“You’ve got mail! It’s a letter the Alberta Department of Justice.” Mr Soapbox solemnly passed me the envelope.
Yikes! It’s the PC thought police! I ripped it open and found…a Summons for Jury Duty.
Groan, this is even worse than the PC thought police! In typical Scarlett O’Hara fashion I tossed it on top of a stack of mail. I would think about it tomorrow.
Ten “tomorrows” later I remembered the Summons. The first thing I realized was that I was supposed to fill out the Juror Certification Form and return it to the Jury Management Office within five days. Great, I’m 5 days late and liable for a fine of up to $1000 and/or one month in jail.
The second thing I realized was that I (together with criminals and politicians) was excluded from jury duty because I’m a lawyer. Yippee!
The third thing I realized that I wanted to serve on a jury; not just to collect a whopping $50 a day plus expenses or to see what the other jurors were wearing (jurors must refrain from wearing extravagant, informal or distracting clothing (stripper gear?) or to experience the drama of being sequestered with a jury a la 12 Angry Men; I wanted to participate in the effective functioning of the justice system.
Assuming I could serve on a jury, would I have made the cut?
The prosecutor and defense counsel have the right to challenge any juror “for cause” for the reasons set out in the Criminal Code, including the delicately worded concern that “a juror is not indifferent between the Queen and the accused.*
The prosecutor and defense counsel are also allowed a number of peremptory challenges to reject prospective jurors without explanation. They get 20 challenges in a case of high treason or murder, 12 challenges if the accused is facing a sentence of five years or more and 4 challenges for an offense with a lesser sentence.*
The decision to use a peremptory challenge is tricky because the lawyers have very little information about a juror other than his/her name, residence and profession. Sometimes a lawyer may ask a juror if he has a racial bias or has been influenced by pre-trial publicity, but that’s about it.
So jury selection boils down to the lawyers’ gut instinct and quirky biases.**
Some defence lawyers avoid engineers, accountants, well-dressed men over 50 and blue-collar workers because they’re thought to be narrow minded and prone to convict. Some prosecutors avoid teachers and social workers for fear that they’re “bleeding hearts”.
Eddie Greenspan, the well known criminal defense lawyer who (unsuccessfully) defended Conrad Black, says this is poppycock. “… if you pick the first 12 jurors, you’re probably not going to do much better than if you start applying these nonsensical…rules.”
When I was a law student I spent a summer at the Crown Prosecutor’s office. The highlight of the summer was a rape case—a woman alleged that she’d been raped by her neighbour—the prosecutor asked me and a fellow law student to assist him at the trial.
The prosecutor walked the woman through her evidence while the accused sat terrified and as still as a stone in the prisoner’s box. There was clear evidence of intercourse. The critical question was: did she consent? Her testimony was unequivocal: No.
Just before defense counsel started his cross examination he passed a glass of water to the accused. Remember the water…it’s important. Under defense counsel’s cross examination it became obvious that these two knew each other very well. They were both married and the two couples socialized with each other most weekends. Drinking was a major part of their entertainment.
On the night of the alleged rape, the woman invited the accused over for a drink. Her husband was working late; his wife was not available. Somehow they ended up in bed. She wasn’t sure how they got there but she was pretty sure she hadn’t consented.
Now this is where the water comes in. When the accused accepted the water glass from his counsel he set it down on the edge of the prisoner’s box. As he reached for the glass to take a sip of water he noticed a water stain on the wooden barrier. Clutching his sleeve he carefully wiped it away and held the glass in his lap for the duration of his accuser’s testimony.
The defense counsel finished his cross examination and it was time for the judge to instruct the jury—the prosecutor must prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jurors’ decision must be unanimous, etc. With that the jury was sent away to deliberate.
The prosecutor guessed that the jury would return quickly and it did. The accused stood to hear the verdict—Not Guilty. His eyes filled with tears. He hugged his wife who was also crying and who’d been in the courtroom every day of the trial.
The prosecutor turned to me and my fellow law student and asked: What do you think?
We both thought it was the right verdict and we were very relieved the man wouldn’t be sent to prison as a convicted rapist.
In Canada, unlike the US, the lawyers are not allowed to “poll” the jury to find out why they decided the way they did so I never found out whether the factors that influenced me also influenced them. All I know is that I didn’t believe the woman when she said she had not given her consent and there is something about a man who carefully wipes away a water stain when he’s on trial for rape.
The serendipity of that moment struck me. Defense counsel hadn’t set it up; there was no guarantee that the jurors would catch it or put any stock in it; it just happened.
If something as innocuous as a glass of water can tip the balance between freedom and incarceration, then surely Eddie Greenspan is right—it is impossible to pin down what kind of juror will acquit or convict. And furthermore every qualified Canadian must be given the opportunity to serve on a jury—it’s the only way to ensure that an accused will be tried by a jury of his peers.
Which leads me back to where we started: Should lawyers be excluded from jury duty?
*Criminal Code, RSC, C-34, sections 634 – 638.
That was a great story. Twelve Angry Men has always been one of my favourite plays. Probably doesn’t hurt that Henry Fonda starred. I think only blue-collar lawyers should be restricted from jury duty.
That’s a perfect rule. The trick will be to get those blue-collar lawyers to identify themselves. We all know how snooty lawyers can be! 🙂
No, I don’t think lawyers should be excluded. Just because you have the rule book does not necessarily mean you will slant one way or the other. Like you mentioned some lawyers “think” a certain group of people are prone to convict or be bleeding hearts it does not mean they are. We would have no one on the jury if all the “whatifs” applied. I always said I would be a horrible mother to a handicapped child because I would feel sorry for the child and let them do whatever they wanted but who knows, until you are actually put in the position you have no idea what you will do.
We all assume things and how many times are we right? I’m with Eddie Greenspan, you never know. Pick a juror and hope nothing happens that will influence them, one way or another, from the time you pick them until the end of the trial. There’s your odds.
Rose Marie, I think you’ve identified the concern some people have about lawyers being on the jury–that they have the rule book and as a result will sway the jury. But that simply doesn’t give enough credit to all the other jurors who are very capable of making up their own minds. This isn’t an issue in the US where they allow lawyers to be on juries; and since almost all trials (criminal and civil) are jury trials in the US most US lawyers are called for jury duty at some point or another in their legal careers. I think that it’s contrary to natural justice to exclude an entire group of the population simply because of their profession.
I agree with Rose that we make assumptions ahead of time, especially about who we think people are and what they are like, and only some of the time do those assumptions turn out to be true, often serendipitously. Everyone is influenced by whatever forces in their life came before that moment — personality, family, education, etc — but not necessarily what category they can be arbitrarily slotted into. If it were true that all persons in each possible category thought and felt exactly alike, then we’d all be like zombies; there’d be no individuality or range of opinions. And we know different lawyers have different opinions, right? so yes, lawyers should be allowed to serve on juries, just as any other citizens. Think of what a rich background of education, experience and logical thought a lawyer could add to the mix of jury deliberations.
Absolutely right Liane: diversity in thought is critical in order to get to the right decision. The worst decisions, individually, corporately or politically are made by bull-headed people who won’t countenance a contrary point of view. And the hardest thing in the world is to be that lone dissenting voice in the crowd trying to bring forward a different perspective. That’s why it’s so strange to me that the Canadian justice system (which I’ve always viewed as more equitable and balanced than its US counterpart) doesn’t allow law students, practicing lawyers or retired lawyers to be on juries. It smacks of misguided paternalism to me.
Very good discussion and me thinks lawyers absolutely should not be on juries on a/c of the way they are trained to think at law school. I have two brothers who where lawyers (one in partnership with Mr. Harradence in Calgary) ( and another who quit practising to head the alberta film development Corp.) and his wife also a lawyer headed up the law library at the univ. of Alberta. In any case I found over the years that in any argument they always won on a/c of there thought process in convincing anyone to there point of view and with juries I believe they would be even more persuasive as they have shown they didnt even have the ability to get out of jury duty which means a lawyer would walk all over them in jury duty. I was exempt from jury duty on a/c of the responsibilitys in my job and am thankful for that as I know I am to red necky not to be biased.
Thanks Tom. Sounds like your brothers would be formidable in a jury room. In my 26 years at the bar I’ve met two kinds of lawyers–those who are persuasive and well-spoken like your brothers and those who couldn’t convince a two year old to hand over a used cheerio. I’ll refrain from saying anything about tax lawyers who make absolutely no sense whatsoever. I’ve also met many non-lawyers who are wonderfully persuasive.
You can tell from my post that I’d like to see all of these people (including the tax lawyer) in the jury room, provided that they’re unbiased and prepared to hear all of the evidence before making up their minds.
So we’ll let the dialogue run for the rest of the week. Right now we’ve got 3 votes (Susan, Rose, Liane) in favour of lawyers on the jury, one vote (Tom) against and one vote (Will) to let the blue-collar lawyers on the jury (I’ll count that as an abstention unless the rest of the jury disagrees with me). It’ll be interesting to see where we end up by the end of the week.
This is a neat story.
I suppose the major idea I got out of it was not who should serve on juries but this part::
The serendipity of that moment struck me. Defense counsel hadn’t set it up; there was no guarantee that the jurors would catch it or put any stock in it; it just happened.
I suppose pivotal moments happen just like that.
A habitual gesture speaking of careful attention and consciousness in behavior and the contrast between this sense of the man being present to the act of supposed unconscious reptilian behavior that constitutes a lack of control in the act of rape.
The difference in control in the two states is stark.
The type of man who was careful to not stain a piece of public property with water is not the type of man who would rape a woman.
These sorts of moments that you speak of as “serendipity” moments happen more frequently than I ever expect.
But I call them pivotal moments and they turn you from one kind of life to another kind of life.
I take these pivotal moments and run with them as long as I can.
Think of all the serendipity in a life.
A man turns to you with his blue eyes and you recognize the future spouse.
Or a baby is handed to you and there you go—– its game over and you would defend that child to the grave.
In this case, the man’s wife standing by him even when he made a marriage busting mistake (the sort of mistake that no one would admit they might make but we are all vulnerable) and a small pivotal act of a glass of water given to him that showed his true nature (foolish, very human, but not criminal) and a jury understands right away the nature of the situation. There was no rape. There was temptation and a loss of control and self-discipline but certainly one does not go to jail for this matter or all our politicians would be in jail right now.
I hope you tell us more of these sorts of stories because we need to see what is under the surface and right now –it might be useful to have lawyers in every jury—simply because it takes such a long time for ordinary people without training in politics and human nature to wake up to what lies under the surface.
Some of us never wake up to see what is under the surface.
Julie, I love your perspective and yes, you’re right, that pivotal act of a glass of water impacted his destiny. I certainly saw him as you’ve described him–a foolish man lacking self discipline, but not a rapist–and the jury saw him the same way. How lucky he was that his lawyer passed him the glass of water when he did…serendipity.
Your description of pivotal moments is haunting and when I think about it many of the pivotal moments I remember are quite mundane and yet they take on a special aura. A friend said that those moments are as close as he gets to understanding the universe. I think that’s because those moments are perfect, absolutely perfect.
Thank you for your thought provoking comment Julie.
My concern, is that a lawyer as a jury member may try to influence the jury. Lawyers are excellent debaters. They make their living arguing their clients`s case. For those who may be less experienced in the art of debate or argument, could they be swayed? Is that a possibility? Being a juror is not a glamorous job. I`ve had co-workers say they were disappointed because they didn`t get picked. Be careful what you wish for. I hope I never get picked as a juror. It has nothing to do with inconvenience, it has to do with responsibility, determing the fate of another.
I remember when I worked as a Legal Assistant at the Nanaimo Crown Counsel Office, I was in charge of Supreme Court, where all serious files, such as murders, b&e, b&e and committing theft; sexual assaults; aggravated assault, manslaughters, and remember, murders involving children were all heard in Supreme Court because they are indicatable offences in which the accused, if found guilty, would be sentenced to federal time. I remember the books of photographs we would put together as evidence which would be shown to the jury. I remember going to the printers and WARNING the govt approved staff that these photos are graphic. Some of our murder trials went for months. I applaud the individuals who do serve as jury members. I got a little off topic, again, I don`t believe lawyers should be jurors–a totally personal opinion. Thank you Susan for raising the question.
Joanna, I agree with your points about the seriousness of these cases and the gravity of the obligation a juror takes on. Potential jurors who don’t feel they could render an impartial decision because of their experience or profession should do exactly what Liane said and step aside.
But I hold to my position that lawyers shouldn’t be excluded simply because they’ve got legal training. The assumption underlying this rule appears to be that lawyers would unfairly use their skills to sway the jury, but I don’t think this would be the case. Every juror will make up his mind and then try to convince those voting against him to change their minds. Eventually the entire jury will either agree on a verdict or reach a stalemate in which case you have a hung jury (and you’re right Jo, a criminal jury has to come out with a unanimous verdict). I’ve debated with my sisters and I know for a fact that just because I’m a lawyer doesn’t mean that I win every argument!
Hey Susan. Gosh, your blog has dug up memories. Criminal lawyers out there please correct me if I`m wrong, but I thought a jury had to be all in favor. You can`t have 8 saying guilty, and 4 not guilty, you need all 12 saying guilty, or else you have a hung jury. I remember that happening once in Nanaimo.
Yep, you’re absolutely right Joanna…lawyers hate it when that happens!
While I would welcome doing my civic duty, as Champspersonaltraining points out, there are some aspects of more serious trials that could be very personally distressing to deal with and I’ve often wondered how I would handle those if in that situation. On Champs’ other point, though, not all lawyers are litigators who do spend their days debating and so that is not grounds to exclude them. Similarly, as a social worker, I could ask to be excluded from some trials involving child or family matters on the basis of being a so-called “expert” but would feel that is shirking my duty – however I do have colleagues who have used that excuse.
Liane, I agree with both of your points. The strange thing is that you don’t always know exactly what the case will involve. The second trial I worked on involved two teenage boys who tried to buy drugs from a motorcycle gang. Bad idea. The meet was at a sleazy hotel. The gang attacked the boys in horrific ways and stole their money. Three gang members were arrested. The boys had to testify to everything that happened to them and identify the gang members in open court. Not easy when the gang members are scowling at you and the rest of the gang who weren’t on trial are cussing and swearing in the audience. The boys said that the gang leader (who denied even being there) had a distinctive tattoo on his upper arm.
At the break the prosecutor asked me and my fellow student whether he should ask the gang member to roll up his sleeve. We said yes of course, you need to know whether the boys identified the right guy. If it’s not him, he’s not guilty. After the break the prosecutor told the gang leader to roll up his sleeve. He did…and there it was, the tattoo. That synched it. The gang members were convicted.
The sentencing hearing happened a few weeks later. Every member of the gang showed up. The three guys paraded into court while their buddies in the audience cheered and hooted. The only other people in the court room were the lawyers, we two students, an ancient security guard and the judge who entered through a separate locked door. Just before the judge issued his sentence the prosecutor told us: Do not under any circumstances get into the elevator with these guys once this is over (no kidding!)
The gang members were sentenced to years in prison, the rest of their gang erupted into a show of swearing and waving their arms. The judge slipped out the back. We stood right next to (almost on top of) our prosecutor and everyone waited. The decrepit security guard walked to the court room door and opened it and then headed for the elevator. And amazingly the gang followed him and went down and out into the street without any more fussing. Scary!
The important point here is the tattoo–if it’s not there he’s not the guy and even though he’s an obnoxious pig, he’s not guilty and we need to let him go. Justice.
Interesting post this week. I agree with you that most Canadians should serve on a jury and $50 dollars a day is not as bad as it may sound because at least 1 billion people on this planet make due with less than $2.00 a day. I have never been asked to serve on a jury and I hope I am not because I do not really believe in our so called “justice” system. It is more of a money machine for some lawyers and a ego game of who is capable of winning even against all odds. People hire the best and most expensive lawyers to get them out of trouble and many times they are successful.
Justice to me is a totally different concept that seems to be almost ridiculous to even talk about.
Carlos, your point about justice being for sale to the highest bidder is true to some degree. According to Ohio State law prof Michelle Alexander, only 14% of the US population are black but black men make up 40% of the prison population. We have a similar situation in Canada–Aboriginals make up 2.7% of the adult Canadian population, but 18.5% of the prison population in federal prisons.
This imbalance is attributed to systemic discrimination and lack of finances which means that blacks and Aboriginals are unable to afford top notch legal representation. As such the odds are high that they’ll end up with legal aid, be found guilty or accept a plea bargain that includes incarceration.
Having said that, all the money in the world couldn’t keep Conrad Black out of jail!
Susan your description is not the only situation when the “justice” system is dubious. There are many cases of celebreties and elites that get around the worse outcome based on the amount of money they can spend in the case. You know that and I believe any non-aloof Canadian knows it. I work everyday with common people from all walks of the midlle and lower middle class and I can say positively that the opinion on our Justice system in general is not the greatest. People believe that it is better than many around the world but that does not mean that it is fair. Far from it.
Also I have to tell you that in the case of Conrad Black, according to the book ‘The Thieves of Bay Street’, he was never charged in Canada for what he actually did and he would never be due to the very lax Canadian laws and the biased atittude towards people that work in the financial industry and that carry a lot of weight. He was charged and encarcerated in the US not here. I do not know all the details of this case because I really do not have much interest in this subject anymore. In general, at the level of Conrad Blacks it is laughable. It is true that some cases do happen but that is just to convince people that stuff happens but most cases are dead in the water and the chances of these people being charged are basically nill. Read this book if you have not yet and I think that you will be surprised with what is going on in our country. I was and I am sure most people reading this blog would too.
So much interesting discussion on this topic! It never occurred to me that lawyers wouldn’t be allowed on juries. I got a summons to appear on jury duty in 1995, and what an amazing experience it turned out to be. It gave me an appreciation for the Canadian justice system, and how important “Law and Order” is to a society. We should never take this for granted. Being from a very different background (health care) it was very educational to see how the whole legal system works, from the big “pooh-bahs” (judges) to the sheriffs who looked after us, (brought doughnuts to the jury room, and generally babysat us). What was so reassuring was how seriously everyone on the jury took their responsibility, following the judge’s guidance, lecturing, and in the end, appreciation. I wish that every citizen could experience this.
Elaine, you and a US lawyer I met years ago are the only two people I’ve ever known who’ve done jury duty. The US lawyer’s comment was the same as yours. He was impressed with his fellow jurors and said they took their responsibilities very seriously. Today I canvassed three of my fellow lawyers to get their views on whether lawyers should serve on a jury. All of them thought it would be an interesting experience, but could understand the concern raised by some of the others that lawyers might be able to influence the rest of the jurors due to their analytic and debating skills. One said (tongue in cheek) that lawyers tend to be so detail oriented that the wheels of justice would grind to a halt!
Susan I kind of agree with your friends comment but I think accountants would be worse than lawyers for detail. 🙂
There are other professions like researchers that have as much or more analytical skills than lawyers and as far as debating skills I would suggest that I doubt a lawyer could win against a person doing the door to door selling of different things all the way from religion to electrical marketing contracts. 🙂 All these are allowed in the jury pool.
It is interesting to hear the range of discussion on how and why lawyers should or should not be part of a jury. It might be worthwhile to do a bit of historical research into what the logic and context was when lawyers were first excluded however many years ago. Was it because they
were too overwhelming in their knowledge or skill sets, or was it because of who they associated with? Once we establish what that context might have been, we can decide if it is still relevant in today’s society.
Just because some lawyers can be eloquent and persuasive speakers should not be cause to eliminate them for jury duty. If that is the case, would we have to eliminate charming people? How about snake oil salesmen?
Lawyers have been taught a set of reasoning skills that apply a rational, logical approach to dissecting an issue. I find I need to be at the top of my “game” when I debate issues with Mrs. Soapbox as she keeps the discussion focussed and relevant. If I slip into an emotional argument (usually when I am losing the factual one), I am doomed.
If I am on trial and being judged by a jury, I would prefer to be judged based on a series of logical, rational and analytical arguments rather than being judged on some emotional triggers. Therefore, I would strongly support lawyers being thrown into the jury pool.
Dear Mr Soapbox…I can’t recall any discussion with you when you were not on top of your game!
OK, now to get serious…I too would prefer to be judged by a jury made up of logical, rational and analytical people, however that’s because I’m convinced that if I every ended up in front of a jury I’d be innocent and I’d want the jury to decide that on the facts without jumping to the wrong conclusion because they don’t like the colour of my eyes or something equally silly. I’ve seen instances where the flip side of this argument comes into play–an emotional jury grants a huge damage award to an idiot who used her blow dryer in the bath. The jury grants her a pile of money because, in their view, even though she was partially or completely to blame for the accident the manufacturer of the blow dryer has lots of insurance and can afford to pay. These sorts of decisions just encourage more frivolous law suits (we need only look south of the border to see where that can lead!)
Roy I agree with you that lawyers should be able to be in the jury pool. Despite what you have said about Mrs. Soapbox skills of not slip into an emotional argument I do not see that being any different than many other different atittudes of non-lawyers. I am sure that many unknown psychos have participated in juries.
In fact I would suggest that the no emotional argument is part of the problem in today’s courts. I believe that crimes are always emotional and have to have some degree of emotion in order to be justly resolved. Friends of mine that have participated in court cases told me that most disgusting feeling about the courts is that the places have nothing to do with human scale justice and seem to be run by robots that try to resolve cases purely based on facts that can be manipulated in many different ways depending on the lawyers skills.
One reason that the courts have realized that some degree of human emotion is required is the fact that victim impact statements are now allowed in certain cases. In my personal opinion, if anything the present system is too biased in favour of the criminal. Most of the funds and most of the personal protection is given to the criminals rather than the victims.
Wow, awesome blog Susan. Lot`s of discussion which is exactly what you want, even spin off discussions. People communicating from all around the world. I`m stepping aside from your original question about lawyers being allowed to serve on a jury, and I`m agreeing with Carlos. I remember a few files from when I worked at the prosecutor`s office (not as a lawyer but a legal assistant) when you had the stereotypical bad guy going to trial for a horrendous act, and then you had the business man (who had the $$ to pay for the big $$ defence lawyer) who had committed the same similar horrendous act, yet the business man gets a lesser sentence, or even no jail time because he feels remorse for his actions, is in counselling and most likely won`t re-offend. Yes, I`m sure there are lawyers out there who will wonder, so what`s my point? To me it`s not who you are, or how much $$ you have, it`s still the same horrendous act and because you`re wealthy, doesn`t entitle you to better treatment. Unfortunately, though that seems to be the case. Well Susan, I`m curious to read next week`s blog? Cheers. Jo
Dear Champs (may I call you Jo?) I agree 100%, it doesn’t matter who you are or how wealthy your family is, when you break the law you should suffer the same consequences as the little guy…but like we were saying earlier, it just doesn’t seem to work that way. The cases that bother me the most are the ones involving big investment banks that pushed fraudulent investment vehicles on the unsuspecting public, caused the global financial crisis and walked away with a slap on the wrist (if that). Shameful!
PS I too am curious about next week’s blog…(yikes!)
🙂 I like your PS 🙂 are we not so much trouble?
Sometimes coincidences make me wonder. This morning right after posting my last message to this blog I came across Lorne Gunter’s article on the Edmonton Sun titled ‘Technicalities Happen’. This is exactly the problem I have with what Roy calls the fact focused analysis that many lawyers I believe are trained for and believe in. In many cases they develop it to extreme levels that make them emotionless robots obcessed with winning an argument rather than doing justice. To me this is one of the problems with our so called justice system and reading this article will explain what I may not have been able to with my posts.
There were a number of interesting points in Carlos’ comments, I’ll touch on some of them here.
I agree that Redford’s ability to “win” an argument on a technicality is not the right way to govern this province. Governance and lawyering are two very different things. I also agree that Redford will probably be vindicated by the ethics commissioner in the tobacco litigation complaint. I think the ethics commissioner is looking at the wrong question…it’s not was she in a conflict-of-interest position when as justice minister she “recommended” that her ex-husband’s firm get the contract, but rather did she lie this fall when she said she didn’t make the decision in the first place. I’m not so sure she’ll succeed on the Katz political donations scandal but she’ll probably just get a slap on the wrist so there won’t be much personal impact. I do hope the reporter is correct when he says even if she skates past the ethics complaints her credibility will be damaged (assuming she has any left).
About the point that the system is biased in favour of the criminal…I remember a conversation I had with a class mate who really wanted to practice criminal law (she’s a judge now). She pointed out that it’s usually criminal cases, not civil cases, that set the boundaries for the state and protect all of our personal freedoms from being overrun by an out of control police force. The unfortunate part is that these very same protections will sometimes (perhaps too often) get a criminal off the hook as well. It’s one of the prices we pay for living in under this judicial system. Now having said that I don’t deny that some judges lose all common sense in their effort to ensure the rights of the accused are not violated.
About Carlos’ point that psychos, religious nuts and door to door salesman also end up on juries…I agree let’s throw them off and while we’re at it, let’s toss off those lunatics who can’t stop texting long enough to say excuse me when they run you over on the sidewalk. *Smile*