if chosen. Bercher wants independent jurors who are strong enough not to cave into group pressure and don't automatically believe law enforcement officers can't be mistaken or deceitful. Murray wants jurors who aren't estranged from common sense and won't create imaginary, fact-less scenarios that make the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard impossible. Almost everyone told the lawyers what they wanted to hear.

But then came would-be Juror #186. She'd created a speech and put a determined look on her face. "I have a long list [of reasons not to serve]," she said. "Stop me when you think I've listed enough."

The woman took a deep breath.

"First, I don't want to be on this jury," she said. "I don't want to see gruesome pictures. I don't want to decide someone's fate."

The judge seemed to scribble notes, but remained silent.

"My sister has stage four ovarian cancer and I should be with her in Oregon."

"Okay, okay," said Stotler, who noted that both Murray and Bercher were nodding their heads that the woman should be dismissed from duty.

The woman left the courtroom quickly and minutes later another woman, perhaps encouraged by 186, said she already sided with the prosecution because the victim was "a nice man." She said she couldn't be fair. Not one bit of testimony or evidence had been presented, but she was sure the defendant was guilty, she claimed to believe.

Stotler, a veteran judge, shot her a look: nice try but not so fast.

She remained in her seat as jury selection continued in an effort to find 12 worthy citizens.

Opening statements are expected to begin next week.
 
The Weekly featured Jessee's first controversial trial HERE.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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Maj Variola
Maj Variola

We're not livestock to be drafted if the king needs a jury; that doesn't obligate me.

And, what with all the wars and emergencies, I'm on strike. Don't help the nazis.

Bill T.
Bill T.

By abdicating your responsibility and allowing them to hear the cases? Actually I don't believe that the National Socialism party was all that big on trial by jury. On the last trial I sat on there was a lady that believed the accused was guilty based on what appeared to me to be the thinnest of arguments by the arresting sherrifs, if there weren't people like me willing to think about the quality of evidence then the decisions would fall to the people who believe that if you're arrested you're guilty.

Prospective Juror #124
Prospective Juror #124

Mr. Moxley fails to mention that the prospective juror's sister had no family in Oregon, and had been deserted by her spouse when she received the cancer diagnosis.  The woman's exact words were, "If I can get a week off from work, I'd rather spend it with her", and she freely admitted that she wouldn't be able to keep her mind on the case.

Also:  Of course most of the jurors are retired people, and the rest likely to be civil servants.  The trial is expected to last into early December.  Most people's employers don't pay them for that much jury time.

Everything Mr. Moxley says is true, but he leaves out a lot.  I know, because I was one of the people in the jury pool.

Prospective Juror #187
Prospective Juror #187

I was wondering who that was that stepped in for a moment.  I was probably one of those that Mr. Moxley noted.  Even though my company pays for that much jury duty it would have been extremely stressful for me to commit to that much time as i have way too many things i am working on both professionally and personally.  Additionally he omitted to note that in fact that was already our fourth day of jury duty.  I would be curious about Mr. Moxleys history of jury duty since he is so quick to judge the other citizens.  I felt that the trial would have been interesting to sit on, however given the current economic climate and the amount of retired and out of work people there are in this state it would be more efficient for those to be serving than for those actually making this world go round.

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