Thursday, May 26, 2005

I've got just a couple more thoughts on the trial that I want to post while they're fresh in my mind.

First, all the evidence in this case was circumstantial. There were no fingerprints, no conclusive footprints, no eyewitnesses. There were some footprints found and analyzed, and some fingerprints too. But none of them were conclusive--the fingerprints weren't even admitted as evidence. So this made our deliberations a lot tougher.

Second, here's my favorite quotation from the whole case. It's from when the defense attorney was cross-examining a witness who could remember most things from his contact with the defendant very clearly, but not everything. Finally, in exasperation, the defense attorney asked the witness: "Well, what are all the things that you don't remember?" Even the judge cracked up on that one!
The trial is over, and I'm home for good! Took two days less than the estimated four weeks, so I can't complain about the duration, eh?

We spent Monday hearing the prosecution's closing arguments (about 5 hours), the defense's closing arguments (about 1.5 hours), and the prosecution's rebuttal (about 45 min). All those facts got really exhausting; I can now tell you that we had to decide on 34 seperate charges. In the course of the trial, we heard more than 90 witnesses, saw more than 288 pieces of admitted evidence...and were dealing with events that took place over a 7-month time span. Keeping that all straight was pretty tough, believe me.

Tuesday morning, the judge read us the Jury Instructions and instructed us in the pertinent points of law. That took oh, maybe 45 minutes. Then guess what...they had to eliminate one of us, because the judge decided only 12 jurors would be deliberating and deciding. So the Court Clerk (not the same as Clerk of Courts) put all our names in a bingo-cage-like thing, cranked it around, and then drew one out. Guess who it was? The Token Male! Poor guy, he was pretty disappointed. So it was an all-female jury deliberating.

The bailiffs explained to us what proceedures we had to follow to request to see evidence exhibits, how to fill out the verdict form, etc. So we actually started deliberations around 10am, and continued straight through lunch until almost 5pm. And we weren't done yet!

We headed back to the hotel on Tuesday night, had supper, and I got to see Finding Neverland for the first time. Ahhhhhh, Johnny Depp!

This morning, we headed back into that jury room and re-started deliberations right away. We reached our final verdict around 11:30am. After lunch, which had already been ordered, we reassembled in the courtroom at 1pm. The Token Male got to sit with us in the jury box again. We handed our verdicts to the judge, who read them aloud individually. The defendent betrayed no emotions, and there were no theatrical outbursts from the gallery, which was completely packed, with people standing in the back.

We found him guilty on 26 charges, and not guilty on 8. The charges involved things like arson, burglary, theft, and some other things.

After the verdict had been read and verified, we went back into our jury room, and the judge came and talked to us for a while. He thanked us again for our sacrifice of nearly 4 weeks of our lives, our attentiveness during the proceedings, and for being such a pleasant group to work with. And he answered some questions we'd had that he couldn't answer before. Then the D.A., Assistant D.A., and a Detective Lieutenant that had been in charge of the investigation (and sat with the D.A. and her assistant every day, helping handle evidence and stuff) came in too. They told us a whole bunch of facts that really confirmed for us that we had found the truth of the matters and made the right decisions.

The local newspaper of that city provided copies for each of us jurors of every issue that had dealt with this case or our involvement in it. And that paper's reporter who had covered the case also interviewed four of us, including myself, the Token Male, and my friend V. We took our coach bus back to our drop-off point here in our own county, and my friend N dropped me off at our Crypt around 5:15pm. I got to see Cowboy off to work, then called home and talked to my folks about the case.

Now, I've been vegging out, trying to decompress and start readjusting to my usual life. And I'm staying up as late as I can to start getting back into my 3rd shift lifestyle. I called work and let them know I'm back, and they said I can take tomorrow night off and just return on Friday night, which I appreciate a lot.

As I told the reporter, it's been a fascinating and educational experience. I learned a lot of things about our judicial system, about things involved in the case itself, and I've made some neat friends. And yes, I would be willing to serve on another jury in the future. Eventually. Thankfully, having served on this trial means I'm exempt from even being called up for jury duty for a couple years.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Week Three was really really short! On Tuesday, our thoughtful judge told us that we could have a 3-day-weekend, and go home on Thursday afternoon instead of Friday. Why? Because Wednesday, the State rested its case, and the defense rested its case on Thursday morning. So I got home yesterday afternoon!

Next week we'll hear closing arguments, get jury instructions, and then begin deliberations! The judge has decided to only allow 12 jurors to deliberate, so after the closing arguments, they'll choose one of us randomly (basically pick one name out of the hat), and that juror will be semi-excused. They still have to hang around, but I guess they'll have limited freedom (like be allowed to go to the mall across the street, and maybe to the amazing 3-story county library just down the block that I have been aching to explore).

I'm not sure if I'm hoping to be in on the deliberations or not. I think that if I'm the one pulled out, I'll feel like I haven't gotten the full jury experience. But at the same time, it would probably be a big relief not to have to make such a huge decision. We won't have anything to do with sentencing, just deciding "guilty" or "not guilty", but it's still a big thing to decide. And I have no idea how long deliberations will take. We all get along pretty well so far, but we're a pretty diverse group, so who knows!

We got another outing this week! On Monday night, we all went bowling with our hotel-bailiffs. I bowled 66 the first game and 79 the second, which is pretty typical for me. We had really gloomy weather this week again, but we were able to go on our after-supper strolls most evenings. I only did yoga twice, which I suppose was okay considering I was there for a shortened week. But I've mysteriously gained 5 pounds, even though I ate more sensibly this week and snacked a lot less. Grr.

I've only got about 100 pages left to read in the Iliad, so I might at least get that finished. But I'm having too much fun in the evenings to work on my novel much, or my fanfic!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Week Two is over! It got off to a really bad start, when Banana and her husband (new nickname being considered for him) didn't come to pick me up on Sunday to take me to meet the coach bus. I tried calling their house and their cellphone, but they never answered. I still don't know what happened to them. Cowboy had to call in to work and tell them he'd be late so he could take me. I ended up being almost 10 minutes late, and I got yelled at by a deputy sheriff. You see, if we don't show up, they can legally put out a warrant for our arrest...

The rest of the week was better. I'd baked brownies for everyone, since most of the jurors except myself and the Token Male are mothers, and it was Mother's Day when we reassembled. So they forgave me for being a little late ;-)

We've lost one juror: one woman's husband got severely ill last weekend (he just got out of the hospital again on Friday, I think it was). So we're down to 13. Good thing none of us are superstitious!

We got to go on a field trip one day after court! We all went to a local art museum, which ordinarily closes at 4pm. They reopened it just for us, so we had the whole place to ourselves. That was pretty groovy.

It's rained almost every day this week, which curtailed our after-supper walks. We've managed to walk a bit after lunch quite often though; it rains more in the evening than the afternoon. I got to see The Terminal for the first time, which was fairly good. We also watched Runaway Jury and I, Robot, both of which I like a lot.

You know how I said the defense attorney seemed nice? Hah! He's vituperative in court! Maybe in real life he's nice, but he really lays into some of those witnesses. I keep expecting the DA to say, "Objection! Counsel is badgering the witness!" but they don't. Maybe it's only on Perry Mason that you can object to badgering.

They're feeding us far too well. I haven't gained any weight yet, but I think that's because I've been doing yoga in my room 3 times a week, taking daily walks, and swimming in the lovely hotel pool. And trying to make sensible food choices, like having granola cereal for breakfast instead of a Belgian waffle. But when we order lunch from Schlotzky's Deli, I just have to have a pastrami reuben, you know?

I've made two awesome friends: N, who is probably in her upper 40's; and V, who is in her lower 70's. The three of us hang out quite a bit, like when we go on walks or while we're riding the bus to and from the courthouse. The Token Male and I hang out some too, mostly because I'm the only one near his age and therefore the only one that doesn't try to mother him and tell him what to do all the time.

The judge told us on Friday that we are staying on schedule really well, and he anticipates only 2 more weeks...we're probably half done!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Week One of Jury Duty is over. They estimate we have three more weeks to go...

This was actually a shortened week for the trial. We were selected Monday, so on Tuesday morning at 9am, my fellow jurors and I got on a coach bus and rode 2 hours to the hotel where we're staying. We got checked in, did some unpacking, and had lunch. Then we went to court for the opening statements. The DA took forever--about 2 hours, I think! And then the defense attorney made a much shorter statement, maybe 20 minutes.

Wednesday-Friday we heard witnesses giving their testimony. Here's how the typical day runs:

7:30 Buffet breakfast in the hotel's restaurant.
8:20 Get on the bus, ride to the courthouse.
9:00 Enter courtroom, hear witnesses.
10:30 Take 10-minute break
10:40 Hear more witnesses.
12:00 Break for lunch--eat something from Schlotzkey's Deli, Subway, pizza, whatever.
1:00 More witnesses.
3:00 Another 10-minute break.
3:10 More witnesses again.
5:00 Leave court, get back on bus, go home to hotel.
6:00 Eat supper, either family-style in our communal lounge, or buffet in the restaurant.
7:00 Go on a walk outside with one of the bailiffs and about 5 other jurors.
8:00 Either watch a movie, play a board game, sit in the hot tub, or go read in my room.
10:30 Curfew! Have to be in our rooms then, and that's when our armed guard comes.

Obviously, that changes around a little, but it's a basic sketch. We are at all times and in all places accompanied by at least one bailiff (except in the bathroom or when we're in our own hotel room--we can't visit each other's rooms). This is to ensure that we do not discuss anything involving the trial...until the end of the trial when we get to deliberate. We don't have phones or radios or working tvs in our rooms, so we can't hear about the trial that way. There's a tv in our communal lounge, which we can watch CNN on with a bailiff present, and we can watch dvds and videotapes too. We can make phone calls from the lounge on the county's dime as long as we keep them short, and as long as a bailiff is present. And we can send and receive snail-mail, but the bailiffs have to read the letters we get first, to make sure we don't get contaminated by news of the trial that way either.

There are 14 of us on this jury: 13 women ranging in age from 25-75, and one 20-yr-old guy (who more than holds his own, let me tell you! Not a shy boy, no sir). I know juries are usually 12 people, but there are 14 of us so in case there's an emergency for one or two of us, there will still be 12 left to deliberate and make the verdict. If all 14 of us are still around by that time, I guess the judge gets to decide if all 14 of us will deliberate and decide, or if 2 of us will be randomly chosen not to be included.

In my spare time in the evenings this week, I started reading the Iliad, and also watched The Notebook, which was incredibly sappy. The costumes in the flashbacks were cool tho.

I do get to come home on the weekends, thank the Dear Lord. Cowboy picked me up a little after 6pm Friday night, at the drop-off point about 20 miles from our Crypt. I have to be back there to meet the bus at 6pm tonight, so I've only got about 5 more hours of freedom. I think I'll go tear all the weeds out of the little flowerplot by my front door and then next weekend I can plant something there.

If it wasn't for being away from Cowboy and missing him so awfully much, this would be totally fun! Like a really long slumber party with strangers...kinda like going to college, actually...

Monday, May 02, 2005

No more can I say "nothing interesting ever happens to me." I got selected for jury duty! Yeah...and at this point, I have not slept in 23+ forgive me if this gets random and incoherent...

I woke up at 7:15pm Sunday night, and went to work as usual (I work 10pm-7am, FYI). I left work about fifteen minutes late, because we're extra-busy gearing up for Dreaded Inventory, which is Wednesday, and which I will now miss, bwahahahahahahaha! I stopped at Starbucks on the way (well, a couple miles out of the way, really) to obtain caffeine and a blueberry scone. Got to the courthouse around 8:30am, and stayed there until 4:30pm.

It was much less scary than I'd expected. Actually, I was the most scared about finding the courthouse, because it's in a town I'm not familiar with. But I found it okay and got a good parking spot. The people there were all really nice, especially the bailiffs. The two bailiffs I interacted with were both ladies who are probably in their upper 60's at least. They and their husbands are bailiffs and sorta split the duties, like one couple will be on duty while we're at the court itself, and the other will be with us at the hotel. Of course, there were policemen around too. The judge seems very sensible and gives a good impression of knowledgability and fairness, without being overly stern. He used words the average Joe Schmoe (and there were lots of them there) could understand. The DA is very businesslike, but pleasant. The Defense Attorney is kindly and personable; not sure if his friendliness is geniuine or calculated, but I could be over-analyzing things.

What maybe surprised me the most is that the defendant was there! I kind of thought he might not be, I'm not sure why. I guess if I was on trial, I'd want to see who would be passing the verdict. He even took notes during the questioning, he didn't just sit there like a lump and scowl or pout or something.

Obviously, I can't tell you any particulars about the case or where it's being tried or any of that. I'm sworn to secrecy, actually and legally. I can tell you that it's not for this county though, but they're getting jurors from this county because there's been publicity about the case in his own county and they don't want that contaminating the jurors, you know? When they swore us in as jurors, we had to raise our right hands and all that, and I felt like I was being sworn in as a deputy sheriff in a Western or something. And what is up with that whole raising of the right hand--where does that come from? What does it really mean/symbolize/etc? I bet Noumenon or Cowboy can tell me...

I'm really really really tired and I think I'm finally dewired enough to go to sleep. I'm going to try to blog about this experience--but nothing about the actual trial of course--every weekend when I'm brought home...

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Tomorrow, Monday morning, my fate will be decided. In other words, that's when I go in for jury selection. I feel like that guy Damocles, with a big sword dangling over my head...