Questions for Reflection
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Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we share our personal experiences so we can learn from each other.
Beth Demme (00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to, but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:13):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:17):
And I'm Beth. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled When a Lawyer Gets Jury Duty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection where we'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life. All right, Beth, I think you mentioned this on the podcast, in slice of life, potentially in past episodes that you got a jury summons.
Beth Demme (00:39):
I got summoned to jury duty and I thought, "I'm a lawyer. They're never going to let me be on a jury." But I went, I did my civic duty, and I got picked. I got to actually serve on the jury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:50):
I will say you did have a little bit of attitude about it and a little bit of like, "I'm a lawyer. Why would they want me on their jury?" Because we knew that you had this coming up and we-
Beth Demme (01:00):
We had to plan around it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:01):
Yeah, we had to plan around it, because we normally record on Fridays.
Beth Demme (01:03):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:03):
And so you told me you might have jury duty, you weren't sure, but "I'm a lawyer so they'll probably don't want to pick me." And I remember thinking, "Okay. Well, special lawyer. Okay. That's great. You're also a pastor. Maybe that will be a thing." And then you texted me on Thursday, "I got a text and I got to go."
Beth Demme (01:21):
I got to go to jury duty and then I went to jury duty. And because of COVID, they don't call as many people as they used to call. And they only called 42 potential jurors. And I was in this-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:31):
That's a lot of people.
Beth Demme (01:32):
And I was in the first set of 21. They had us in two different rooms. And they were big, big rooms. And everybody wore a mask. I was in the first group of 21 and then I ended up being juror number 12. And I still was like, "I'm golden. They're not going to pick me." Even though I wanted to serve, I still was like, "Hmmm."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:50):
You sure didn't make it seem like you wanted to serve.
Beth Demme (01:52):
I know. I really had mixed feelings about it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:55):
What was the mixed feelings?
Beth Demme (01:56):
Well, on the one hand, I was really curious about how juries deliberate, because I had some-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:02):
Oh, you've never been on a jury before?
Beth Demme (02:03):
I had never been. I have presented to juries. I put my client's fate in the hands of a jury, but I had never been on a jury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:11):
I haven't either.
Beth Demme (02:12):
And so I didn't really know what's it like in the room. So I was curious about that, but at the same time, I didn't really want to do it. I especially wasn't sure about this case because it was only the plaintiff, the defendant didn't show up.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:26):
Okay. But first of all, you had the attitude before you even knew the case, to clarify.
Beth Demme (02:33):
Okay. So let me say, my attitude about that was it feels like a waste of time to go to jury selection the day that you have to go for jury duty, when you're pretty sure they're not going to pick you. Because then it's like this is really a waste of my time to show up. But it turns out I was wrong because I did get picked.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:52):
Okay. So, I have never had jury duty. And it's easy to say this because I never had it. I will say I want to do jury duty. If I got summoned, I'm like, "Okay, I'm ready to do my civic duty." That's how I feel. I have a friend that's my age. She's gotten jury duty and actually been on a jury five times. It's so crazy.
Beth Demme (03:12):
Isn't that crazy how some people get called over and over again and some people are never called?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:15):
Yes. And she was on... What do you call that? Grand-
Beth Demme (03:17):
She was called to be on a grand jury?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:19):
She's on a grand jury. Yeah.
Beth Demme (03:20):
We should have her on as a guest, because I'm fascinated by that. That's a big responsibility to be on a grand jury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:25):
I know two people who have been on grand jury, actually.
Beth Demme (03:27):
There's state court and there's federal court. One time I got a jury questionnaire for federal court and then I never got summoned. So, I didn't know what that was about.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:35):
All right. So let's take us through it. You get the note. You get a text saying you have to come. So you go on Friday. And what happens?
Beth Demme (03:43):
So you go on Friday, you check in, and then they tell you to have a seat and wait in this big room. You wait in this big room and then different people come in and they tell you about what's going to happen during the day. And then eventually, they come in with a clipboard and they call off the names of however many people they're going to take up to the courtroom.
Beth Demme (04:00):
So you go from this waiting area, this holding pen, which is actually a big courtroom, up to a different courtroom where there's a judge and the lawyers who are going to be representing the plaintiff and the defendant. It was a civil case. So the way it works in our county is that they pick juries for civil cases on Fridays. They pick juries for criminal cases usually on Mondays. But if Monday's a holiday, they'll do it on a Tuesday.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:26):
What's a civil case?
Beth Demme (04:28):
So a civil case more or less is going to be about money. And a criminal case is a crime has allegedly been committed. And so you have to decide if someone has committed a crime and if they should go to jail.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:42):
Oh, so it's like money and jail?
Beth Demme (04:44):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:44):
Then civil is just money, they're not going to go to jail for it?
Beth Demme (04:48):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:48):
Beth Demme (04:49):
So I knew that it was going to be a civil case because it was on a Friday. So we went up to the courtroom. And normally, there would be lawyer for the plaintiff and a lawyer for the defendant. And there was only a lawyer for the plaintiff. But yeah, the defendant was not participating in the case.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:05):
Why? How was that even possible? Is that allowed? How was that not a mistrial or something?
Beth Demme (05:12):
I have never heard of a case going all the way to trial without a defendant, because there are procedural things that you can do as the plaintiff. So, when you file a lawsuit, you file what's called a Complaint. So here's your complaint against this person. Here's what they've done and here's a basic outline of what you're asking for in damages.
Beth Demme (05:34):
You have to allege that you have met a certain threshold of damages. And so, then the defendant is supposed to file an answer to that complaint, and they're supposed to set out their defenses. And then you're supposed to have exchanged information called discovery to find out what really happened. Well, when the defendant isn't participating, the plaintiff can get a default judgment. It's like, "Well, you defaulted, you didn't participate." And then-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:59):
So why didn't they get that?
Beth Demme (05:59):
Well, I think they did, which is why I don't know why we went to trial. When I practiced law, I never did any gender discrimination claims. And this had a gender discrimination count. And so I don't know if there's some procedural reason why we still had to have a trial. And a jury selection, they were saying maybe the defendant will show up for the trial. We don't know. They haven't participated so far, but maybe they will.
Beth Demme (06:28):
So, at jury selection, the judge asks a bunch of standard questions of everyone in the room. So in our room, there were 21 people. So, ask things like these are the people who are going to be... How did he start? He wanted to know first each juror's name, if they had a significant other, each juror's occupation and their significant other's occupation. And then if you had children who were in the workforce, what their jobs were, because he was trying to assess if you might have a connection to the case.
Beth Demme (06:59):
And we had a male judge do jury selection. But when it came to the trial, it was a female judge. She was out of town for jury selection. And then he wanted to know if you'd ever been on a jury before, and if you had been the foreperson person, and if you had ever been sued or if you had sued someone. So, all 21 people asked those questions. Oh, and if you needed an accommodation. We had one person who actually ended up on the jury and ended up being the foreperson who was hearing-impaired. So she needed some special headphones to use the amplifier in the courtroom.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:32):
So they asked you what your profession is. And what did you say?
Beth Demme (07:36):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:37):
Beth Demme (07:38):
Yes, number one, podcast host. I explained I'm a United Methodist pastor. I'm serving as a chaplain at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. And also, "Your Honor, I am a member of the Florida Bar." And he said, "Yes, Ms. Demme, I haven't seen you in a long time." And I was like, "That's right, Judge." Because I made a pivot. I was clear to everybody that I was a lawyer, but I didn't get to ask any questions about that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:04):
So that lawyer?
Beth Demme (08:05):
Because there was only one-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:06):
Yeah, because you said the other side, wouldn't it?
Beth Demme (08:07):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:07):
So did she ask you any questions about being a lawyer?
Beth Demme (08:09):
She did not.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:10):
No? Did you know her?
Beth Demme (08:11):
I had never had a case with her. I mean, I knew her name.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:11):
You knew of her?
Beth Demme (08:11):
Yeah, I just knew of her, but I don't know her, know her.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:12):
Beth Demme (08:12):
I never had a conversation with her or anything like that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:22):
And you don't know if she knew you?
Beth Demme (08:24):
I don't think-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:25):
She probably knew of you. Maybe.
Beth Demme (08:26):
I doubt it. I mean, it's been 15 years since I practiced law, and since I never had a case with her.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:33):
Yeah. So, she didn't ask you about being a lawyer. And at this point, were you still thinking, "I'm not going to get picked?"
Beth Demme (08:42):
I was really sure I wasn't going to get picked. Because I was doing the math, I knew that they were going to select six jurors and one alternate. You don't have to have odd numbers in juries because it's unanimous. So, six is fine. It's not like you're looking for a majority vote. It's unanimous. So I was doing the math. I was juror number 12. I was like, okay, juror number two is going to be excused for such and such reason. And juror number five is going to be excused, because he's got his second COVID shot on the day this trial is going to happen. There's no way they're making him come back. And then juror number six, I think she'll be excused. So, I think they're only going to make it... Do the math, I was like, all right, they'll get to juror number 11, they won't get to me. I'm juror number 12.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:26):
Because they normally go in order?
Beth Demme (09:29):
I mean, I haven't picked a ton of juries, but when I've picked it, you have to start at juror number one and you take the first seven eligible people. But in this case, jury selection went a little bit differently. And so, the first seven eligible female jurors were selected. So it was-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:55):
Because it's a gender discrimination case.
Beth Demme (09:56):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:57):
So she got to stack the deck.
Beth Demme (09:58):
Right. And it was just a one day trial because there was no defendant. So on the day of trial, there was a female judge, a female plaintiff, a female plaintiff's counsel, and an all-female jury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:13):
Wow. Okay. So you show up on Monday for the trial?
Beth Demme (10:20):
Show up on Monday for the trial.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:22):
And both lawyers were there?
Beth Demme (10:24):
No, still just the plaintiff. The defendant never showed up, which we all received as another way to dismiss this woman who was claiming she had been discriminated against, because you don't even have the courtesy to participate in the lawsuit or not courtesy but responsibility.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:45):
It's admission of guilt, like they know they're guilty so they're not going to try to defend it.
Beth Demme (10:50):
Yeah, maybe. And it did work out that the judge did direct a verdict. So the judge determined that they were liable because they defaulted. We didn't have to decide any of that. We only had to decide if she had been damaged and to what extent.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:06):
Okay. I have a question that I just thought of. A juror is in a jury, isn't the wording of it is "a jury of your peers"?
Beth Demme (11:15):
That is the wording of it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:16):
That's the wording. Okay. Who determines who your peers are? I consider my peers people my age like me.
Beth Demme (11:25):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:26):
But that's not a jury?
Beth Demme (11:27):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:29):
A jury is just people that live in your town, right? Have nothing to do with the age of you that-
Beth Demme (11:35):
Yes. They used to pull-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:37):
Why do they call it peers then?
Beth Demme (11:38):
They used to pull the panel, the potential jurors from registered voters. And then they decided that maybe that's why some people weren't registering to vote. So now they just do it by, I think, driver's license. So if you have a driver's license that is for our county, then your name is always in the pot as a potential juror. And so, a jury of your peers would be people who live in your county, basically.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:05):
Yeah. But they really need to change that wording. Because to me, a jury of my peers would have a different outcome than a jury of people that live near me.
Beth Demme (12:12):
Well, there was a time that a jury of your peers was only going to be white men who own land, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:17):
Yeah. But why is that even the wording? Because that is not what it is, a jury of your peers. It needs to just be a jury of citizens in your town.
Beth Demme (12:24):
I don't know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:26):
Because if it's your peers, then when it's a race case, it should be people that are all the same race as you.
Beth Demme (12:33):
I mean, that language jury of your peers goes all the way back to the Magna Carta. I mean, it's pretty old but also well-established language that's been interpreted in some way different ways.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:42):
But does it make sense though. I'm not saying it needs to be "of your peers," but I think that wording makes no sense, because it's not your peers. It was in this case because she got to stack the deck.
Beth Demme (12:56):
And I mean, I think the same thing happens with the word "neighbor." When we think about love your neighbor as yourself, we don't just mean that people who live on either side of you. We mean your neighbor as in your fellow human.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:08):
Yeah. But that's not a legal term. That's like a God thing.
Beth Demme (13:12):
Right. But I'm just thinking what they could replace peer with.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:15):
A jury of random people in your town.
Beth Demme (13:18):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:19):
Beth Demme (13:19):
It doesn't sound good.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:21):
It doesn't matter whether it sounds good. It's true.
Beth Demme (13:24):
I liked jury of your peers. I just think you're being too literal with the vernacular to use-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:30):
Beth Demme (13:31):
... of the word peers.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:32):
But it's true. It's not your peers. It might be your peers, but it's not your peers.
Beth Demme (13:39):
I don't know what to say.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:42):
Do you agree that those aren't your peers?
Beth Demme (13:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:45):
Beth Demme (13:47):
Because I think people who live in your town can be considered your peers. It's as opposed to you're going to bring somebody in who lives four states away.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:55):
So you're taking peer to mean something in common and the thing you have in common is that you live in the same town?
Beth Demme (14:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:02):
So you're defining peer as someone that lives in your town.
Beth Demme (14:06):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:06):
Okay. You didn't say that. I interpreted.
Beth Demme (14:09):
No, that's good. You've done a good job of putting words to my thoughts.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:15):
I don't think you had the best defense here, but I helped you out. You're welcome. Lawyer. Your excuse was, "Nope, I don't know what to say."
Beth Demme (14:26):
I didn't know what to say.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:27):
That was your defense.
Beth Demme (14:29):
That is a jury of your peers.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:30):
I feel you could defend that way better, but okay. Okay, I'll cut all that out. So now we're back to... So you decide damages. And so, basic money, you're going to figure out how much money she gets for what happened.
Beth Demme (14:45):
So she had two claims. One was that she had been discriminated against as a woman. So it was a gender discrimination claim. And then, also, that they had been negligent. So she was damaged by both of those.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:58):
Okay. So, we don't have to go into the details of the case. So, there's six of you, or seven, the alternative.
Beth Demme (15:05):
There's six and the alternate, she had to listen to everything and then didn't get to participate in our deliberations, which was kind of a bummer. I mean, it is possible for the court to have said, "Okay, well, let's just let the alternate stay." But they opted not to do that for whatever reason.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:20):
So you hear the case. So after you hear the case from one side, then you go-
Beth Demme (15:28):
There were only two witnesses. It only took a few hours.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:30):
And so then you go into a room.
Beth Demme (15:32):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:33):
Is it a tiny room?
Beth Demme (15:34):
It was a good size room.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:36):
Okay. Wearing mask?
Beth Demme (15:38):
We wore masks. And then we determined that we were all vaccinated. And so we said that if people wanted to take off their masks, they could. And because we had one person who was hearing-impaired, it was hard for her to understand us while we were masked. And so I ended up taking my mask off, because I wanted to be heard.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:58):
Beth, I can hear you masked or not, I just want to clarify that. So did everyone take their mask off?
Beth Demme (16:03):
No, not everyone. It was a really nice group of women.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:06):
Okay. Well, it's all women. Yeah.
Beth Demme (16:07):
Yeah, it was a really nice group of women. And I enjoyed our time together. And at the end of the day, I was really glad that I got to serve. But also it was eye-opening being in the deliberation room, because it was sort of all the things that lawyers speculate about happening like it really does happen.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:25):
Okay. Well, what are the things?
Beth Demme (16:27):
That people just post that out of nowhere and decide the case based on things that no one ever said.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:37):
So filled in the blanks for themselves?
Beth Demme (16:39):
Yes. This is the best example of it. There was one point at which this one part of the case wasn't clear. The fact pattern wasn't clear. And the ringleader of the gender discrimination worked a different shift than the plaintiff. And so we were trying to understand how did somebody who didn't work at the same time, how was he so instrumental in discriminating against her?
Beth Demme (17:04):
And so, then somebody just decided, "Oh, well, they must've worked overlapping shifts." We never heard evidence of that. Yeah, but it makes sense. It makes sense that that must be how. But guys, remember, when the judge said we have to look at the evidence and we have to make our decision based on the evidence? The judge had read the jury instructions but we also each individually had a copy. And so I was like, "Because remember, see here, it says on the page about the evidence?" Anyway.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:32):
So did they know you were a lawyer?
Beth Demme (17:34):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:36):
So, do you feel like you were the one continuing to keep them on track of what the judge said? Because it sounds like they were trying to take it to a different level, but you were like, "Oh, the judge said the facts?"
Beth Demme (17:49):
Yeah, to a certain extent I was. And I felt a little bit bad about it at times because I was typically on the other side of the equation when I was practicing law, I was a defense attorney. And so, it was hard not to go into defense attorney mode and be like-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:05):
Yeah. So you were being the other side?
Beth Demme (18:07):
Right. And there was no other side there. That was also not appropriate for me to do, just step in and try to be the defendant. I didn't want to do that. And ultimately, I think that we made the right decisions.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:20):
Would it have been done an hour earlier if you were on the jury?
Beth Demme (18:26):
Without a doubt.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:27):
Beth Demme (18:29):
It was such a short trial that when they took us in for deliberations, it was almost lunchtime. And the bailiff said, "You guys probably don't need lunch, right? If you think you'll be here like 45 minutes or more, then we'll order you lunch. But if you don't think you'll need that kind of time, then you could just say what you need to say and then we'll move on." And we deliberated for more than two hours.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:49):
Wow. Because you also had to come up with a number, the money that she was awarded?
Beth Demme (18:55):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:55):
That wasn't just like guilty or not. You had a lot of work.
Beth Demme (18:59):
Yeah. So there were two claims. Like I said, a gender discrimination and a negligence claim. And then we had to figure out what amount of damage she had suffered in the past and what amount of damage we thought she would continue to suffer in the future. And that was another problem for me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:13):
Beth Demme (19:14):
Because there was a specific instruction that said when you are considering future damages, you must consider the present value of those future damages. And when I had cases, we always had an expert come in and tell the jury this is what a reasonable number would be. And then when you figure the present value of that, it's this, because money will be worth less in the future. That's just a principle of how money works.
Beth Demme (19:40):
The future value of money is less than the present value of money. You don't want to shortchange somebody and you also don't want to unduly enrich someone. So I got stuck on that. I was like, "I don't know how we're going to do this." And then finally, I had to just let it go because we had to use the information we were given and we weren't given that information.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:58):
So did they get you lunch?
Beth Demme (20:00):
So we did get lunch.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:01):
And I assume it was something really nice because-
Beth Demme (20:03):
Let me tell you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:04):
... you had to put a lot of work into this.
Beth Demme (20:06):
I am trying to be better to myself, so I'm trying to eat more vegetables. So I decided I was going to order a salad.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:13):
Beth Demme (20:15):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:15):
We did a whole episode you bashing salad. Literally, I was afraid to tell you I had a salad for lunch because you were like, "Salad is the worst. If it was a person, it would be in jail."
Beth Demme (20:27):
Well, I am making an effort to be an adult. And so, I was trying to eat more vegetables and I ordered a Greek salad, because normally I really like Greek salads. So I ordered a Greek salad and it had romaine lettuce and it had cucumber and tomato and some onion and some feta cheese. I really like the feta cheese. But in addition to all of those things that I'm used to having on a Greek salad, it also had pickles, which by the way I like pickles. So I picked them off and eat them separately. But the thing that really stumped me were the jalapenos. I've never had a Greek salad with jalapenos.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:00):
Like cut-up jalapenos, sliced like you'd have on nachos?
Beth Demme (21:04):
Yes, exactly. Like the sliced pickled jalapenos. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:09):
Greek salad. So, where was this from?
Beth Demme (21:12):
The courthouse. There's a snack bar place in the courthouse.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:16):
Beth Demme (21:17):
And we had to order from there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:18):
Beth Demme (21:18):
And so, yeah. I'm like, "Note to self, next time, just get a sandwich."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:22):
Beth Demme (21:23):
So, yeah. So we did get lunch and we did deliberate for a couple of hours as we ate our lunches.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:30):
So do you agree with the outcome?
Beth Demme (21:31):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:32):
And so you guys decided on a monetary thing?
Beth Demme (21:36):
We did. We decided on a monetary amount on the discrimination claim and on the negligence claim.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:41):
Did you agree with the amount that you guys gave?
Beth Demme (21:44):
I did. I mean, it was a unanimous decision, but there was a lot of discussion about it. And at one point I had to say, "I don't mind disagreeing with all of you. I hope that you don't mind that I'm disagreeing, but I really disagree."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:56):
So you basically were told pick a number out of the air and that's what all the jurors were doing? But you were not satisfied with that. You wanted more. You wanted the evidence, you wanted the proof, you wanted them to tell you the number to give you guidance. You were not okay with that? But everyone else was like, "Let's get this done."
Beth Demme (22:12):
Yes. Yeah. And the plaintiff's attorney had consistently given us a number of a $100 a day that that's what she had earned while she was working there and that that was what she lost when she could no longer work there as a result of the gender discrimination and the negligence. So, I was like, well, I didn't love that number, but I was like it's the only number we've got. And so when people were like, "Well, I think the numbers should be $150 a day," I was like, "I don't know why you think that. Where does that come from?" "Well, it comes from my guts." "Well, no, that's not right."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:47):
I want to clarify, Beth. We did a whole episode where you said that you need to trust your gut.
Beth Demme (22:52):
Trust your gut. That's right.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:53):
So, maybe we shouldn't dismiss her gut.
Beth Demme (22:56):
Right. And yet, there should be some evidence to support that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:01):
But the gut says what the gut says.
Beth Demme (23:03):
It's so true. It's so true. So, I just kept pushing back and saying, "Well, I didn't hear that. Did I miss a piece of testimony?" It's possible that I zoned out or something and missed something, so I just kept asking a lot of questions. And ultimately, I think that we came to a fair decision, although I doubt that the plaintiff will ever get any of the money that we awarded her.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:28):
Okay. There was a lot you just said there. Number one, based on this conversation, I don't think it's good to have a lawyer on a jury, especially if it's Beth Demme.
Beth Demme (23:38):
Hey, hey, hey.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:41):
I don't know. Actually, I really can't say. I don't know if I would have been the Beth in the situation myself, like if I would've been like, "Wait a minute, we didn't hear that."
Beth Demme (23:48):
Well, I will tell you. Once I said that, once I spoke up, I'm picturing the room in my mind. And so we were basically sitting in... It was a square but picture it like a circle. And I was kind of in the middle. And once I said that, the two women to my left were like, "Yeah, I didn't hear that either."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:06):
Yeah. Sometimes you need somebody to-
Beth Demme (24:08):
Yeah, kind of gave voice to a different opinion.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:11):
And you had even more weight because you were a lawyer, I think, in a good way. Not in a bad way.
Beth Demme (24:16):
Yeah. I was definitely not willing to just go along with this. I was like, "Come on, you guys. Come on."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:20):
Yeah. And I don't know. I can't say how I would have been either. And I didn't hear all the evidence and everything. But the big thing I just heard you say is, "Wait, she's not going to get the money?" I don't understand. What does that mean? What's the whole point of wasting everyone's time and getting a jalapeno salad?
Beth Demme (24:36):
Yeah, jalapeno Greek salad. So what normally happens in a lawsuit, I mean, most of the time, you sue somebody and they have insurance.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:47):
And insurance pays it?
Beth Demme (24:48):
And the insurance pays it. Which is why there's usually a lawyer representing the defendant, because usually there's an insurance policy that provides that as a benefit. That didn't happen in this case. So then you think, "Okay. Well, there's no insurance. So, she would have to recover against this corporation." But even by the time we got the case, the corporation had changed names three or four times. So they were all listed as defendants. And I just got the impression from the facts of the case that this is not a corporation that has any significant assets.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:21):
What kind of businesses is it?
Beth Demme (25:22):
It was a taxi company. So what happened is the negligence claim part was that they gave her a taxi cab that ultimately caught on fire. And so, yeah, no, it was bad. It was really bad. And then she had a passenger, a pregnant passenger, at the time that it caught on fire. And that woman actually testified. She was like, "I never felt safe in their cabs. But there wasn't anybody else I could call." She didn't say that but that was my assumption.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:47):
Is she going in a hospital to give birth?
Beth Demme (25:48):
No, she was trying to get from work to home.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:50):
Oh my gosh.
Beth Demme (25:51):
She didn't have a car. And for whatever reason couldn't use Uber or Lyft. And so she would call this inexpensive cab company. And actually, she played the video that she'd taken on her cellphone of the car fully engulfed in flames, and you could hear her saying on the video like, "Their cabs are always bad."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:12):
Beth Demme (26:13):
"They just don't take care of their stuff. They just don't take care of people." So apparently, they're a sketchy company.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:22):
Was she and the baby okay?
Beth Demme (26:23):
Yeah. Everybody was physically okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:25):
But the car itself caught on fire?
Beth Demme (26:27):
Yeah, caught on fire.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:28):
Oh my gosh.
Beth Demme (26:30):
And then as that happened, all of the electronics in the car stopped working. And so they actually were trapped. And the plaintiff had to physically push her window down. She had left it cracked, she said, and she was able to force it down. And she reached out through the window and was able to unlock the door from the outside, then got out and got her passenger out. So it was a real thing. And it was traumatic to watch the video. So I'm sure living through it was traumatic. Okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:00):
I would have given her everything.
Beth Demme (27:01):
And I think it impacted her ability to work.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:04):
Yeah. And the trauma of that.
Beth Demme (27:06):
The trauma of it. And ultimately, she ended up-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:08):
And being sexually harassed at work on top of it. I believe it based on all of this.
Beth Demme (27:13):
And the day they gave her the cab that exploded was the day she reported the sexual harassment.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:18):
Oh my gosh.
Beth Demme (27:18):
And they changed her vehicle.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:20):
Two million dollars done. I don't need lunch.
Beth Demme (27:23):
You sound like those-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:24):
I don't need lunch. I don't need lunch, two million done. They're horrible people. She saved the life of the pregnant lady. She's a hero.
Beth Demme (27:33):
Two million dollars is a lot of money.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:35):
How much is a life worth? Two million is what I said.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:40):
So is that how much you awarded her?
Beth Demme (27:41):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:41):
More? No, four million less.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:45):
Less than four million? Two million?
Beth Demme (27:48):
It was not in the millions at all. It was less than one million.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:51):
Oh my gosh. And it was ladies? Wow. Any of you guys, mothers? Did you know about the pregnant lady? Did you hear the evidence?
Beth Demme (27:58):
A hundred dollars a day is what the plaintiff's attorney told us.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:02):
You can't put a price tag on the mental wellbeing of that. There's three people involved.
Beth Demme (28:06):
No, no, no. No, no.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:07):
The driver, the passenger-
Beth Demme (28:10):
You couldn't give any damages for the passenger or the baby.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:12):
I know. But the driver, knowing that she had to save a mother and her baby, that is $2 million. I think that's pretty obvious.
Beth Demme (28:22):
So you don't even need any evidence? You just could just willy-nilly decide it?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:25):
You just told me the evidence. That was the evidence. You said there was a video. I trust you that there's a video.
Beth Demme (28:31):
There was a video. There was a video of the car on fire.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:33):
I trust that you really told a great story. So I feel like two million, yeah.
Beth Demme (28:37):
I don't know that a $2 million verdict would have been sustainable.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:43):
What do you mean?
Beth Demme (28:44):
Well, because the court can review the verdict after the end and say, "There really was no evidence for that." And then you end up losing everything.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:52):
Yeah. I don't know. Obviously, I would have had to hear everything and I would take it all into consideration. But I can't even imagine how to figure out a number.
Beth Demme (29:02):
Right. How do you put a number on pain and suffering?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:05):
Yeah. Well, you did, I guess.
Beth Demme (29:07):
We sure did.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:07):
It wasn't enough but you did, I guess.
Beth Demme (29:11):
So, all of that is to get back to the question of why do I not think she'll recover it? I think because they're a sketchy company and they don't have any assets.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:17):
Why is that company still around? How is it not getting closed for this if they can't pay her? See, that makes most-
Beth Demme (29:22):
Maybe they will. Maybe the plaintiff's attorney will be able to-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:26):
So it's possible?
Beth Demme (29:26):
Yeah, it's possible. It's possible that she'll be able to seize the assets and-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:29):
Follow up and let us know.
Beth Demme (29:33):
Although I groused about it before I went, ultimately, I was really glad that I got to do it and then I got to fulfill my civic duty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:42):
Beth Demme (29:42):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:43):
I heard that word before. Yeah. That's what they always say, you got to do your civic duty when you-
Beth Demme (29:47):
Do your civic duty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:48):
Is that relate to other things, though? Are there other things that are considered civic? I'm on the board of my homeowners association.
Beth Demme (29:55):
I think that's part of civic duty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:56):
And I don't get paid. I do get yelled at by people that think I get paid. No, no one thinks I get paid.
Beth Demme (30:02):
Yeah. I don't know why people do that to people who volunteer to be in-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:07):
It's so strange because, literally, there's four of us. We're giving of our time and we also pay dues just like everyone else. It's not like we don't even pay dues. There's no benefit for us but I just felt really strongly I wanted to... It's not a hard job but it needs to be done. I'm the treasurer. So we need to pay our bills. And I'm like, "I want to do it", because I have the ability to and I want to be able to provide that. And I want honest people on the board and I know I'm an honest person and I know that other people are good people. So, that's why I wanted to be on the board.
Beth Demme (30:35):
And you're doing it for the good of your whole neighborhood, not just for yourself individually.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:38):
Beth Demme (30:39):
So that's the idea of the civic duty is it's beyond you. It's in service of your whole community.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:45):
I guess volunteer work is like civic duty.
Beth Demme (30:47):
Yeah. And I think voting is a civic duty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:50):
Beth Demme (30:50):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:51):
I like doing that.
Beth Demme (30:52):
Yeah. I don't litter because I don't want my community to look trashy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:58):
Oh, giving blood?
Beth Demme (30:58):
I think that's part of civic pride.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:59):
Beth Demme (30:59):
Giving blood could be civic duty.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:00):
I donate blood.
Beth Demme (31:02):
That's for the good of the community. So being on a jury is just one example of that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:07):
Of a civic duty?
Beth Demme (31:07):
Of a civic duty. Yeah. I think even just reporting for jury duty is a civic duty and then actually coming and-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:14):
Yeah. But you have to. There's like legal things that say you have to. There's nothing legally holding me to my board or to donate blood. You have to do that or bad things will happen. I don't know what will happen, actually. But I know you mean-
Beth Demme (31:27):
Probably nothing will happen.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:29):
Yeah. But there are like things that say you have to.
Beth Demme (31:31):
Theoretically something could happen. So I'll just say that when a lawyer gets jury duty, I just don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Although, like I said, I am glad that I got to serve.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:45):
Well, thank you, Beth. That really made me uncomfortable. So I'm glad we had that conversation. No, actually I was like so interested because I've never been on a jury. And so I wanted to hear more of your story. And it does seem interesting to have a lawyer on a jury, which obviously you're not the first to have that happen because it's randomly selected.
Beth Demme (32:04):
Yeah. No. And I have friends who I know from practicing law who've been on juries. In fact, I have a friend who just recently was on a criminal jury. And that was interesting to hear, hear their story too.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:14):
So Monday, when you had jury duty, that day my mom got in the mail a jury summons.
Beth Demme (32:22):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:22):
But hers is on a Tuesday so that's the-
Beth Demme (32:24):
I think it would be criminal.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:25):
Beth Demme (32:27):
Or maybe Tuesday is a Grand Jury.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:30):
Oh my goodness. It's in June. So we'll find out.
Beth Demme (32:34):
Yeah, that'll be interesting.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:35):
Yeah, the Tuesday in June. So I wanted to revisit an episode we did a couple of weeks ago called Stranger Danger. So, we were talking about how it's very unlikely that a kid is just going to be taken and put into a van.
Beth Demme (32:48):
By a dude in a white van
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:48):
By a dude. It really never happens. And lo and behold, where Beth lived, Pensacola where you grew up-
Beth Demme (32:56):
Yeah, Pensacola, my hometown.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:56):
... you saw this local video from there where there's a guy in a white van, tried to take this 11-year-old. And she fought back.
Beth Demme (33:07):
She fought back.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:08):
And he got spooked. And he had a knife to her throat, let's clarify. Oh my goodness.
Beth Demme (33:14):
She really truly defended herself and fought this guy off. And it was really terrible, because he had stopped at her bus stop earlier a couple of weeks earlier. And she had reported it to the principal.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:24):
And her mom.
Beth Demme (33:25):
And her mom and no one did anything. And he must've been casing it, because this was the first day her mom hadn't stayed with her at the bus stop.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:32):
And so the mom had been going every day. Except this day, she had a young one-year-old, so she had to tend to the one-year-old this one day and that's why she didn't walk her. So you sent me that in the local news clip. And then, just a couple of days later, I saw the national news. I picked it up and had even more to say about it and which is so interesting. And they interviewed the girl, oh my gosh, which was so cool. A couple news stations interviewed her and the mom. And I really liked the mom said... She was saying how this one day she didn't go with her daughter. And she said it really tore her up. But ultimately she knows it's not her daughter's fault. It's not her fault. It's that man's fault.
Beth Demme (34:06):
That's true. That's true. It's that guy's fault.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:08):
I thought that was a good realization.
Beth Demme (34:10):
And the police were able to find him and capture him.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:12):
Yes, yes, they caught him. One really cool thing is she was playing with slime at the time at the bus stop and she got slime on his arm. And so it was still on his arm when the police found him. So that was easy evidence to show that. And also he spray-painted his bumper. And they could tell he had just spray-painted it because it had fresh paint on it, because that was his distinguishing factor of the white van.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:34):
It had a silver bumper or something, something odd, I guess. And so, he had heard that on news and so he was trying to cover his tracks. But he best go away. He best be away. He has some other child cases in other states. So there's not details on what they are, but it's like you get this guy out of here. Get him out of here. But I just thought it was interesting because it was like, whoa, that's what we were talking about.
Beth Demme (34:57):
We were just like, okay, that's Stranger Danger, that's a rare thing that happens and then, boom, it happened.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:03):
That's the thing. Fight, fight, fight, fight for your life. That little girl, such a smart girl. And leaving evidence. Apparently her and her mom, I saw this in the interview, watched Law and Order and in Law and Order they talk about leaving evidence. And so, that's why she left the slime on his arm. That's what they said. But I was like, "Okay, that's a lot."
Beth Demme (35:24):
Whatever it takes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:24):
Whatever it takes.
Beth Demme (35:25):
I'm grateful she's okay. I'm glad that they caught him and that he won't be a danger to people anymore. And I think that it's an important lesson about believing kids when they say things like "A weirdo stopped at my bus stop."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:37):
Yeah. I know. I mean, that's such a cool thing to see that this girl was able to communicate that she felt uncomfortable to this guy, told her principal, told her mom. The next step was I would have hoped he would have been taken away before anything else happened. But ultimately, it's ended well, which most of these stories don't-
Beth Demme (35:59):
Yeah. Well, and good for her for not making herself an easy victim, which is why he got spooked and ran away.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:03):
Yeah. And also the slime might've just freaked him out, like "What is this?"
Beth Demme (36:08):
What [inaudible 00:36:08] be?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:08):
Yeah, I don't know. So that was not weird news. That was very serious news. But I'm curious, do you have weird news?
Beth Demme (36:18):
Well, I did find a story that I am perplexed by. And it happened in Florida. Often, weird news happens in Florida. Not in Pensacola where the girl was almost kidnapped, but in Martin County, which is down south, south of where we are.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:35):
Not much isn't.
Beth Demme (36:37):
Right, that's true. We are at the very top of this. But randomly, a chunk of ice fell onto somebody's house and crashed through their roof and then bounced off and landed outside. And I'll put a picture of it in the show notes. They have no idea where this chunk of ice came from.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:57):
Was it dropped from somewhere, in a plane or something?
Beth Demme (36:59):
It literally fell out of the sky. Punched a hole in the roof and then like I said bounced outside. And luckily, nobody was injured, but the police said they have no idea where this came from. The homeowners say they have no idea where this came from. Maybe like you said, maybe it was an airplane or maybe, I don't know, just ice formed in space. I know nothing about science. So somehow this ice formed maybe in a cloud, maybe it's like a giant piece of hail, but it was just one and there was no storm. So, very weird news happening in Florida that ice is falling from the sky and in people's homes.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:36):
Did it damage the roofs?
Beth Demme (37:37):
It did. It put a hole in the roof. So I'll put a link to that in the show notes in case you're curious what it looks like when a chunk of ice... A good size, you know?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:45):
Yeah. And if you're a Floridian, you may not know what a chunk of ice looks like. So this will be a whole new experience for you.
Beth Demme (37:50):
Is this what happens when it snows?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:52):
Chunks of ice don't fall. They're like-
Beth Demme (37:55):
I'm just kidding.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:55):
... beautiful little flakes.
Beth Demme (37:58):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:59):
And then they land on your hand and then you're just wet.
Beth Demme (38:01):
Right, because you melt them with your warmth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:04):
Yes. I know how snow works. At the end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer. And you can find a PDF on our Buy Me a Coffee page.
Beth Demme (38:22):
Number one, do you think it's a good thing, a bad thing, or neither, for a lawyer to be on a jury? Number two, what are your personal feelings about being summoned for jury duty? Number three, does our justice system seem fair and balanced to you? Did this conversation change how you feel about it? And number four, how do you feel about the concept of civic duty? Do you think other people feel the same way?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:48):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.
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Mental Health Advocate. Author. Podcast Host. DIYer. Greyhound Mom.
I'm a mom who laughs a lot, mainly at myself. #UMC Pastor, recent Seminary grad, public speaker, blogger, and sometimes lawyer. Learning to #LiveLoved.