My Real Life

March 26, 2012

Juror Number Me – Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am
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If you missed it, you can read “Juror Number Me – Part 1” here.

So, murder.

My heart dropped right into my stomach.

Then I started processing the other charges.

Tampering with witnesses.

Concealing evidence.

Child endangerment.

I was stunned.

They didn’t go into the details of the case, because those aren’t to be heard until the trial begins.  The information started and stopped with the charges.

The judge then opened it up for people who thought that the length of the trial would be an issue for them.

I raised my hand, and when called, went up to the bench.

It was interesting.  He pushed a button and began playing white noise over speakers so that the only people who could hear what was being said were the judge, the prosecution and defense attorneys and the defendant, who was having everything interpreted into his headphones as he sat at the defense table.

I explained that I was a teacher and that 6 weeks was a long time to be away from my students.  I also explained that I have a student teacher in my classroom, and my extended absence impacts his education, as well, as I am supposed to be guiding him and working with him on planning and implementation…something that a substitute cannot do.

The judge said that he actually liked to have teachers serve, and that he figured that it would be okay because we would only be convening on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and so I could meet with him on Mondays and Fridays.

Then I explained that I have plane tickets booked for right after the trial and if the trial went long, I’d be out of luck.

The judge said that he felt that we would definitely be done with listening to testimony and jury deliberations by then, so I could just have a seat.

So I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Because he went through everyone who had issues with the length of trial, one at a time, and there were a lot of us.  Right off the bat, I’d say half of us were excused.  This went on for almost an hour.

Then, we were given a questionnaire.

The judge went through the questionnaire with us, question by question (we were not allowed to be writing our answers yet).  Attached to the back of the packet was the witness list, as well.

When he was done going over it with us, he asked if anyone knew anyone on the witness list.

I did.

So, up I went, yet again.

I explained the circumstances under which I knew 4, yes, count ’em, 4 of the people on the witness list.  The judge asked if I felt that knowing these people would make me more or less impartial.

Here was my out.

But, I don’t like to lie, and I certainly didn’t want to lie to a judge.

So, I said, no…I didn’t think that knowing these people would make me more or less impartial.  They would be sworn in, just like every other witness.  They would tell the truth, just like every other witness.  And I would have to believe them…just like I’d have to believe every other witness.

I sat back down.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited while he talked to the other people in the jury who knew people on the list.

I think about 3 people were excused from this line of questioning.

Then, we were left to fill out the questionnaire, and when we finished, we could go to lunch.

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to share the questions that were in the questionnaire, so I won’t.

But they were pretty comprehensive and asked questions about things that were seemingly random, but looking back, I can completely understand why there were there.

I realize how vague that was and probably should have left it out.  Maybe some lawyer reading this could chime in and tell me if it’s okay to share?  Do I have a lawyer reading this?  Hmmm…now I wonder.

But, as usual, I digress…

I took my time and answered everything honestly and thoughtfully, and then I went to lunch.

There’s a great little place next to the CourtHouse called “The Jury Box.”

They made a mean turkey sandwich.

So, I brought my lunch back to the CourtHouse and spread out on a table in the Jury Room.  I had planned on grading more essays, but my mind was reeling.

I just felt this tremendous burden and my shoulders were tight and I could feel a migraine starting.


I would be deciding whether or not someone was guilty of taking the life of another human being, and there would be consequences for whichever way I decided.

Child endangerment.

I had big issues with this.  I have four of my own children and I’m a teacher.  My life is dedicated to protecting children.  While knowing the witnesses wouldn’t necessarily cause me to be more or less impartial, testimony that showed that the defendant had hurt children would be very, very difficult for me to ignore.

So, instead of grading essays, I ate and tried to distract myself by playing Words With Friends.

Probably the lowest scores I’ve ever had.

So, when lunch was over, we waited in the jury room until we were taken back up by the clerk.  Back up the stairs, and strangely, this time, the nervous smile was completely gone.  I was too nervous, even for that.

We went back in around 2:30 and the judge started by immediately excusing about 20 more people, based on their responses to the questionnaire.  I’ll never know what they answered, but I was SO curious.

Then, it was time for more one-on-one interviews.

One at a time, he called us up to the bench, along with the attorneys and the interpreter, played the white noise, and had us verbally discuss our answers to certain questions that they must have had some issues with, but not enough issues to excuse us right off the bat.

So, one at a time, we went up.

He excused person after person after person.

Then it was my turn.

And, again, because I’m not sure I can share what was on the questionnaire, I can’t tell you what we talked about, but I will say that I was probably up there the longest out of everyone.

They asked, for some questions, me to step back, but not sit down, and the judge and the attorneys whispered, then brought me back and asked me to clarify, or rephrased the question or asked a different question and on and on and on.

And, in the end, he asked me to have a seat.

By 5:00, there were only 7 of us left.

The judge was questioning the last person at the bench.

Throughout the entire day…the ENTIRE day, the defendant had been sitting, staring straight ahead.

He never looked around.

Never moved, really.

And then, right then, at the very end, while the last person was up at the bench with the attorneys and the interpreter and the judge, the defendant turned around in his seat and looked me right in the eyes.

My heart stopped.

He started at me for a full minute, which doesn’t sound very long, but it was a lifetime.

Then, he turned back around and resumed his stare forward.

I still don’t think my heart started.

I couldn’t figure out why he would have turned to look at me, of all people.  Then, I started over thinking.

He was able to hear every piece of what I said to the judge, and all I could think was, “He knows a LOT about me, right now.  My name.  Where I work.  How many kids I have.  Where I live.  My thoughts about certain things dealing with this case.  He knows a LOT about me.”

And right then, the judge excused the last person.

So, at the end of the day, there were 6 of us.

He thanked us for our long day and gave us the date on which we were to return in 2 weeks.

He then instructed us not to do any research about the case, to avoid all media coverage of the case, and to keep quiet about the case.

And sent us on our way.

I went home and went through the motions of making dinner and reading books and getting everyone to bed, and at the end of the day, just kind of collapsed into bed.

Real Man and I talked and I told him what I could and tried to sleep.

Little did I know that I wouldn’t be sleeping well again for a long, long time.

Come back for “Juror Number Me – Part 3 (the end)” on Thursday!

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