This weekly column took a holiday break and, as it happened, additional time off when the writer was selected to serve on a jury.
It was my first time as a juror, not including a previous stint as an alternate.
This was a misdemeanor DUI trial at the Tulare County courthouse in Visalia. Including jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony, evidence, cross examination, closing statements and jury deliberations, the trial lasted two days.
The facts were a little out of the ordinary in that police officers had been called to the scene for another reason involving the defendant and did not witness the alleged DUI, but learned that he had been at the wheel. He flunked the field sobriety test and his blood-alcohol level tested above the legal limit, so they arrested him.
Without exception, each juror carefully reviewed the evidence and drew his or her own conclusions based on all available information. That’s the way the jury system is supposed to work.
During deliberations, a question emerged for which the answer was not certain. We wrote a note to the judge asking to listen again to the testimony of a witness.
The request was granted. The court clerk played back an audio recording and we went back into deliberations.
In the end, 12 jurors unanimously found the defendant guilty.
“It is not easy to sit in judgment of another,” Judge Walter Gorelick said before excusing us. Very true.
It’s nice to be back in the saddle again reporting the news of Tulare and Kings counties.
NEWS FROM PEWS: The Diocese of Fresno has consolidated three parishes in Visalia and Goshen into one.
The new Good Shepherd Catholic Parish encompasses the former St. Mary’s, Holy Family and St. Thomas the Apostle parishes. Four churches are in the consolidated parish: Holy Family, St. Mary’s and St. Charles Borromeo in Visalia, and St. Thomas the Apostle in Goshen.
For priestly matters, the three parishes have operated as one for many years and most parishioners should not notice a change, said parish administrator and deacon Henry Medina.
The consolidation will streamline administrative tasks, he said.
The consolidation took place because of “the limited number of clergy available,” according to a decree of union issued under church law by Bishop Armando X. Ochoa, which took effect Jan. 10.
There are 10,000 families registered in the parish.
The new parish has four priests: Eric Swearingen, pastor; Alex Chavez, associate pastor; Victor Hernando, parochial vicar; and Jose Luis Varo, a retired priest who works part time.
VISALIA PARKWAY: Visalia Parkway has been punched through at Packwood Creek, creating new traffic patterns in south Visalia.
For years, the parkway ended at Packwood Creek, west of the Target shopping center on Mooney Boulevard.
Now a bridge goes across the creek, connecting Demaree Street to Mooney Boulevard.
The east-west street on the southern edge of the Target, Lowe’s and Costco shopping centers defines the southern boundary of major commercial development in Visalia.
FREE CLINIC: At the recommendation of the Tulare County Medical Society, Norcal Community Involvement Fund has donated $3,000 to the Samaritan Center Free Clinic in Visalia.
Norcal Mutual Insurance Co. provides malpractice insurance to doctors and has a fund to support good works.
The Samaritan Center serves 4,000 patients a year and provides free medical care for those without health insurance. It’s staffed by volunteer physicians, dentists, practitioners, registered nurses and others.