Chaos Attraction

Where's John Grisham When I Need Him?

2004-11-29, 6:02 p.m.

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(Otherwise known as "Jen Does Jury Duty, Day Two, Testimony." Backdated out of sheer practicality.)

I got up at the buttcrack of dawn, after having been up late packing for the weekend. I hiked down to campus, figuring I'll go hit the bagel booth at school that's supposed to open by 7, since lord knows I'm not going to be able to eat until noon. No more midmorning snacking and drinking for me, sigh. But noooooo, "the bagels aren't here yet." Grrr. At least the morning crowd isn't quite as scary as the afternoon/weekend crowds on the busses out of town, I will say that much.

I set off the metal detector every single goddamned time I enter the building, without exception. I don't know what it is, since I'm stripping all metal when I get in (I can't help but notice in the courtroom that the clerk and court recorder chick wear no jewelry but their enormous wedding rings) and even take my glasses off. I don't much like being told to open my court, pull up my pant legs, empty my pockets of Kleenex, etc., etc., etc. If I keep this up, they're gonna start making me strip. After I finally fucking got clearance, I went up to the jury room, where I ended up watching Tim McGraw and Regis and Kelly on television until around 9:30 when they load us in.

Being on a jury is kind of like being at an avant-garde play, one of those ones where they stick the audience in the middle and the performers perform around them. It's kind of disturbing to think that the entire thing depends on US. During opening statements, the prosecutor sticks to talking at a podium next to his desk (the opposing side desks are RIGHT next to each other, instead of across the building from each other like they do on television. This does not strike me as the best idea.), but the defense guy gets right up in our faces. Since I'm in the front row, middle, this gives me the wiggins.

For the record, here's our cast and crew:
* The judge, who I'll call Your Friendly Grandpa. He's a genial, affable, friendly guy, if a trifle nosy. The grandpa who asks if you got a boyfriend yet at Christmas every year, but isn't asking in a nasty way. He kind of reminds me of the judge in Seems Like Old Times, only minus the stashe and much less pissy. More like when he says in the movie, "I love it when things zip along!"
* Squinty and Smirky, the court clerk and court recorder, respectively. When typing, they make well, faces that are squinty or smirky. This is not a judgement on their demeanors so much as it is, that's what they look like, ok?!
* The bailiffs, Waterboy, Bald Dan Ackroyd and Neanderthal Man. Waterboy is the regular bailiff and hands out water to people, hence the name. The other two seem to rotate in and out and don't do much.
* The prosecutor, Eyebrow Guy. Actually, Eyebrow Guy looks a lot like a guy I went to high school with, but for purposes of Google I won't mention that. Eyebrow Guy has very intense brows and eyes and just has That Kind Of Look most of the time. As we were to find out later, he was fresh outta law school and this was his first felony trial. We could well, kind of guess that. At least he tended towards the short and sweet in his speeches.
* The defense, Ossie Davis (I think you can figure that one out). Ossie tended to annoy me a bit more than Eyebrow Guy, maybe because he's more of a Watcher of the jury. He also tends to pontificate more and slip in psuedo-facts during his speeches. I overheard one of the lawyers saying, "(Ossie Davis) will spend an hour and a half talking about the Constitution."
* The defendant, who I'll call Owl because he never did anything but sit there blankly and blink and cover up his tattooes during the entire trial. Owl didn't testify.

Members of the jury who I so far have managed to come up with some sort of distinction for:
(a) Guy Who Knows Someone I Used To Work With
(b) Uglier Ashton Kutcher.
(c) The Other Knitter- who sits next to me, a chick, also from my town.
(d) Judith Ivey, our foreperson and the other chick on the jury.
(e) Collarbone Guy, who is on the other side of me and has a busted collarbone. He touched it during voir dire and Ossie was all over him for it. "Are you raising your hand? Are you in pain? Can you handle a trial?" Collarbone Guy was all, "Um, I'm fine, thanks."
(f) The Catholic Priest
(g) The Republican Guy.
(h) The Two Guys Who Didn't Say Much.
(i) The Two Really Old Guys
(j) The Alternate Guy.

So, here's the details of the thing: criminal trial. Owl was cruising around with two chicks at 3 in the morning a few months ago when he got pulled over for a license plate issue or something. For whatever reason that we didn't find out, the cop starts searching the car (he's a former drug guy) and accidentally finds a gun hidden in the passenger side back of the seat. The gun's not his, and in fact is one that got stolen a few weeks before. Owl got the car used from another guy a few weeks before and apparently let a lot of his friends into and/or borrowing the car. So Owl's charged with having a hidden stolen gun in a town and knowing it was stolen in the first place. Which is what became a problem, because, well...there wasn't really proof of him knowing it was stolen.

Here's the aspects of the case that well, annoyed me:

* Okay, so part of the case depends on whether or not the defendant is a current member of a particular organization. We'll call it, "The Penguin Mafia." Anyway, the defendant's Penguin Mafia association was made rather apparent because his tats were showing (oh, the joys of the local climate's heat + tank tops) when he was arrested, and he admitted that one of the tats was his gang name.
The defendant is well, named after a particular kind of insect. His Penguin Mafia name was also the name of an insect. However...it was not an impressive, manly, macho insect. It wasn't quite "Ladybug," but it wasn't too far off from that department. I couldn't help but think, "THAT's your gang name? That's the name that's supposed to inspire fear in people? Jesus Christ, if you had to have a bug name, why not Mosquito? Or Black Widow? Or hell, his actual bug name. But that one? Lame! What were they thinking?

* A pet peeve of mine was the lawyers saying something or other in their opening statement, and then NOT proving that that thing is true during the actual case. Sorry, but if you claim A Certain Thing in the opening and present NO INFORMATION WHATSOEVER to back that up in the case, and the other side has a guy testifying to the opposite, then guess what? We're going to believe that bit because we have no evidence other than your BS'ing as to what you said! Both of them pulled this one, but my special pet peeves were with Ossie, who claimed that Owl got the car from some cousin of his mother's, which was never proven in court (car owner claimed to be "acquaintances" with the family), and he also claimed that Owl stopped being a Penguin Mafia member when he was 16. Which also, ahem, wasn't proven. There was no evidence for this whatsoever beyond Owl admitting he was part of a gang, period. Ahem.

* Another thing both of them pulled that annoyed the crap out of me was how they argued things. I am not a lawyer, but I've seen plenty of lawyer shows and read books and used to read John Grisham before he got boring. And one of the things I picked up from that was simply this: you don't present information that HELPS THE OTHER GUY'S CASE. You do not helpfully nickpick a certain bit of information if in order to clarify it, IT MAKES YOUR CASE WORSE. Both of them did this all the damned time and it annoyed the shit out of me! I wanted to yell, "I could do a trial better than this! Why are you helping him?!" Especially when Ossie really emphasized that Owl, when asked if his fingerprints were going to show up on the gun, said something like "I don't think so...I'm pretty sure they shouldn't be on there." Which, you know, goes really well with him originally claiming he didn't know anything about the gun being there in the first place. I just wanted to yell, "Jesus, Ossie, you just made him sound a whole lot worse. Shouldn't Eyebrows be doing that instead of YOU?"

* Both of them would also at times completely neglect to ask anything of certain witnesses. Both were also desperately missing some witnesses they could have used to say, clarify stuff mentioned in the opening statements. Ahem. I don't think they could have gotten other folks, thinking back on the whole thing, but there were holes aplenty.

* Something I found funny, round 1: the original car owner and original gun owner claiming they were "acquaintances" with the defendant's family (if not the defendant himself), but the defendant's dad claimed he'd gone hunting and fishing with them all. To quote Judith Ivey later, "Monday through Thursday, they're strangers, but Friday through Sunday, they're old friends."

* Something I found funny, round 2: defendant's dad admitting he hadn't gone along with his son to buy the car, and wishing he had. "Why?" "Because there was all this stuff wrong with it. It overheated, there was a gun in the car..." More than one juror now plans on going home and checking their kids's cars now, lemme tell ya.

During lunch, I did some shopping. We also got out of court early because testimony wrapped up at 3:45, and since the bus didn't return until 4:30, I went shopping again. I managed to find the local bead store/used clothing/used jewelry store and stocked up, whee!

Testimony wrapped up this day, and we were to do closing arguments and start deliberation next Tuesday.


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