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...


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Only one pair of bailiffs to keep track of all 14 of you at a time?

    we're extra-busy gearing up for Dreaded Inventory, which is Wednesday, and which I will now miss, bwahahahahahahaha!

    "Everything is present and accounted for, except for one 'Studious Chipmunk.' Turn the place upside down, we're going to have to start again..."

    He used words the average Joe Schmoe (and there were lots of them there) could understand.

    You mean in the jury, or the watchers?

    The Defense Attorney is kindly and personable; not sure if his friendliness is geniuine or calculated, but I could be over-analyzing things.

    The best way to keep people from figuring out whether your friendliness is calculated is for it to actually be genuine, so it was probably an unconscious process when he was learning how to use his natural friendliness to do his jury-swaying job better.

    I couldn't find anything about why you have to raise your right hand, so I'll just relate to you the urban legend that the practice originated from the ancient Romans being required to cup their testicles in their right hand while taking the oath, hence "testify."

    So there's no deliberation yet, right? I wonder how the whole leader/follower thing will work out, if that 20-year-old will really get his opinion heard.

    I read today that jury deliberations videotaped for study often included a discussion of that famous McDonald's lawsuit where the woman spilled coffee on herself and got $3 million. Just know that the suit wasn't necessarily that frivolous. The woman got third-degree burns that required skin grafts, McDonald's had settled hundreds of other burn cases, etc. Of course this is the trial lawyers' version, but it doesn't seem as plainly frivolous as it did on Jay Leno.

  3. Only one pair of bailiffs to keep track of all 14 of you at a time?

    Yeah, one pair at the hotel and one pair at the courthouse. We're a good bunch, so it works out quite well.

    You mean in the jury, or the watchers?

    Both. The people watching were really mostly just potential jurors, a tv cameraman, and a newspaper photo guy.

    he was learning how to use his natural friendliness

    I think the initial friendliness was all an act...he's really crabby now.

    So there's no deliberation yet, right? I wonder how the whole leader/follower thing will work out, if that 20-year-old will really get his opinion heard.

    No deliberation until we've heard the whole case. We can't talk about it at all. Actually, we could concievably elect the 20-yr-old to be Foreman...and he's definitely going to have his opinion heard.

    As for the McD's lawsuit you mentioned, that's really interesting that it comes up that often. I doubt it will in our case, since this is a criminal trial and we're not awarding anybody any money. We don't have to pass sentence either, just decide "guilty" or "not guilty"...


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