My Real Life

March 29, 2012

Juror Number Me – The Final Chapter

Filed under: Juror Number Me — Amy @ 6:00 am
Tags: , ,

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 me.

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.

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Article 4

March 26, 2012

Juror Number Me – Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am
Tags: ,

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!

March 22, 2012

Juror Number Me – Part 1

Filed under: Juror Number Me — Amy @ 6:00 am

You know how whenever you get called for Jury Duty, all of your friends say, “Ha!  Hope you don’t get picked for a murder trial!”

I don’t really think that’s so funny anymore.

Today, I have a story for you.

Back in January, I got a jury summons to report at the end of February.

The night before I had to report, I called, thinking I’d never have to go, as my number was 280, but lo and behold, all jurors had to report.

Happy to serve my civic duty, I figured, if nothing else, it would make good fodder for the blog.

So, the morning came and off I went to the Court House.

I have a lifelong aversion to being late, so I was one of the first people there and had my pick of seats.  I chose a table so I could spread out a bit and grade the essays I had brought with me.

I got through a good chunk of them, alternately grading and people watching.

Jury Duty is an excellent place to people watch.

Around 9:00 am, the head Jury Duty Lady (yes, I believe that is her official name) called us all to attention and had us watch a video about jury duty.

I think an episode of Law and Order would have sufficed and would have been MUCH more entertaining, but we all sat and dutifully watched.

Then, she told us that there was a full docket of judges and cases that day and that we’d likely all be picked for a jury.

There went my hope of spending the day finishing the essays, catching up on my students blogs and playing Words With Friends, courtesy of the Court House WiFi.

We sat back down and I started to get a little excited.

I imagined things like the cast of CSI testifying to finding this piece of evidence and that piece of evidence and tying it all together.

I envisioned the jury room where we’d debate and throw our hands up in the air in disgust at the one person who wouldn’t go along with the rest of us, and order take-out meals for lunch because we couldn’t be exposed to public chatter about our case.

I was trying to figure out a way to sneakily eat my snack while sitting in the jury box, because when I’m nervous, my blood sugar goes wonky and I was already feeling a little low, and I hadn’t even been picked for a case, yet.

After another half hour or so, the head Jury Duty lady was back and was ready to call the first case of the day.

I was up.

I got in line and about 75 people got in line behind me as their names were called.

I was surprised that they called so many people for one case, but I would later see why it was necessary to go through so many.

They asked if anyone needed the elevator and those three people walked ahead of the rest of us and got in the elevator.

The rest of us walked up three flights of stairs in relative silence.

Whenever Monkey in the Middle is getting in trouble, he smiles.

He’s not being sassy or fresh.  It’s a nervous reaction.

He gets it from me.

As we walked up the stairs, I could feel a smile spreading across my face and a giggle building in my chest.  I kept my head down and worked very hard to keep it inside because it was incredibly inappropriate.  It’s always been an issue for me.

I suppressed it.

The clerk led us into a courtroom and told us to file into the five or so rows of seats that were facing the front of the courtroom.  In my head, I called them “the press seats” because on television, it’s where the press and the visitors sit to watch the drama unfold.

As we walked in, there were two attorneys at each table turned and looking at us, two clerks, and two people who sat off to the side.

And the defendant.

I couldn’t help but wonder what he had done, but I figured I’d find out soon enough.

We sat (and some of us stood, as there weren’t enough seats for everyone) and waited.

In silence.

In a few minutes, the door opened, the clerk said “All Rise” and we stood as the judge entered the courtroom.

He told us all to have a seat and then started to speak.

After thanking us for coming, he explained that we were the pool of jurors for a trial that was going to begin in two weeks and would last for approximately six weeks.

Immediately, I started to tense.

Then he began to list the charges against the defendant.

Child Endangerment.

Tampering With Witnesses.

Concealing Evidence.


(Come back on Monday for Part 2 of “Juror Number Me”)

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