You can find “Juror Number Me – Part 2” here.
By the time I got home, my mind was reeling.
I was nervous, I was curious, I was a bundle of emotion.
After Real Man and I put the kids to bed, we sat and talked and I told him about my experience.
He was listened and let me go through it all.
Just listened, which was great.
I didn’t really sleep well that night, and when I woke, I headed into the day thinking of covering my commitments at work that I would miss because of the trial.
I went to Tara and told her I was going to be out for six weeks and that I would be missing play rehearsals and I may need her to fill in for me during Talent Show rehearsals, as well.
She said, “Oh my God! You’re on that trial for that guy who killed his wife in the bathtub, aren’t you?”
And as she said the words, it hit me.
That was exactly the trial I was on.
And I couldn’t be on that trial.
Any other trial.
Even a murder trial.
But not that trial.
I covered my ears with my hands and told her to stop, because I wasn’t supposed to find out any information about the case before the trial, but it was too late. The damage had been done.
In 2008, the defendant was arrested for drowning his wife in the bathtub.
The media reported that he confronted his wife about having an affair and then began to drown her in the bathtub. (The murder charge.)
As he was, allegedly, drowning his wife, his 8-year old daughter walked in and he told her to leave. (The child endangerment charge.)
After she stopped struggling, the media said he took off her clothes, put them in a plastic bag and put them in his van. (The concealing evidence charge.)
Then, he called 911, and called his brother-in-law (I believe) and told him that if the police asked, he should say that van didn’t belong to the defendant. (The tampering with witnesses charge.)
Then, he confessed to a social worker and someone else, after being mirandized.
Then, he fought the arrest, saying that, even though he was read his rights twice, he didn’t understand what was happening and his confessions should be inadmissible.
The case has been in trial for almost four years as they’ve gone through all of the motions, and is just now coming down to the final, actual trial.
When it happened, I had students who were friends with the family.
They were devastated.
They came in crying and upset and needing to talk.
They talked about the victim.
They talked about the daughter.
They talked about the defendant.
I knew way more about the family and the case than a juror should.
I also knew, immediately, that being on that jury would impact my career and possibly my children.
The verdict needed to be unanimous, so when all was said and done, everyone would know which way I voted.
The daughter of the defendant would now be a student at my school, and therefore, there are kids at my school who would have been friends with her. (She has since moved to Florida to live with other family.)
I could become the teacher who set that monster free.
I could become the teacher who sent their parents friend to jail for a crime they didn’t believe he committed.
Monkey Girl is a year younger than the daughter, and she, also, had friends who were friends with the family and it could affect her, as well, having a mother who decided the fate of this man.
Unfortunately, I don’t think any of that would really matter to the judge. The fact that I knew a lot about the case, yes. My personal concerns for my family and my career? Probably not.
The next day, I got to school and decided to call the judge’s chambers and leave a message saying that I had come across some information that would preclude me from serving on the jury.
It was 7:20 am.
The judge answered his own phone.
So, I introduced myself and he remembered me and then I told him exactly what I had planned to leave on the message.
He responded that I needed to come in and present my case in front of the attorneys, the defendant, and himself, and that sometimes what we think is important isn’t necessarily something that they all feel would excuse us.
I thanked him, said I’d see him in a few weeks, and hung up.
And began to shake.
Throughout the process, I felt like the attorneys and the judge really wanted me on the case.
I realize how utterly self-involved that sounds, but there were a lot of things along the way, that I felt should have gotten me excused, and yet, I was still a member of this jury.
And I understand that I am not a lawyer or a judge and don’t really know how they make their decisions.
But, I was really surprised to still be there.
And now, this, and I just felt like they weren’t going to let me go for this, either.
Over the next few weeks, I followed directions and didn’t research a thing, but it didn’t matter. I already knew, based on my experience at the time of the crime.
I began to have horrifying dreams. Not about murder or the trial, but other dreams.
Tornadoes ripping my babies out of my arms.
Losing my children while shopping.
Getting a phone call that Real Man had been in a horrible accident.
And, some nights, I did dream about the defendant turning around and looking right at me, as he did that first day.
My neck was tight, my back was in knots.
I was grumpy and testy and not a happy girl.
Finally, it was a few days before we were to report back.
My father-in-law had been babysitting and when I got home, he said that the judge’s office had called and the trial had been postponed a week.
And now I felt like they were just playing with me.
All I could think about was getting this over and done with, and now I’d have to wait another week?
I made it through that week, and two days before we were to report, the phone rang, again, saying it was postponed a day.
Another day, when I felt like I couldn’t wait one more minute.
And then, it was upon me.
I got to the Court House early, again.
But this time, I didn’t bring any papers. I didn’t think about Words With Friends.
I just sat and waited until they called us up.
Finally, the original six plus about 69 more people were called upstairs. These were the rest of the people they had called over the past few weeks, trying to find enough people to make it through the questionnaire phase so that they could finally narrow it down to 12 plus the alternates.
We got into the courtroom and were seated.
I made sure to sit near the front, terrified that if I sat too far back, by the time he got to me, he might have felt like too many people were excused and kept me for numbers.
He began by thanking us all for coming and then telling us that we needed to look around, since there were so many other people there, and see if there was anyone on the jury we knew.
I looked around and, sure enough, there was someone I knew.
A fellow teacher in the district who is the daughter of the man Real Man and I lived next door to in our second home, and the mother of a girl in Monkey Girl’s grade and old Girl Scout troop.
So, we both raised our hands and one at a time, were called up.
When he called me up, he and the attorneys smiled at me, as if they remembered how often they had spoken with me on day one, and he asked who I knew.
I explained and he located her on the list. He asked if my relationship with her would hinder my ability to be impartial.
I said no, and he had me take a seat.
She, also, was questioned and sent back to her seat.
Then, came the big question.
Is there anyone who has had a change in circumstances or finds themselves in a situation where they may need to change some answers on the questionnaire?
I raised my hand.
I was the third person to go up, and when I got there, he smiled, again, and asked what I needed to share.
I explained that I had followed directions (I’m big on following directions) and had not purposefully sought out information on the case, but that a co-worker had said, “Oh, you’re on THAT case,” and I realized that it was the case I was on.
He asked, “What exactly did she say?”
I responded, “She said, ‘OH! You’re on the case for the guy who drowned his wife in the bathtub!”
I could see all of their shoulders sag a bit, and the judge simply said, “Continue.”
I explained about how my students, at the time, knew the family and how I knew more than I should based on discussions I had with those students, at the time of the crime, and he looked at me and said, “You are excused.”
I apologized and he said, “No! This is why we do this! You’ve done nothing wrong.”
I went back, scooped up my purse and almost broke into a run as I left the Court House.
I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I could already feel my muscles unclenching and the knots untying.
It was over.
For the people who wound up on the final jury, it’s been a gut-wrenching few weeks of testimony.
When I got home, that night, Real Man told me that he’d been researching the case like a madman, but not sharing it with me (because we follow directions) and he was SO glad I wasn’t on that jury, based on what he had read.
When I read the articles about how the trial is progressing, I’m not sure I would have been able to maintain my composure on that jury.
A little girl having to testify that she saw her father kill her mother…testifying in front of her father.
So, it’s over for me, but it will never be over for her.
I’m going to leave you with some links to a few articles about the trial, past and present.
I’m in the clear for three years, now, and when I’m called again, I will happily serve.
But for now, I thank my lucky stars I was excused.