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inner workings, part 2

based on the previous day's "hurry up and wait" schedule, i was pretty sure that NOT getting there at precisely 9:00am would not have been a big deal. but, of course, i got there at 8:59am anyway and sat around outside the court room with my co-jurors for quite awhile. we were finally called in around 9:30am, and we settled in to hear closing arguments.
i should note that at the end of thursday's proceedings, i went home thinking we would be out on friday no later than lunch or so [and emailed my boss that opinion as well]. listen to a couple of persuasive speeches, deliberate the not guilty verdict for a little bit, then head back for an afternoon of work, right?
so for closing arguments, the pattern was prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, then prosecuting attorney's rebuttal argument. during the defense attorney's statements, there were some heated objections and reactions between the lawyers. a little after 10:00am, an objection came from the prosecuting attorney, and the defense lawyer at that point was becoming very frustrated and i am pretty sure starting to turn red. counsel approached the bench and it became apparent that this point of contention was going to take awhile. the judge decided to release the jury to our room adjoining the court room while they sorted things out; he, too, seemed flustered. up until this point the judge had always spoken very calmly and patiently. now, however, in the midst of two arguing lawyers, he abruptly and sternly addressed the jury and ordered us to neither leave the building nor talk about the case yet:
"go in your room, and stay in your room. and don't come out until we tell you."
after about an hour we were allowed back into the court room. the two attorneys finished their sales pitches, and then, it was up to us. the judge read us a dozen pages of instruction on the law [i.e. definitions of complicity, aiding and abetting, reasonable doubt, etc.], and what we were and were not allowed to focus on during our deliberations. we were released to our official jury room, selected a foreperson, and ordered pizza.
little did i know we would still be around for dinner.
up until this point, the twelve of us had sort of done the small talk thing and gotten to know one another a bit. some were professionals, some were in the service industry, some were entrepreneurs, some were stay-at-home parents. now we had an equal sense of purpose; a jury of peers. it was an interesting dynamic. and i would be lying if i said i was not convicted of my own prejudices regarding careers, education, intelligence and station in life. it's funny, the things you don't have to ponder when you're always surrounded by people who are just like you.
at some point early on in the afternoon, or maybe even the morning, or the day before, i completely forgot about how badly i had wanted to get out of this duty. i had accepted the inconvenience and my role as juror. i had come around to the novelty and change of pace. i was fascinated by the process, and the sheer simplicity and responsibility of our judicial system. i daresay i was almost a little excited at being part of the process.
i was in. 
we took several preliminary votes about every hour or so. things were split about evenly for awhile [i think i voted differently every time]. we continued debating the various aspects of the evidence, trying to find the elusive key that would unlock the case. as someone who has a need to know all the evidence before moving forward with any kind of decision, it was far more agonizing than i even imagined it would be. it was not a cut and dry case, and to make matters worse, there was absolutely no way we would ever know for sure, short of the defendant saying "yes, i helped him escape." which was obviously never going to happen.
"beyond a reasonable doubt." this phrase ate away at several of us. what is reasonable? what is unreasonable? a young woman's criminal record hung in the balance.
the room was getting dark, and we realized that if it was time for more light, it was about time for more food as well. we knocked on the door to get the bailiff's attention and were informed of our menu option. after putting our request in for the uptown wendy's, and before the food arrived, we somewhat surprisingly came to a unanimous decision.
we ate as we waited for all involved parties to return to the courthouse. eight hours after we had originally left the jury box, we filed back into the court room and sat before everyone as the guilty verdict was read by the judge. talk about awkward and surreal. we filed back out to the jury room, and the judge met with us, presumably for a little decompression and closure.
"just so you know, it's the oldest trick in the book for the jury to order food and then come up with a verdict," he joked. we asked a few questions and talked about the case and gave our opinions on things. as judge ward handed us some final paperwork and proof of jury duty for our employers, we marveled that he remembered every single one of our names. i was impressed. we were all impressed.
9pm on friday night: so ends the saga of mdog's jury service.
i am as surprised as anyone when i say that despite all of the annoyances and lost time at work and inconvenience... i would gladly serve again, in a heartbeat.
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 07:08PM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments6 Comments

Reader Comments (6)

You, ma'am, are a true American.

May 31, 2007 at 10:30PM | Unregistered Commentersuper des

apparently part 1 was more interesting than part 2...

Jun 1, 2007 at 11:04AM | Registered Commentermdog

I found part 2 interesting.

Nice narrative thread too. A little misdirection...a dramatic pause between the penultimate moment and the climax. Great pacing. You could write a courtroom drama and make beaucoup bucks.

Jun 1, 2007 at 11:20AM | Unregistered Commentermeegs

I found this to be very similar to my experience as well... although you wrote about it much my clearly than I would have! (wow... you should write a book or something)

I'm glad you found the experience positive...(BTW, we did the dinner than verdict thing too... I wonder if there is some subconscious thing there!)

Jun 1, 2007 at 11:29AM | Unregistered Commenterpaul

Great post m. I appreciate you taking us through the whole two days and especially how you changed in your view as you went through the process. Very enlightening! I have personally only been called to serve once and as we, the "pool" of jurors, hung around awaiting our chance to serve - they settled the case and we were quietly dismissed without ever stepping foot in the courtroom.

"it's funny, the things you don't have to ponder when you're always surrounded by people who are just like you." Profound quote of the post in lots of ways.

Jun 5, 2007 at 01:18PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

Wow. A guilty verdict. The facts must have been fairly clear for everyone to come to the same decision. I've always wondered what it would really take for me to be able to cast a guilty vote if I were in that position.
Very interesting.

Jun 5, 2007 at 04:37PM | Unregistered CommenterTB

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