Monday, July 10, 2006

1(4) is the Loneliest Number that You'll Ever Do

I received a letter a week before the trial was to begin, instructing me where to park and at what time. Though the letter said court began at 9am, I arrived MUCH earlier, scared that I wouldn't be able to find the parking area (somewhere I'd never been before, but found surprisingly easily, thanks to Mapquest). I was at least an hour early and saw various people standing beneath a bus stop at the front of the humongous parking lot. Two things I noticed right away: [1] There were no benches at the bus stop (I came to the conclusion that it was a homeless person deterrent) and [2] the bus actually picked you up across the street. WTF? Not sure if I was to catch a particular bus or what (the letter just said we'd {the jurors for this case} would be picked up), I called the office of the bailiff assigned to the case and asked. The woman who answered (not the bailiff), just told me to catch the bus.

I went and stood under the bus stop awning, next to a woman who looked like she knew what she was doing, and struck up a conversation. It turns out she was one of the jurors on the same case as myself and she gave me the low-down; Since we'd already been assigned a court/case, we were to be picked up in ANOTHER vehicle, driven by the bailiffs. The people who were to catch the bus were people who hadn't been assigned courts yet. Whew! I was so glad she was there because I would have been on one of those busses otherwise (one of the other jurors actually did, which I can't blame him, the whole process wasn't explained very well at all). Some cocky guy with a cup of coffee, came striding by, instructing us that the bus actually picked us up across the street. He was obviously very proud of himself, almost preening, while "informing" us. So, it amused me when Chiffon haughtily told him "We're being picked up in another vehicle." He was all "Ooh la la " and she explained that we'd already been assigned a court/case, but thanked him just the same. That shut him up and he shuffled away with his tail between his legs. LOL! Meanwhile, Flo's mom sauntered up, wearing a sparkly pink top, matching capri pants and plenty of Aqua Net in her hair and quickly exclaimed in a peeved manner "There's no seats! Hmph!" She was one pissed off, sassy senior citizen! Just then the twin SUVs arrived back in the middle of the parking lot and Chiffon and I started towards them.

By the time we got there, others had began to assemble and the bailiff in charge of us introduced herself (we'd met her previously the first day we arrived for jury duty, as well as the other cast of characters: Defense/Prosecution/Court Reporter/Judge). She called role, handed out juror badges and then went over the rules. Our cell phones would be collected before we entered the jury room (where we sit when court is not in session or we are not at lunch), but we could have them when it came time to go to lunch. No pictures of other jurors (dammit!), etc. etc. She informed us that different judges have different rules and that this judge does not allow notes to be taken while in the jury box, but does allow small bottles of water to be taken in with you, discreetly. Also, no shorts; business casual only. And the one rule that surprised me the most: we are not allowed to discuss the trial amongst ourselves (not even behind the closed doors of the jury room) until it is time to deliberate. I had no idea. I can understand not discussing the case outside the courthouse or while having lunch together in a public place, but not at ALL? But, if you think about it, I guess it makes sense. This was you can't shape someone's opinion/perception this way, so I guess it has a certain logic.

We were told that this case may have some television coverage and that a lot of reporters had already called the office, inquiring about the case specifics. We were assured that nothing would happen and that they (the bailiffs) had us covered. We would be collected here in the parking lot each morning at 8:30am, taken to lunch together in the same vehicles and returned to the parking lot at the end of the day: All as a group. Well, there goes my plan to pack a lunch and catch up on my reading for the next two weeks. Oh well, I guess being sociable won't kill me.

We arrive back at the courthouse, after getting to know each other by being packed into the SUVs like sardines (3 to a seat). I never felt so self conscious about my weight. Oh well, it's not like everyone else is dainty either. Once at the courthouse, we're escorted through the back entrance where we go through a metal detector and up to the 5th floor (we also get our own elevator: jurors only). Once on the fifth floor we are ushered to the jury room, located directly behind the court we are to be jurors in. Once everyone has said their tearful goodbyes to their cellphones (they're deposited in a locked drawer in a desk outside the jury room), we're locked into a small room containing a large table, 14 chairs, 2 bathrooms, a water cooler and a tea cart holding coffee and magazines. There's a buzzer near the light switch, so if we need to talk to the bailiff.

Everyone takes a seat and tries their hardest to look aloof and unaffected (super cool!). Jane Brown suggests that we go around the room and introduce ourselves, so we do. Some people slowly begin to talk and we find out that everyone but 2 people have actually done this before (been a juror): Chiffon and G.I. Joan.

Tomorrow, we enter the courtroom; the thrilling conclusion!

Part 3 of 4


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