October 11, 2006 – Ninth day of the trial – 2nd day of deliberation
This is the thirteenth entry in a series of entries on my role in the jury in a double murder case in the county of Contra Costa, California. You can see a more detailed view of the case including links to these posts and other items at this page.
11:12 am – My cell phone rings the familiar Benny Hill ring tone. Yep, that’s what it plays. It’s the court clerk and she tells me the verdict is in. I asked her how long until they read the verdict. 15 minutes she says. I’m out the door and in my car 3 minutes later. I live about 3 miles from the courthouse but it always takes a little while to find parking and get through security.
11:27 am – Almost exactly 15 minutes after I got the call I walked into the courtroom. The defendant, the two attorneys and the judge are all there. The jury is not, however, so I got here in time. None of the other alternates have made it. The judge asks if any others are out in the hallway waiting. I tell him no and he says he has to start. He directs the bailiff to bring in the jury.
While the bailiff goes to get the jury I notice just how many more bailiffs are present today. There had to be at least 5 by my count plus the 1 that went to get the jury. I suppose if there’s going to be any day a defendant or family member goes ballistic this is going to be the day.
The jury is seated and the judge goes through all the formality asking the jury if a decision has been reached. The jury foreman confirms that they have and the bailiff gives the judge the verdict forms that have been filled out. The forms are handed to the clerk who has the job to read off the multiple verdict forms. This is one of the parts of the process that can be somewhat long. Reading off three charges doesn’t seem like that much but with all of the enhancements it can take a long time.
Verdict: Guilty on both counts of murder in the 1st degree with enhancements for murder in the process of a robbery and use of a firearm. The 2nd murder conviction also included the multiple murder enhancement. The robbery charge was also found to be true with two firearm enhancements.
I now know by heart that murder is section 187 of the penal code. It was said enough times to burn it into my memory. I will have to go back and look but I think they used that code for MDK (murder death kill) in the movie Demolition Man. Yes, I’ve seen it. I actually own it on DVD but that’s because I got it for a $1 back in the go-go days of the .com era when companies actually thought you could buy customer loyalty in the free-for-all days of the early Internet days commerce era.
The judge then starts to excuse the jury. He thanks everyone for their service, patience, and most of all our efforts in paying attention the whole time and being genuinely interested in the case. He also singles out the two alternate jurors that made it for the reading. That felt pretty good honestly. I should mention one of the other alternate jurors made it in for the verdict reading while they were in the final stages of the first murder conviction reading. As is the judge’s normal operating mode he rambles on a bit telling us how important the jury system is in this country. But that’s okay. He’s earned it and it’s true. The guy is 84 or so years old and he could easily retire. Technically he is retired but is still sitting up there on a special appointment from what I understand. That’s beside the point but the point is that you can tell he really believes in the system and what he’s doing is important. The system needs more people like him in it. I could tell that the first day and I think that’s why I didn’t try to get out of jury duty. I just told them my situation and let them decide if I was suitable for the jury.
After the jury leaves they set sentencing for November 20th at 8:30 am. I’ll come back for it because it will bring closure to the whole process.
11:55 am – I head out to the hallway and all the other jurors are waiting. They were pretty happy that two of us showed up for the reading. They had also asked to have us called to notify us that the verdict was in before they found out that we had already asked to be called when it happened. It felt good to see everyone and be able to actually talk about the case for once. It’s really hard to go through a couple weeks of a trial and not be able to talk about what we heard to anyone about it. As an alternate it was important to come back, at least to me, because then I could find out if my feelings on the case and the witnesses was the same as the other jurors.
12:05 pm – There is a reporter that is talking to a couple of the jurors. While everyone is figuring out where we’re going to head for lunch Mr. Cope, the prosecutor comes out of the courtroom. He says hi and thanks us again and then the questions start. I’ll try to remember them all.
The first one is what happened to the daughter Nicole Cyrs. Apparently she is in jail at the moment for contempt. She had refused to testify in the case. She had served 9 months as accessory after the fact. Someone said she had heard she was in college too.
The next question was about Karen Novak, who the jurors felt was the ring leader in all this. Mr. Cope said she has been made of Teflon so far. They refer to her as Typhoid Mary in the DA’s office. They just haven’t gotten much to stick to her. The jury had nicknamed her as Ma Barker (link to Wikipedia). I liked Ma Barker better. Anyways, she had also been the ring leader on an armored car heist and while the two men in the case got 25 to life she got next to nothing. We all agreed that hopefully there really is something called karma waiting for her. She is a piece of work.
There was a question about Leron “Puff” Morris. He was convicted of 1st degree murder also and is serving a life without the possibility of parole sentence (LWPOP). That led to a question if that’s why they didn’t do a deal with Mr. Wright. Mr. Cope said they couldn’t do a deal with the shooter if Mr. Morris was in for life without parole.
We all went out to lunch next. We got seated and started hashing out all the details. As I had suspected the whole linchpin in this was going to be robbery. Was there a planned robbery or a robbery none the less? For me there was not a smoking gun on the robbery. While the defendant had said they were going to rob them but it was the rest of the circumstances that really sealed it for me. Most of the others had agreed with this assessment although for some the words in the interview was enough for them. The big question was why would they have gone to the trouble they went to unless they were planning on stealing the drugs and try to cover it up. You don’t go to that much trouble unless you have a plan. And it doesn’t go as fast as it did unless you have a plan. You also don’t stop and take a drink of water while going out to the garage before shooting the victims unless you have a plan. It was just too much for me.
Once everyone agreed that a robbery did indeed happen it pretty much sealed everything else. The murders automatically become 1st degree murder. The enhancements were then also a done deal because the firearms were a given and since they just decided on robbery that enhancement automatically triggered.
I found out that one of the jurors was late that morning and they would have been done even earlier if it hadn’t been for that. I think this shows that there was definite agreement between all the jury members. I talked to the foreman later and he said that watched the video again and then divided the instructions among the jury members and went through every section to make sure they followed all of the rules/instructions.
Tomorrow I plan on adding some reflections on the case itself and then in a couple of weeks I’m going to head to court for the sentencing which I believe is Nov 20th. I’ve got to check with the court clerk to be sure, though.