Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mr. Foreman, Have You Reached A Verdict?

All of the commotion surrounding the Caylee Anthony murder trial, and the jury’s decision, prompted the local daily to ask its readers to submit their jury stories, which reminded me of a jury I once served on.

It was a twelve-man jury.  Felony charges of breaking and entering, forcible rape, and other minor charges I’ve since forgotten.  The jury was a mixed bag, 4 black women, 2 white women, the rest divided between white and black men.  Both defendant and alleged victim were black.

The young man was the ex-husband of the victim and the father of her child.  He testified that he was out of work, but had found a job in New Jersey where he could live with his sister and that he went over to his ex’s house the evening of the crime simply to say goodbye to his son before he left the next day.  To the young man’s credit, he never missed a child support payment and always got his son when it was his turn to have him.  A complication in the relationship were actions initiated by him to gain custody of the boy, claiming the mother an unfit parent.  He wanted to take the boy to New Jersey with him and she refused to let him go.

He claimed that he did not break into the home, even though the bedroom window was broken out and duct tape, with his fingerprints on it, was stuck to the broken glass laying on the ground outside (indicating pre-meditation).

She claimed that he tied her to the bed, stripped her and raped her, even though she wasn’t actually tied, but hand-cuffed, and was wearing only a black lace teddy and no-crotch panties when the police arrived.  (I couldn't believe my good luck when the defense asked her to demonstrate the position she was in when raped.  Oh yeah.)  The police also found a duplicate pair of cuffs hanging from the mirror in her car and other bondage accessories in the apartment.  Neighbors reported that she was known to frequently entertain guests.

Apart from everything else, there was no doubt that the guy had broken into the apartment.  The police had him dead to rights.  She probably refused to let him in to see his son so he broke in, got entangled with his ex in her sexy black teddy, whereupon Mr. Happy took charge.  For me, it was a real conundrum.  Guilty beyond doubt on at least one charge, a felony breaking and entering, but plenty of doubt on all the others.  Certainly enough doubt not to send this otherwise good father to prison for 20 years under very questionable circumstances.  I was startled out of my conundrum by the slap of the gavel as the judge charged the jury, appointed me foreman, and dismissed us to deliberate.

As we all sat around the table in the jury room and I took my place at the head, I was wondering what I was going to say when one of the black ladies started in.  In rapid succession she was joined by all of the other women, all of them hot under the collar, all of them talking at once, all of them saying pretty much the same thing… “dat little tramp should be the one going to jail.” “Try to send dat boy up for 20 years, and he be the father of her baby!” “I ain’t never seen nothin’ like it!”

I quietly surveyed the men, each of whom simply grinned and said not a word.  The women kept at it.  I called the bailiff and told him we were ready.  The women kept at it.  The men got up and went into the courtroom.  The women were still at it as they filed into the courtroom where they were abruptly silenced by the slap of the gavel as the judge called the court to order.  The judge, a spitting image of Fred Gwynne in My Cousin Vinny, looked down at his watch, looked up at me with a quizzical expression and said,  “Twenty minutes?”   I squirmed under his gaze.

After a pause, he continued, “Mr. Foreman, do you have a verdict?”  “Yes, your honor,” I replied. “We find the defendant not guilty.”


  1. Being totally out of my mind, I always wanted to serve on a jury. My opportunity came on July 9, 2007. Case was of a young man who allegedly punched his girlfriend in the face while she was breastfeeding his baby daughter. Assorted charges having been filed against him most in connection with child endangerment since girlfriend wouldn't file charges against "the love of her life".

    I was pleased as punch to be seated on the jury. Quite proud of myself for finally realizing a dream. Judge was seated, read charges against the defendant, asked him how he plead, to which the young man said "Guilty, Your Honor". *sigh*

    My only consolation was the expression on the face of the defendants attorney. He had NO idea that the kid was going to admit the crimes.

  2. Every time I've been called up and considered for jury duty, it was a Murder 1 trial. I usually make it through all the preliminaries until either the defense or the state decide against me. Most recently it was last year, and I figured out that they were never considering me, but for some reason, they found me interesting. All they did was ask me about my doctorate training, my job and all that--so strange.

    I didn't follow the C.A. trial, so I didn't get upset or relieved by the verdict. But from what I understand, there wasn't enough evidence to convict her beyond reasonable doubt--the state didn't prove their case.

    Of course the whole thing made me think of the OJ travesty, in which the police contaminated the evidence, there was an openly racist detective, a publicity dazed judge, a 15 minutes worth of fame prosecutor and a slick defense team that didn't need to work too hard to get OJ off as there were later admissions of jury payoffs and book deals. Gotta love the American judicial system--what a joke.

  3. I don’t get selected for juries. I make it a point to look influential.

  4. Sherry... It ain't all it's cracked up to be. But, like you, I find it very fascinating.

    Susan... A liberal PhD who would never go for a death verdict. Not hard to see why they didn't choose you.

    Punch my dear friend, all you have to do to know why they didn't choose you is look in the mirror. You don't see a whole lot of hippies on juries. But I know what you mean. I was once being interviewed for a trial I didn't want to do and when they asked if I agreed with the death penalty I rang out, Hell Yes! I slept in my own bed that night.

  5. I've been tagged twice for misdemeanor county stuff, and always at the worst possible time as far as the kids or my job was concerned.

    Each time I as I sat waiting for selection to begin figuring my day was ruined the lawyers on both sides came to some agreement with the perspective jury members being released.

    Standing outside the court house I began thinking I could go back to work and get my assignments done or go home and relax.

    I always tell a great story the next day at work about how the case was bogus and how long we had to stay.

  6. BB... LOL I believe a lot of bosses these days write off the employee for the day anyway. I've been called four times now and two of them were when I was self-employed and the days cost me money. A third time it was scheduled the day of a job interview and I begged off at the courthouse. When the judge saw that I had served before, he let me go without hesitation.

  7. We recently had a case of two men beating up a transvestite, pouring petrol on him and setting him on fire. The victim died in hospital. We don't have juries here but the judge accepted the defence story that the men were only trying to frighten the victim and were playing with a lighter which accidentally dropped and set the man on fire. The judge ruled it as assault instead of murder. Can you believe that.

  8. I've been called several times, but never picked... and I do not appear in any way like an anarchist, as does the Punch. I think it's been the crossed eyes and flatulence.

  9. Squirrel.. Isn't it Indonesia that prides itself on low crime and cleanliness?

    JJ... lol. Don't worry, you will soon have your chance as the jury pool is comprised of more and more half-blind, hard of hearing, flatulent baby boomers.

  10. Yet I'm not a liberal per se. But I am against the death penalty and every case I've been up for had that on the table. They never ask me my politics.

    I also show an eagerness to serve, which probably creeps them out. And the pay sucks-last time it was 7 bucks for the whole day.

    JadedJ--maybe they know that you know me--that 6 degrees of separation thing.


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