Ford juror: I was there

By The Madison County Record | May 8, 2005

I am writing in response to numerous articles and editorials that have been reported recently in this paper. As an unbiased juror in the Jablonski v. Ford case, I may be able to shed a little insight to the public.

I feel the information that has been released until this point has been very biased, and I was fully expecting this since there has been so much reported lately regarding payouts of lawsuits in Madison County.

Let me first address Ms. Nanette Clark’s comments. I am aware that Ms. Clark participated in a mock trial last November regarding this case, in which she was paid $90. I’m not sure how long that case lasted, but I will tell you that we listened to evidence from both sides for over two weeks, and our compensation for this was $10 per day plus mileage.

Ms. Clark was unable to attend the actual trial, for what reasons I do not know, but I have to think that she was performing her own duties as a United States citizen through her job or her household.

My point is this: until you have sat in the actual trial, and heard the actual evidence presented, your opinions are not fully informed. Ms. Clark failed to mention the deciding factor of the actual trial in her letter to the editor, and that was that Ford failed to disclose dangers of trunk contents to their civilian customers after alerting police officers to these same possible dangers.

Perhaps this was not an issue in the mock trial, but I do not know that. I was not there.

I would next like to address the fact that numerous jurors had no response to reporters regarding the case. The way in which the article read, makes it look as if the jurors are ashamed of their decisions, and are not willing to talk about them.

I cannot speak for the other jurors, but I think my opinions expressed here will capture most of theirs. Our decisions were made based on the facts that were given, there were 12 jurors, and to come to a final ruling, there had to be a unanimous decision. This means that everyone involved had to agree, and we did.

Perhaps, some wanted to keep their names from being printed in the paper because they don’t want to discuss this every time they see an acquaintance on the street. Perhaps, they don’t want to have to defend the decision, that they rightfully made, to uninformed people such as Ms. Clark.

Perhaps, they don’t want to talk about the Jablonskis' injuries. There are many reasons the jurors may not have responded to the paper when they were called. But, the names were printed, and everyone now knows who the 12 jurors were. That is public information, so there was no wrong doing. And if it was a response to those names being printed that Ms. Knef wanted, then it worked.

Lastly, I would like to address information published after the fact, regarding the trial. I understand that there were some facts regarding the case that were dismissed during trial.

For what reasons, I do not know. That is between Judge Matoesian and the participating attorneys. Would it have changed the decision?

Again, I do not know. We were presented with the evidence that was allowed. We were informed on the rules of being a juror, and what laws we were to decide on. We were also told that our sympathy for the plaintiff was not to be a consideration in this case.

I feel we all took these rules seriously, and obeyed them. Yes, this was a terrible tragedy, but please understand we were not ruling on sympathy for the Jablonski’s. We were ruling on whether Ford took a negligent stance when deciding not to inform their civilian drivers of dangers that Ford was aware of.

And Ford’s defense, that the likelihood of this unfortunate event happening in a civilian car was slim compared to that of a police officer, was not enough to convince us that they should not be held accountable for their decision.

The evidence has been presented, the decision has been made, and Ford will likely appeal. Perhaps in their appeal there will be evidence submitted that was not allowed in this trial. Perhaps, the dollar amount Ford owes the Jablonskis will be lowered. I cannot say, but when the appeal does go through, whatever the decision is, I will have to keep in mind that I was not at that trial, and the people making those decisions had to do it to the best of their ability.

I won’t be one to second guess that decision.

I’d like to make one more point. Participating as a juror was a very interesting and educational experience. By doing so, it has taught me that the information I read in the papers or hear on the news is not enough to base a decision on.

I would do it over again if I were asked. Look at it this way, not everyone has the ability to be a community officer or join the armed forces, and this is a wonderful way to serve our country. As a juror you are part of the American Judicial System, and it is a nice reward, to say that you have served accordingly.

Gretchen M. Hund

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