Tag Archive: judge


When closing arguments began, I had no idea what I would decide. I was dying to know what my fellow jurors thought of everything we had heard. Throughout the four days we were in court, we couldn’t speak to each other about anything relating to the case. Every minute spent together in the jury room was filled with small talk. I couldn’t wait to actually be able to talk about the case, ask the questions that had been haunting my dreams, and finally wrap my head around all the facts.

There was one minor hiccup once all was said and done by the attorneys. There were thirteen of us. Only twelve would go back to the jury room and deliberate. I hoped to high heaven I wouldn’t be the one to be dismissed. How disappointing it would be to sit through the entire trial and then simply be released, to be thanked for one’s service and dismissed with no other words. I would have been pissed. But, as it stands, that didn’t happen to me. The juror in seat three was released.

The judge read us our instructions and then we filed back into our ever familiar jury room.  I took my regular seat and waited to see what would happen next.  First thing was first: we were going to order some lunch. And I was to be the one to record everyone’s order due to my neat handwriting. (I always knew I’d be good for something!) Ordering lunch was a feat in and of itself but we finally got it under control. We called Mike, our court officer, and gave him our order.

That was when deliberations began. During the time it took to figure out what everyone was eating for lunch, we had also decided our foreman. Rather than picking the woman who has sat on a jury every two years since 1985, we went with the man she nominated, who sat in seat number four. We decided to tackle the lesser charges first, and then discuss the big one. It didn’t take long at all to go around the table and say “guilty” to the first count of furnishing alcohol to a minor (Brianna).  We then did the same thing for the second count of furnishing alcohol to a minor (Monika).

To begin our discussion, we went through each of our witnesses and judged his or her credibility. In doing so, we got to hash out all of the details of the case.  We tried to come up with our own timeline of events; we tried to figure out exactly what happened. We tried to determine what seemed to make sense. It was seriously difficult.  That’s when we all started to agree upon all of the holes in the story. We all seemed to have the same questions and a couple of our own theories.

The element of personal injury to the charge of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree needed to be met. While there had been a 2 millimeter “laceration” noted in the medical records of the victim, the sexual assault nurse examiner couldn’t rule out other causes of the injury, nor could she determine how long that injury had been there. The fact that there was no physical, DNA evidence anywhere could have been overlooked had the story made any sense at all.  The personal vendetta theory that the defense had been working on started to seem more and more likely the more we went over what the witnesses had testified. And don’t even get me started on the 9-1-1 tape. We listened to it at least 7 times. I could probably quote it, verbatim.  The worst part: all of it was a fabrication; the victim’s friend/girlfriend had called 9-1-1 and pretended to be the victim. And when questioned on the witness stand by the prosecuting attorney, who was livid, she didn’t have an explanation for her actions.

All in all, we couldn’t convict him of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree because we all experienced reasonable doubt.  It’s such an interesting concept, one that I didn’t even really understand until I felt it.

When we reached our verdict, I wrote Mike the note (“We have reached a verdict”) since we weren’t allowed to speak to him. Another juror called down to his office and told him we had the note ready. Then we waited a few minutes and were called back into the courtroom.  The judge asked our foreman if we reached a verdict and then he read what we had decided.

I still can’t believe I did this, but when our foreman read the verdict, I was looking at the judge.  Can you believe that? I was looking at the judge, rather than the defendant. I thought to look at him, to read his facial expression, after we had moved onto the lesser charges. I missed his very first reaction to the “not guilty” verdict for criminal sexual conduct. By the time I looked over, he looked relieved. He was shaking the hand of his attorney and he looked… thankful. In my head, I decided he was on the verge of tears because he was so relieved.

As soon as he finished reading our verdict, we were shuffled back into the jury room one last time. We waited only a few minutes before the judge came in and talked to us. She seemed to agree with our verdict, which made me feel even better about the choices we had made. She spoke candidly to us about the case. It was really awesome.

Obviously, I think you all can tell that I really, really loved my jury duty experience. I feel like I can honestly say that it is probably one of the most important things I have ever done, and I just know I’ll never forget it. And, just for the record, I think everyone should sit on a jury at least once. It’s an amazing experience!

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We all filed into the courtroom and took our seats in the audience.  Straight ahead sat the judge, poised behind the giant wood desk-type thing. I sat on the left side, where the prosecuting attorney had his notes open on the table beside him. To the right was the defense, along with the man on trial. I hadn’t been expecting to see everyone there. I didn’t expect to see an actual person on trial standing in front of me when we entered the courtroom. The charges were announced and things got serious very quickly. It was no longer a fun little field trip to the courthouse, it was no longer an escape from work, it was no longer just a chance to live out an episode of Law and Order or The Good Wife. This was for real. This was a big deal. This was a man’s life. This was a family. This was so much more than just a civic duty. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the possibility of having an actual impact on the outcome of someone’s life.

Of course, now that I've found a picture I realize he looks nothing like this man other than the fact that they basically have the same haircut. My bad.

The defendant, who had an uncanny resemblance to a character from the movie Ghost, was being charged with two counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and one count of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree (sexual penetration of a minor, specifically, his 16-year-old daughter).

When you hear that, it’s hard not to feel the breath sucked out of your lungs. When you hear that, it’s hard not to look at that man’s face and have every fiber of your being fill with disgust. It’s hard to remain impartial. It’s hard not to be biased. It’s hard to not hate him.  You hear something like that, something truly heinous, and you want something bad to happen to him. You hear something like that, and you look at that man’s face and you think You are capable of this; you are a criminal.

I have no idea how long it took before my name was called. Everyone was fidgety and antsy to move around. It’s hard to be quiet that long. It’s hard to listen to people lay their life out for a room of 100 strangers to hear. It’s hard to hear people talk about traumatic events that inevitably make that person undesirable to the attorneys to keep as a juror.  To be honest, I thought I wouldn’t be called at all, simply because I wanted to be called so badly and I usually never win anything. I might as well have skipped up to the juror box, I was so excited. It took everything I had not to burst into song and smile until my cheeks hurt. I tried my best to play it cool as I took made my way to the first juror chair.

It's Not Real.

It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to sit in that box and face the attorneys, who pepper you with invasive questions and judge you based on your ability to be unbiased. I was asked if I knew any of the people involved in the case. I was asked my age, occupation, and if I had any close friends or family in law enforcement or involved in the legal system. I was asked if I had any personal experiences that would make me sympathize with the victim, any personal experiences that would make me unable to listen to all the evidence and testimony and remain impartial and unbiased. I was asked if I had any strong feelings about alcohol. I was asked if I had ever had experience with the court system. I was asked if I would have a problem accepting testimony via transcript rather than live testimony. I was asked if I understood that CSI was not real-life. I was asked if I knew what perjury was, and was asked to define the word. I was asked if I understood what a vendetta was, and if I could understand how a teenage girl who is on probation may have a “score to settle” with her father. I was asked if I could understand that a child may hold a grudge against his or her parent. I was asked if I understood that children lie and usually only dig the hole deeper when they do.

I was never dismissed. I sat in juror seat 1 the rest of the day, until we had thirteen jurors that the prosecution and defense were satisfied with.

We came back on Thursday morning to begin the trial. All thirteen of us were corralled in the room, which was a small room with an oval table with just enough room to squeeze twelve chairs around. One wall was made of two large windows, overlooking a parking lot. There was a tiny fridge, like the one Sarah and I had in our dorm room in college, a coffee maker, a microwave, a sink and a little bit of counter space. A shelf with five puzzle books was above a row of hangers for coats, which was located behind the chair I claimed as my own for the entire four days of the trial.  It’s interesting; all thirteen of us chose the exact same seats in the room every single time we were in there. Funny how humans really are creatures of habit.

The court officer was the only one to come in and out of the jury room with us. He gave us our notebooks and pens and gave us instructions. He’s the one who lined us up by our juror number every single time and who blocked the hallway off.

Close Enough.

I was so nervous that first day I could have thrown up. Every time, Mike, our court officer would give me the nod indicating it was time to move. He would say, “All rise for the jury” and every time I could feel my anxiety level increase. As the line-leader on our way to our seats, I remained single-focused: Just Walk. It’s a wonder I didn’t totally eat it on my way to my seat.

Opening arguments began and all thirteen of us were told two theories behind the charges.

The night of November 7th, 2009 Brian, the defendant, went to his mother’s one-bedroom apartment around ten o’clock that evening. In his hands, he brought with him a plastic bag with two fifths of brandy and went directly to the only bedroom. It was to be noted that Brian was technically not even supposed to be at that apartment, as he had gotten into an altercation with the landlord of the building and was no longer welcome on the property.

Brianna was raised by Brian’s mother, Viola, who had guardianship over her. Viola and her husband Albert lived in the living room of this tiny apartment. Albert resided in a hospital bed that was set up in the middle of the room, and Viola, who has battled cancer for a few years, cared for him. She slept on the couch while Brianna lived in the only bedroom. That night, she had two of her friends over (Monika and Aviance), and they were hanging out and listening to music on myspace.

When Brian got there, Monika had been hiding in the closet. All three girls were on probation for various reasons. Monika, due to the terms of her probation, was not to be hanging out with Brianna or Aviance. The fact that Monika was there caused a slight upset but it quickly dissipated. Brian provided the girls with the alcohol and took his seat on the window sill in the bedroom.

The timeline of events is unclear, but it wasn’t long before the girls had finished the fifth of brandy. Aviance and Brianna, who were described as “girlfriends,” had spent somewhere around 20 minutes under the blankets on Brianna’s bed while Brian sat at the window sill and Monika occupied herself with the computer. Brianna had gotten sick from all of the alcohol and had thrown up outside. After that, she came back to her room and passed out in bed. She remembered being warm and taking her shirt off to cool down but she kept her shorts on. Some time later, Brian and Aviance had gotten into an argument and Aviance was asked to leave. Monika left shortly after.

Brian had been watching TV on the edge of Brianna’s bed, but he, too, passed out in the early morning hours of November 8th. Brianna testified that the next thing she remembered was waking up at 4:16 AM with her dad inside of her. She pushed him off of her, pulled her shorts up from halfway down her legs, and went to the living room. She fell asleep in the recliner beside the couch, next to her grandmother.

9-1-1 dispatch received a call at 8:26 that morning, with a girl wanting to report a rape. Police were sent to the scene. Brianna was taken to the hospital via ambulance while the police stayed to investigate and interview everyone at the scene.  Brian had confessed to the detective that he had provided alcohol to his the girls but was surprised to learn the reason behind the police’s appearance at the apartment; he had thought it was because he wasn’t supposed to be there. DNA samples of Brian were taken, his clothes were sent as evidence and he remained in custody. At the hospital, Brianna was examined for somewhere between two and four hours. A rape kit was completed and her DNA samples were sent to be analyzed.

We heard testimony from a sexual assault nurse examiner, one of the policemen at the scene, the DNA analyst, the detective on the case, Brianna herself (even though she was quickly deemed “unavailable” due to her “lack of memory” and inability to cooperate and answer the prosecution’s questions), Aviance (Brianna’s friend and “girlfriend”), Viola (Brianna’s grandmother), and three other members of Brianna’s family.

It was incredibly difficult to have to keep all the details of the case secret. It was difficult to think through the case without talking it out. I think you guys can tell I’m just one of those people that needs to talk about everything, and that I can’t make a decision to save my life. With all the testimony I heard, the evidence in front of me, I didn’t know what to do.

It was hard not to think of the victim, how this had certainly not made her life better, how she had little support through all of this, how this had been traumatic for her. It was hard not to think of the defendant, how his life was ruined, how his family was torn apart, how he could be in prison for a very, very, very long time. It was hard not to think of the family involved, how they would never come back from this, how this had torn them apart.

I left court each day exhausted. My heart ached for everyone involved.

My jury duty service is now over! The trial finished yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been just bursting to tell you what happened!

Here’s the deal, loves: I’ll share my jury duty experience in three parts, starting with my first-day-observations. You know, the words-to-go documents saved on my Crackberry I told you about last week.  I’ll tell you the specifics of the case and then I’ll tell you about our verdict and how deliberations went.

I know you’re all dying to know.

My very first day, just to give you a snapshot of what a mess I was, I texted a friend then decided to tweet the following:

Already got lost, almost cried, forgot to put deodorant on, got wanded by security,& left all my school stuff at home. Today is going so well.

It should be noted that I have, like, zero sense of direction, so I obviously got lost (despite my mapquest directions) on my way to the courthouse. Then, because I was lost and because I’m so anal about not being late for anything ever, I got hysterical. This led to high levels of stress and anxiety, and that led to some degree of perspiration, not that the humidity here in Michigan did anything to help that. And that was when I realized I definitely forgot to put deodorant on. The Horror!! I just kept thinking, I had it in my hand, but did I actually put it on?! and I totally didn’t, which makes me wonder what on earth made me so ADD that morning to forget something so essential?!

I had my final night of my accounting class that evening I realized I didn’t have any of my school stuff after I had already left and didn’t have enough time to turn around and go back.  I wasn’t sure if I would have time in between my jury duty stuff and when I needed to leave to drive the hour and fifteen minutes it takes to get to class from my hometown. MORE PANIC! Why, oh WHY, did I not wear deodorant?! How is it possible to apply my Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue perfume but forget the deodorant?!??! HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?!

Once I got past security and followed other people I assumed to be reporting for jury duty down a hallway, I found the jury assembly room. Nothing special. Just a big room with beige walls and lots of chairs. And plenty of opportunity to people-watch and judge ’til my heart was content!  That’s when it struck me to record my thoughts via words-to-go.

Sometimes I have really good ideas.

Title: Jury duty observations

There are several unattractive people here. Many of the people  here in this holding pen have sick coughs. Gloria, in all her monochromatic glory, scanned all of us in. (She’s in charge of wrangling all of us potential-jurors.) She’s fabulous: I love her hair, and her plum colored tank-skirt combo is simply stunning.   She just put in a “movie” for us to watch while we wait in “line” to be scanned in. (This is one of the worst “lines” I’ve ever seen, although it certainly can’t beat the “line” we waited in to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at midnight. That was Terrible, with a capital T.) Some people showed up who did not have to be here. Sucks for them.  I really love the movie 12 Angry Men.  This video being played, as far as I can tell, is a compilation of Hollywood blockbusters that have something, anything!, to do with court, lawyers and the legal system,  and/or the importance of having a jury. I’m in love. Damn, I need to go to law school.

Title: Jury duty observations, part 2

Well, I feel jipped so far; my father indicated that a real-life judge would come in and speak to us about how important juries are and other crap like that. I have not seen any real-life person other than Gloria, who I am certainly not complaining about. I just want more real-life and less late-90s video footage.  This video feels like the craptastic videos I watched in driver’s training or sex ed.  I whisper-laughed to myself a moment ago about this move and looked to see if anyone else was laughing too; no one even looked remotely amused. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO IS EXCITED TO BE HERE?!?!

Title: Jury duty observations, part 3

Shit, I really, really hope I get picked! I hope I get picked and it’s a sweet case. I hope it’s just like 12 Angry Men and I’m the lone voice of reason. I hope me and my fellow jurors get sequestered and we all become bffs. I hope I end up on The Today Show after the ruling has been made.

Title: Jury duty observations, part 4

I’m bored. Looked through purse for gum. Found some.  Examined split ends. I need a haircut.  Compared the amount of back-fat everyone in front of me has. I should get plastic surgery- I’m much too lazy to do any of that necessary work to get rid of it.  Girl in front of me has a peculiar haircut; I don’t understand it. I can’t tell if I like it. It’s long- reaches mid back- but there are very short layers and not much blending of said layers.  It’s odd to me.  People are starting to get antsy like me.  Gloria’s laugh is funny; I like it.  I wish I wouldn’t have forgotten my backpack at home- actually, more than anything, I wish I wouldn’t have forgotten to apply deodorant today. I’m paranoid I reek.

Title: Part 5

OMG! The judge is ready! In ten minutes (or so, says Gloria), we will head into the court room!  A real-life court room! Gloria explained that we need a “juror badge,” which is really just a sticker- and she even gave instructions!  “Just peel it off, and stick it on!!!” Gosh, I love her!! GLORIA IS AWESOME! AND HILARIOUS! She is making all kinds of jokes and worrrrrrkin’ this room! She’s talking about the “employer verification forms” and how you can take that form back to your employer… or spouse. “It happens!” Bahaha jeeeeez, she is SO great.  She just made a joke about menopause. I love herrrr!

That’s it. That’s all that’s saved on my phone.

Because after that I had to turn my phone off because it wasn’t allowed in the court room.

Part II will be here on Thursday 🙂