Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Did you hear the one about…

…the Vietnamese masseuse in a Tustin massage parlor who allegedly offered the additional service of a handjob for $40 more and who has insisted on her day in Orange County Superior Court to absolve her of the misdemeanor-level charges?

That’s the trial I was almost empaneled on as a juror today, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Admonished by the judge at the outset that we jurors were required to uphold laws that we might find wrong or in need of improvement, he suggested that writing our legislators was the way to address that—not by judicial activism by a loose cannon jury. The voir dire process also hinted that there might be an accusation of entrapment by the undercover police officer and that the officer may have even waited to make the arrest until after receiving the “bonus” service offered.

Early in the jury selection, and after a number of routine questions directed at all 12 seated prospects (and audited by the remaining 33 prospective jurors), I was picked on by the defense attorney to answer a hypothetical question about the honesty of law enforcement officers and if it’s ever possible that a policeman might treat a suspect unfairly. I responded that “people are people, there are honest ones and dishonest ones.” He probed further, asking what motivation an officer could possibly have to treat a suspect unfairly or unlawfully. I paused, then said, “perhaps bigotry.”

That had to have been my “death sentence” as a juror on this trial, as I was the third prospective juror bounced by the Assistant District Attorney (the others seemed to be for financial hardship of a multi-day trial) who probably feared I might be onto what might turn out to be the crux of the case—the word of a lily-white Tustin’s finest on a sting operation against a Vietnamese-American immigrant trying to make a living. Obviously, I was too risky to retain on the panel.

All I know about the case are those sketchy details, but I might have spoken up about my misgivings about policing sexual acts between consenting adults and the wisdom of spending taxpayer dollars to prosecute them had the judge not told us up front that those could not be concerns of ours in deciding the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The law is the law, and our role as jurors is to base our decision entirely on the legal evidence presented to us in court—nothing else.

The judge did use the “p” word, and while prostitution may be the oldest profession, I’m also not sure I agree it’s entirely a victimless crime in all circumstances. Certainly there is much transporting of young women and men across borders to become virtual sex-slaves, a horrific act that should be prosecuted. And unregulated prostitution obviously risks the danger of spreading disease. But, please…a little “extra” hand in a licensed massage parlor in Tustin is just not the same thing in my book.

Until next time…

Rick

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