Posted by: Marie | October 11, 2010

(419) My own day in court – Part 1 of 2

Post #419
[Private journal entry written on Monday, April 19, 2010 – bedtime]

Well, jury duty has certainly dominated my day today . . .

After I handed in my questionnaire and after we all sat around for a while, the clerk played a video for us about the jury selection process and what is expected of us as potential jurors.

Then, we waited some more.

Finally, the clerk came into the room and read off the numbers of people who were being dismissed immediately. My number was not among them.

Ali Mountain by Martin Chen

Then they took us – the entire jury pool (about 75 people at that point) – into the courtroom. We swore we would follow the legal process and that we would protect the integrity of the case.

The attorneys gave their opening statements. I was surprised they gave their opening statements so early in the jury selection process. I guess the logic behind it was it would better prepare us to answer the selection questions.

The prosecution explained Mr. Smith is the stepfather of the victims – two sisters, currently ages nine (but a week from being 10) and 14. The prosecution stated they would prove Mr. Smith started raping the girls when they were each four years old, and stopped raping them 18 months ago when the girls disclosed the abuse.

The prosecution stated they would also prove Mr. Smith maintained an extensive collection of child pornography on his computer and he used that pornography in the process of grooming the girls for the sexual abuse.

The defense stated these things did not happen — that the girls are confused about what happened and the pornography on the computer was not Mr. Smith’s.

I kept watching the back of Mr. Smith’s head. For a few seconds here and there throughout our time in the courtroom, he did turn around and look directly at us (we were sitting behind him in the gallery). He looked like the proverbial pedophile – he was tall, skinny, hunched shoulders, nervous energy, pockmarked face . . . with narrow-set, ice-cold, piercing blue eyes peeking out from under heavy black eyebrows. It took my breath away to look at him.

I had to keep reminding myself I had an obligation to keep an open mind about his guilt or innocence. Nevertheless, guilty or not . . . his eyes made me feel sick.

Before dismissing us for a lunch break, the court clerks gave us a schedule for when we each would need to return to the jury room. Upon our return, we would be taken, one-by-one, into a closed session with the judge, the attorneys and the defendant where we would be asked more detailed questions about our responses to the questionnaire.

Oh . . . that sounds like a delightful experience . . . not.

It will be just like therapy . . . with an extremely antagonistic therapist! Joy, joy!

Some people weren’t scheduled for their closed session until tomorrow morning, so they got to go home for the day. I was told to return at 3pm this afternoon . . . I was the second-to-the-last person scheduled for a closed session yet today. So, I got to entertain myself for three hours at a local coffee shop while waiting for my turn with the court.

I tried to read a book. I tried to work on my computer. But, I really didn’t get much accomplished – I mostly stared at nothing.

And, I worried.

Over and over and over . . . I ran the script through my head how I was going to answer the most personal questions . . . how I was going to maintain my dignity and not break down into dramatic crying . . . how I was going to tell my story without being overwhelmed by raw emotion.

I returned to the jury room at 3pm. Upon my arrival, I learned they were running about an hour behind on the schedule. That meant the earliest I would be able to leave would be about 5:00pm. That meant I could still make my 6:15 lesson, but I debated about canceling my 5:30 lesson . . .

At 4pm: They were even further behind. I called my 5:30 student and cancelled.

At 5pm: There were only five people remaining ahead of me – there was a chance I could still make the 6:15 lesson. But, my emotional stamina had long since given out. I couldn’t imagine giving a lesson in my current emotional state . . . and I didn’t know what condition I would be in after my turn in the closed session. I cancelled the 6:15 lesson.

At 5:20pm: Two people ahead of me, one still scheduled to go in after me.

At 5:35pm: I was next . . . there were two of us in the jury room – me and the guy scheduled to go in right after me – and he started talking about things we had sworn to not discuss. I had to shut him down. That made a tense situation all the more tense. I just wanted to get this over with.

At 5:45pm: Finally, ten hours after my jury duty started, the clerk called my juror number. I entered the courtroom.

The clerk ushered me to the witness stand. My knees were knocking, so I was very glad to sit down. The judge reminded me I was still under oath and I must answer all questions truthfully.

First things first . . . I reported to the judge the guy still waiting in the jury room had attempted to talk to me about things we had sworn to not discuss – but, I had shut down the conversation – and now I was reporting it as I had promised I would do should such a thing happen to me.

She asked me to tell her exactly what he said. I did. She thanked me for being so conscientious.

We moved onto the central item of business . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. What an awful process. Do they provide any support at all – after trials mostly I suppose, but even after this process it seems people could be quite traumatised.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I think the only support available in the event of an in court meltdown is a trip in the ambulance to the psych ward of the local hospital.

      I agree . . . this seems like a very invasive process. When I showed up for jury duty, I never dreamed I would be asked about the most private parts of my personal story.

      – Marie

  2. Oh man, I can’t believe the defense didn’t move to have you dismissed based on your answers to the questionnaire. I felt queasy just reading this … I can’t imagine the stress you must have felt.

    • Hey, David –

      My guess is there were too many of us . . . I guess the bar for dismissal is pretty high.

      It was a rough situation!

      – Marie


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