Category Archives: jury duty

Jury Duty: Day 13 (The Verdict)

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.

Jury Duty: Day 12

October 10, 2006 – 8th day of the trial

This is the twelfth 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.

8:30 am – Most people are here but one of us is still missing. Of course, the only day they are ready to start on time is the day that one of us is late.

9:00 am – The last of the jurors arrive. The moms in the group were all worried about her but it turns out she thought we were starting at 9 am.

The judge tells us that he was thinking (jokingly) of having the prosecutor read the first 50 pages and the defense lawyer read the other 50 pages of instructions. Then we realize that there really are at least 100 pages of instructions. They warned us that they are going to take a while to get through. He gets started and a lot of it is about what we can and can not consider about the charges from a general standpoint. The instructions also included things like if we are unsure they we must err on the side of not convicting and so forth. They then go into specific instructions about the requirements that must be met for each charge to be found true. The judge tells us what sort of things the jury can request and so forth. I don’t remember if I’ve touched on it before but I think it’s good that they emphasize the phrase “reasonable doubt” and cover the fact that one could probably come up with a very unplausable situation to create doubt but that those should be put aside because they are not reasonable explanations. These instructions are when I realized that as an alternate I would not be allowed in the jury room. He kept saying “12 jurors”.

Closing Arguments

Mr. Cope, the prosecutor went first in his closing arguments. We could tell he wasn’t feeling good that day. He thanked us for for being jurors and for dealing with the delays that occurred during the trial. Initially he told us that it might have been suggested that we consider the defendent’s age and the fact that he confessed as reason to “give him a break” and that as jurors that was not our job. I think he was just reminding us with that one but I’m pretty confident that based on what I knew of the jurors that this would not happen. We haven’t been able to discuss the case but more just getting to know the jurors I couldn’t imagine any of them would do this. He started to get into each of the charges and discussed how we might go about determining what the defendent is or is not guilty of. He had an easel setup that had a flip chart with each of the charges on it. He went through the requirements for each charge and specifically laid out what he felt made the defendent guilty of them. Mr. Cope went through in detail each of the different theories that would convict Mr. Wright of 1st degree murder. 1st degree murder requires one of two things in this case. The first would be that we have to believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was both premeditation and deliberation before the murder. The second would be that we have to believe that there was a robbery or attempted robbery that resulted in the murders. For the robbery charge it was obvious that there was some robbery that occurred (the victim’s clothes and the car) but that those were not qualifying robbery for the felony murder part. Basically, felony murder is 1st degree murder when it came down to it. If you are committing a robbery (felony robbery in this case) then it automatically becomes 1st degree murder. There were also firearm and robbery enhancements on the murder charges that were only valid if the defendent was found guilty of 1st degree murder. Mr. Cope talked about each of these and talked about how he felt that each of the points leading up to these were established irrefutably.

Once he finished with his presentation at the easel he started to get more animated and going through how the timeline and other circumstances show that there was premeditation for the crime. For me, the part that really was critical was the timeline and the availability of materials they used. The prosecution had established that the victims were only at the house maybe 90 minutes at most before they were killed and 2 hours total before their bodies were dumped on Morgan Territory Rd. Obviously the video had established the defendent’s guilt in murder but we still had to be convinced that there was premeditation and deliberation. I had no doubt that this was planned due to this fact.

He did answer an important question for me, though. I was unsure if you could be guilty of robbery when the item in question is illegal to possess. And the answer is yes, you can be guilty of stealing something illegal.

Mr. Cook, the defense attorney was next. He started out very emphatically that he did not want our pity about the defendent’s age or his cooperative nature in the interview video we saw and that the witnesses (Karen Novak specifically) had testified to and that it was never suggested. Of course it was or else why would he have brought the point up during the trial many times?

Next he brought out his own chart. He offered his own idea on how we should approach our deliberations. This is where it actually got very interesting. He should a progression of possible murder charges that went from murder with special enhancements to 1st degree murder to 2nd degree murder to voluntary manslaughter to involuntary manslaughter. He immediately said he didn’t expect us to take very long on deciding against either manslaughter charge. He wanted 2nd degree murder. It was interesting strategy. 1st degree murder with enhancements would provide a much longer sentence I’m assuming. The crux of his argument is that the prosecution didn’t prove that they set out to rob the victim of the drugs. He said that Mr. Wright only said he was going to rob the victim once and that he neve rcame back to that. It didn’t seem quite right to me because I’m pretty sure I heard that in the tape at least a few times but that’s something that can be examined by the jurors during deliberation. I figured I’d ask them after the verdict was in.

One note that I had kept was how he referred to the people as “the government” during this closing statement. These are just little things used to try and sway us without directly addressing us. I don’t begrudge him or think less of him for this, though, and I’ll actually address my thoughts on each of the attorney’s jobs in my last posting of this series.

It’s noon now and so we’re sent on our lunch break. After the break the prosecutor will get a chance to rebut any specific claims of the district attorney if he wishes to. At that point the jury will start their deliberations.

1:15 pm – The prosecutor specifically rebuts the fact that the defendent only said he was going to rob the victim once and specifically noted something like 3 or 4 different times. He also pointed out his belief that the murder was planned because the idea was to steal the drugs and the only way to do so was to kill the courier and then claim they had given the drugs back to the courier and he must have run away to deflect focus on them. This was my thought exactly during lunch. I could not see any other point for doing what they did to the victims because nothing else made sense. I’ll eloborate on this later but there was really no reason to do what they did unless they were planning on stealing the drugs.

The judge gives a few last instructions and then he sent the 12 jurors into the jury room. The other 3 alternates and I were then excused but kept under the admonition to not discuss the case, etc. We were told to give the clerk a number that we could be reached at until the case was over just in case it was necessary for us to take someone’s place in the jury room. Two other jurors and I asked the bailiff to ask the clerk to call us when a verdict was ready so we could come back for that.

It really was disappointing that we couldn’t sit in the jury room. The other jurors had wanted us in there as well. Plus, it’s kind of anti-climactic that after this long of a trial that we can’t help take it to conclusion. It’s like reading a 300 page book and getting to page 270 and then it skips ahead to page 300. You will find out the ending but you miss all the interesting twists where the author ties all the plots together. I headed back home at this point and got some more work done. I’m going to work from home on Wednesday so that I can get back to the courthouse for the verdict when they’re ready. If they go beyond Wednesday then I’ll just have to go back to work.

Jury Duty: Day 11

October 5, 2006 – 7th day of the trial

This is the eleventh 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.

10:00 am – We’re told to report today at 10am so we’re all here but of course they’re not ready for us.

10:30 am – Still waiting

10:35 am – The bailiff comes out and tells us that they’re still in hearings and were all day yesterday about the instruction phase. Because of something that happened yesterday they may have to re-open the evidence phase. Joy. Most of us expected to go in and told to go home again until Tuesday morning. Monday is Columbus Day so there is no court Monday.

10:40 am – We’re brought into court and told that they are trying to locate a prior witness, someone in law enforcement, and that if they can find him today that we’ll hear from him. But because of this development that we’re not going to get the case today (for deliberations). This effectively means that we aren’t going to deliberate until Monday. Joy again. We’re told to meet back at 1:15 in the hope they can locate the witness and listen to him today.

1:15 pm – We go back into court. There’s a feeling among everyone that we’re going to be released until Tuesday morning because they probably weren’t able to find the witness. Monday is a holiday it turns out (Columbus Day)

It turns out we are partially correct. They weren’t able to find the witness but the lawyers have agreed to read a portion of an interview transcript between Detective Moule and the defendent. The defense lawyer reads off an exchange about whether or not the defendent took anything from JP’s car. He repeatedly denied taking anything because there was nothing worth taking. My take is that he’s telling the truth. He was consistent in this fact and it would be a minor thing to lie about.

The question is, why did they take all this time to read this into the record? My take is that it has something to do with the 3rd charge, robbery. I don’t know if we have heard enough for the robbery charge and if the robbery charge isn’t upheld how does it affect the felony murder charges that include an enhancement on both robbery and firearms. I will have to wait until I hear the instructions to understand how it might affect my decision on his guilt or innocence.

The judge dismissed us until Tuesday morning at 8:30 am at which time we will start to receive deliberation instructions. There wasn’t enough time this afternoon to get all of the instructions apparently. I’m not looking forward to Tuesday morning because it’s going to be very tedious to listen closely for that long. I still wish I knew what my role will or won’t be in deliberations.

Commentary – This is now really frustrating. We were ahead of schedule, things were moving smoothly and now this. On top of that I’m still not sure if I will get to participate actively in deliberation discussions since I’m an alternate. Earlier in the trial it was indicated I would have to stay through deliberations but no one is for sure. That would really suck to be honest (and blunt) if I am sent home once things go to the jury.

Jury Duty: Day 10

October 4, 2006 – 6th Day of Trial

This is the tenth 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.

We were excused today via a phone call. I decided to work at home and try to get more caught up. The presumption is that they’re still having hearings on the instructions we are to hear before going into deliberations.

Jury Duty: Day 9

October 3, 2006 – Fifth day of the trial

This is the ninth 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.

8:30 am – We’re all here but of course we haven’t started yet.

9:00 am – We get started and the judge tells us that the prosecution and defense have rested. We’re told the defense attorney and prosecutor will be in hearings with the judge all day to work out the details of the instructions we are to receive. Because of that we’re told to report back at 9:00 am tomorrow to start receiving our instructions. Apparently it will take a long time. We all head out the door. I’m going to work since I need to interact with people more than I’m able to working at home.


Wow! We’re done with testimony already. This trial was supposed to last 3 weeks and we’re done with testimony in only four days. This is kinda hard to believe but we will be in jury deliberations before the end of the week it looks like. Two things that kinda suck, though. One, we had to come in and sit around for 30 minutes and then get released for the day. I know most people took the day off but that doesn’t work for me. I’m heading back into the city to get to work now. The second thing is that because I’m still an alternate I don’t get to vote. It hasn’t been made clear one way or the other as to whether I can even participate or how much during deliberations. Hopefully I don’t have to sit in a corner and not say anything.

Jury Duty: Day 8

October 2, 2006 – 4th day of the trial

This is the eighth 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.

8:45 am – We actually got started close to our official starting time this morning. Woot! Our first witness today is a police lt. who I believe was the Sargent that assigned detectives to homicide cases at the time of this murder. My notes are a little messy on that fact but the important thing that this witness brought was that he was involved in the autopsies and also that he testified that they found a gas can under a headboard where the defendant had stayed after the murders. I don’t know about you but I generally don’t keep a gas can under my headboard so that doesn’t look so good to me.

The witness was also involved in the capture of Mr. Wright in Vallejo about 9-10 months after the crimes took place. Apparently they had gotten a tip that he was in a house in Vallejo and so the SWAT team cordoned off the block and after about a day they pulled him out of an attic of a house there. This was a pretty short testimony session since it only lasted about 20 minutes.

9:05 am – The next witness was the homicide detective assigned to the case. He was also the man that interviewed Mr. Wright after his capture. The detective was on this case from the beginning and was the lead on the execution of the search warrant at the Livorne Way house in Concord. He testified to the fact that they learned of the address for the house from the map that JP had left at his girlfriend’s house and then from there, based on what was found, he had a detective go and get Leron Morris. It was interesting how quickly they moved from finding the bodies to executing the search warrant on the house. It was just a matter of a day or two.

During interviews with Leron Morris the name Dominique Wright had come up so he became a person of interest/suspect as well but he could not be located. Shortly after this they had a warrant issued for Mr. Wright. That was in December of 2002. The next moment in the time line came on September 23, 2003 when he was captured in Vallejo. This was the first date that the detective had contact with Mr. Wright. You could tell that part of the foundation here was to establish that it was obvious police were looking for Mr. Wright and that he was actively running from capture.

At about 9:25 am there was a side bar that occurred because the defense did not want us to know how the defendant was found. I’m not sure why this is really that important but based on the fact that the defense attorney has been trying to paint a picture of his client being a relatively well mannered kid this would be consistent. I only really care what he did or didn’t do, not if he was a good kid or not. Another thing I noticed was that all witnesses/defendants in custody have to walk with their hands behind their backs with their wrists touching and a deputy is behind them at all times. I’m guessing they don’t put them in chains unless their behavior in court warrants it so as to not taint our view of them. That’s just a guess, though.

The next step in testimony was hearing about the interview done with Karen Novak. He testified her story changed often and only when confronted with evidence to the contrary. The answers they felt were truthful confirmed time lines for the day. They also never found the 3lbs. of meth but that really wasn’t overall that critical in my point of view.

Okay, on to the testimony about the interview. The defendant cooperated pretty well in testimony and never once lawyered up. I was pretty surprised by this. You figure that by now someone would have told him that if he’s captured to just lawyer up and not say anything. His answers did change as he was confronted with inconsistencies or things that contradicted what they had learned from other interviews. He did admit that he had knowledge of the scams that led to the drugs but that he had learned them from Leron. His story over time went from helping out Leron to holding the guns to actually using the guns and doing some of the shooting. He told of where he had gotten the guns as well (from his father). At this point the detective said he told Mr. Wright that at this point (after admitting to the killings) some defendants like to write a letter to the family of the victims to explain what he did and to apologize if they would like to. Mr. Wright chose to do this and wrote a letter. I was really hoping we’d get to see the letter and later the detective read it out loud to us. I’ll get to that in a moment, though. So far in this testimony, what the detective has told us doesn’t quite match up with the evidence. The ballistics report had show that some of the shots were very close together and the trajectories were almost identical so it’s most likely that they were fired in sequence. Especially the shots to the girl. She had been shot twice and at this point the defendant is only telling the detective he shot the girl once. I suspect there is more to this that we’ll get to, though. The initial testimony by the detective ended by saying that the next day he took the defendant to be interviewed by the prosecutor’s inspector.

The defense was definitely going to cross-examine this witness. He started out asking how old the defendant was at the time of the murders. He had just turned 18. He also focused on the amount of time that they interviewed Mr. Wright. He told him it was 7 hours. The defense attorney also wanted to focus on how quickly the stories changed. He seemed to get the detective to say that they changed relatively quickly. In other words, he didn’t cling to any real statements of innocence for very long. I was trying to figure out what among this was really relevant at the time.

The prosecutor redirected after this and had the detective clarify how the 7 hours was broken down. Basically, he sat in the room by himself for a couple of hours while they processed things and then later he was left alone for about 90 minutes to 2 hours to write the letter. The total interview time was like about 3-4 hours. They also established that the defendant was still not fully cooperative or forthcoming after all of this and that it took over an hour before he admitted to taking part in any of the shootings. The most dramatic part of all this was the letter, though. The detective tried to read the letter that Mr. Wright had written. It was difficult for the detective to read. It was handwritten and so it looked like he had a hard time making out certain parts but the jist of it all was the fact that he was very sorry about what had happened and that he took responsibility. He didn’t explain any of the “why” but I felt the remorse was honest. The kid wasn’t aware enough to ask for a lawyer so I don’t really think he was aware enough at that point to try and fake remorse. Plus, the damage had been done in confessing to the crime.

That was pretty much it for this witness. I’m assumed the next witness is where everything would get wrapped up with the tape. This witness was about establishing the foundation of the initial interview and admitting to the crimes.

The prosecutor tends to look very annoyed when he feels the defense is asking relatively meaningless questions. You can see it in his body language and facial expressions. I don’t know how much of this is acting and how much is just him being him. It’d be interesting to find out how much of it is a show, though. Another comment was that it was interesting how witnesses all would ask before they consult their notes. Rather than just saying, “I’m going to check my notes” they ask, “Do you mind if I check my notes first?” They’re never told no but I’m assuming this is something that they are trained to do as part of court testimony. It probably helps or is mandatory for court transcripts too. That way you can read that they testified some of their words from notes and other from memory.

11:20 am – The prosecution calls its next witness now. I half expected that we’d be sent to lunch early but they go ahead and start with the prosecution office’s inspector. Basically, he’s a detective that is assigned to the prosecutor’s office to conduct interviews mostly and to research more into the crime once the police feel they have their perpetrator. They start to go through his credentials and the type of training he has had for interviewing suspects. He’s had training for things like profiling the person and then determining what type of tactics to use to get them to talk and so forth. Basically, he knows things to get people to fess up and encourage them to keep talking.

The prosecutor asks about the defendant and the inspector says that he was pleasant and cooperative for the most part. The witness said they had talked for a number of hours and felt that they got to the truth by the end of the interview. The prosecutor asked if the interview was taped. The inspector replied that all interviews are taped. That’s when the prosecutor introduces the tape. I just kind of assumed that this was something that the defense would want to object to and he did. Now that it’s 11:30 the judge decides to just let us go for lunch so that they can have an evidence hearing. We’re told to come back at 1:30.

1:30 pm – When we come back in at 1:30 the television is setup for the tape. We are given transcripts from the interview tape. We’re given some instructions by the judge that basically said that we should use the transcript to follow along but that what we hear on the tape is evidence and not the transcript. We’re told the tape is about 90 minutes or so in length and has been edited to insure that only things that are admissible as evidence are displayed to us. I’d really like to know what those items are but it’s neither her nor there really.

1:30 pm – For the next 90 minutes we watch the tape of the interview. It is an extremely interesting tape to watch and see how the inspector gets information out of the defendant and to keep him cooperating. It really didn’t feel like 90 minutes went by when the tape had finished. I felt that the defendant was definitely nervous. He had this tendency to laugh or giggle a lot in tense situations during the interview. Even when he admitted to killing them it was like “well, ya know, I shot them…heh heh heh” but the hehs were more of a giggle than an evil laugh or anything like that. His story changed slightly throughout the tape but the main area of focus was around the shots. They also had the part where he said they had to have Leron’s girlfriend move the victim’s car in the garage because the defendant couldn’t drive a stick shift. The inspector had a little fun with that one I think. By the end of the tape he had admitted that he shot the victims 3 times if I remember right. At that point, anything more is kind of moot because he shot them both and all shots would have been fatal on their own, he was part of the crime so it really doesn’t matter who shot the victims. It helps from a closure standpoint since what he said this time matches up much better with ballistics testimony we had heard earlier.

That was it for the testimony really. The tape pretty much said it all. This man killed these two people and then proceeded to dump the bodies in a remote area of Contra Costa county.

At this point we’re sent out of the courtroom for some more evidence hearings. This is probably the most boring and frustrating part of the process. For the next 30 minutes some of us just work on crossword puzzles as a group. We’ve gotten quite good at solving the puzzles from the Contra Costa Times in about 15-20 minutes. The New York Times crosswords take us a lot longer to finish, if we are even able to.

3:30 pm – We’re sent home for the day and the prosecution will probably rest now barring any changes from further evidence hearings that we aren’t privy to.

WOW is all I have to say. We were definitely not expecting to be done with prosecution witnesses after just four days of testimony. I guess we’ll find out more tomorrow. Today, of course, was the worst day for the defendant. When you admit to killing two people on tape multiple times and have watch yourself tell how you did it, it can’t be a good day. I know that I am wondering why this even came to court. I’m sure once I’m able to talk about it that the other jurors are having the same though. Based on what we heard at the beginning of trial, though, I’m sure it’s all about the little things. When you’re probably looking at a life sentence you probably take every possibility, no matter how slim it is, to try and mitigate the effect somewhat.

Jury Duty: Day 7

September 28, 2006 – 3rd day of the trial

This is the seventh 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.

8:47 am – We got started and had a witness that established where J.P. had gotten the car that he drove to the eventual murder scene. She explained she had sold the car for $2000 and received $1000 initially but had reported it stolen after J.P. never came back to give her the other $1000. There was no cross examination.

8:55 am – We are dismissed until 9:30am since the judge has a hearing with a few lawyers on a different case.

So tell me why didn’t they just have this witness come after the hearing and we could have started later today?

9:35 am – Our next witness is Miguel Quoroga (I’m not 100% on the spelling). He knew Joshua Novak in prison and had arranged for the bad checks from our understanding. He also arranged for the drugs to be sent to the house. Miguel is questioned by the jury. His answers seem honest for the most part. They don’t seem rehearsed and at times he seemed to measure what he said as far as implicating other people or not naming them. He definitely didn’t want to use names from other people but he admits to being a hustler and part of the check scam that Karen Novak got involved in.

So they start to go over the details of his relationship with Joshua Novak. He admits that he had a “financial arrangement” with Joshua Novak where bogus checks would be given to Karen Novak and that she would cash, take part of the money and then the rest of the money would go to Miguel through “his people”. He admitted that the first check was no good and that he had to make good with Joshua. I was surprised they didn’t go into why he had to make good and what would happen if he didn’t. Anyways, Miguel said he knew people that would front some meth for him and so he arranged to have a 3 pound brick of meth delivered to Karen’s house.

The DA questions him on the street value of the meth. It’s about $10,000 per pound in brick form and depending on the abilities of the dealer anywhere from $20,000-$30,000 in smaller amounts sold “retail” Karen was to sell this either herself or through other people to get her money back and in addition then pay for the meth.

Miguel confirms that at some point he was told that Karen got cold feet and that the meth needed to be picked up. He said that when he didn’t hear from JP that he started calling around and couldn’t get a hold of Karen. He also couldn’t get a hold of JP but did get in touch with someone else who told him JP was dead.

The defense attorny tried to get Miguel to admit he was a drug dealer but he declined and said he was just a hustler. He said he hustled lots of things but that yes he was familiar with the drug trade as well. There wasn’t much damage done here by the defense attorny to impinge on anything the witness had said during the DA’s direct examination.

The DA redirected (confirm in notes) and asked if the witness was getting any favors whatsoever from testifying (i.e. reduced probation, recommendations, etc.). He said no.

My overall thoughts on this witness was that he seemed fairly honest, as hustlers go. He didn’t have a direct link to the crime other than the fact that he established where the drugs came from and that there was a check scam that had the checks originate with him. He also established that the drugs were to be picked up.

The next witness was Joshua Novak – He is the wife of Karen Novak, who owns the house. I expected this to be a rather interesting witness and I was right.

The witness is currently incarcerated and was brought in wearing his prison uniform. This tells us why we had different bailiffs in the courtroom today. They were all men today. I was actually expecting someone larger (the witness that is). I’m not sure why, but he definitely didn’t look pleasant. It was just his demeanor I suppose.

The DA started to question him about his past and when he lived at the house in Concord. He spoke very clearly and loudly. This is different from Miguel since he talked softly and with a much thicker accent. The direct examination got combative very quickly with Joshua immediately admitting that he lied on the stand during the previous trial where he implicated Dominique in many things. Basically, we are finding out that there was a previous trial of Leron where Dominique was implicated in a number of ways. Joshua is telling us that he did this to help Leron and that he was pressured to but that now he’s “telling the truth” and that he had never spoken to Dominique about anything. Both he and Karen have tried to paint the picture that Dominique was a pleasant and respectable young man.

He did admit that he arranged the check scam to help pay Karen back for money he had lost in her stock market account. He said he felt responsible to her because they were still married at this point.

The defense cross examines him and is trying to further his statements that everything was Leron and that Dominique was never privy to any plans nor did he tell Karen that Dominique could help move the drugs.

Here’s an interesting thing I noticed during his testimony. He always said “pretty much” to the DA instead of “yes” when he confirmed something but to the defense attorney he said “exactly” or “definitely” when he wanted to confirm. Do I know what this means yet? No, not really, but it makes me wonder if this is one of his “tells” when it comes to truthfulness or not.

This witness can not be considered reliable in my book. Very little of what he said can be considered true other than what has been corroborated by other witnesses. He basically helped to confirm what led to the drugs being delivered to the house.

Next witness: Senior Criminalist – This witness provided additional details about the car itself and the position of the bodies in the car. He also establishment that a pillow from Karen Novak’s house was used as a baffle for the gunshots that killed JP and CL. The pillow that was found on the bodies, with bullet holes through it, and covered in blood on the underside matches a pillow from Karen’s house. He just aid they were similar. This is just further establishment of where the crime took place. He also confirmed that the gun was fired very closely to the pillow in question.

At this point we’re shuttled out of the courtroom for some hearings and a break. Then we wait. And we wait some more. Finally, at around 3:30pm we’re brought in the courtroom again and then told that things are ahead of schedule and we’re free to go for the weekend. We’re also told the prosecution plans to rest his case on Tuesday evening. I’m surprised by that because that means just two more days of testimony and we haven’t heard from any sheriff’s deputies yet. In addition, during his opening statement the DA said that Dominique himself had confessed to much of the crime so we’re still waiting for that. It should be a very interesting two days next week.

Tomorrow – The eighth day of jury duty and the fourth day of the trial

Jury Duty: Day 6

September 27, 2003 – Second Day of Trial

This is the sixth 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.

8:30 am – The court never starts on time. All of the other jurors and I are just sitting around waiting for the bailiff to call us in for the 2nd day of testimony to begin. We’re expecting Karen Novak to testify today. She owns the house that the murders allegedly took place at. Yesterday we had heard a comment that indicated she was going to be here today.

8:45 am – The prosecution calls a woman that is the sister of a woman having the victim’s (JP) child. She’s very emotional as to be expected. Her sister’s child will never know her father because of what happened. This witness is here to testify that she saw the victim a few days before he was killed when he was first taking the drugs to the house in Concord. She knew that he was transporting drugs because he had told her.

The most interesting part of this was the fact that the victim had left a map at the house with the address of the house in Concord written on the side of it. He had called to get the address after he left because he hadn’t meant to leave it there.

The defense cross-examined her and wanted to know if the victim liked guns. She said no. He asked again because of what was written in the interview notes when the police interviewed her after they had found the bodies. In the notes there was a statement that she had said the victim (JP) had a .357 black and chrome revolver. She re-iterated that it must be wrong because she doesn’t know enough about guns to even know how to describe a gun or what caliber it is. She seemed believable about the fact that she doesn’t know enough about guns to have made that specific of a comment. Also, they had interviewed her and her sister together so it’s possible that her sister had described the gun if it was in the notes that way. I figure after about 4 years it’s hard to recall everything that was said.

This witness was here to establish that the victim had contact with the drugs and had delivered them initially to the house in Concord. I also think that this was probably critical that the victim had left the map there. This was what led the police to the house in Concord in the first place. Would they have ever found other connections to the house in Concord if not for this map? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say.

8:55 am – The next witness is the sister of the previous witness and the woman that had victim’s (JP) child. She confirmed the timeline for the previous witness and that she did not remember him carrying a gun. She was also pretty emotional as to be expected. The prosecution did not ask a lot of questions.

The defense cross-examined this witness as well. He wanted to go over the gun in the notes again. She denied that he had a gun again. He asked if the police notes were wrong and she re-iterated that she did not remember him having a gun that day. I’m kind of wondering how the police take notes if she’s telling the truth. Were the notes the detective’s thoughts? They obviously aren’t going to take notes verbatim so they can’t be sure of all context. Just a curiosity.

The victim’s body language was interesting to me. She was sad and lackadasical. Sad I can understand but the latter emotion was curious to me.

My guess, watching the defense attorney, is that he was trying to establish the courier like guns and if he could do so he could paint a picture of why guns would be needed when they came back to the get the drugs. But that’s just a guess.

Things are going pretty quickly today. We’re going on to our third witness and it’s only 9:15 am.

9:15 am – The next witness is the first witness that connect’s the 2nd victim, Crystal Langston, to JP. The witness had known the victim for about a year and was with her at a trailer the morning of the day she was killed. The witness and victim had not known JP previously. They were both meth users and were at the trailer getting high that morning when JP and another guy had stopped by. JP knew the people whose trailer they were in. On a side note, how weird it is that someone named Crystal was also addicted to crystal meth. The guy that JP had come with left with the guy that owned the trailer. JP had said he needed to run an errand asked if the witness wanted to go with him. She said he just seemed like he didn’t want to go alone, that he really wanted company. The witness would have gone with him but she couldn’t because the car didn’t have plates. Interestingly enough, someone it came up in conversation that the car didn’t have plates because she said she never actually saw the car. The real reason the witness cared about the car not having plates is because at the time there was a warrant for her arrest. The witness was very sure that they had left at 1:20 pm that afternoon. She also said that she never saw or heard about JP having a gun.

The witness testified that she started to get worried and had attempted to call JP many times that evening to find out where Crystal was but never got a response and that the victim’s voicemail was full. She said she got the number for JP from the people at the trailer.

The defense cross-examined her and tried again to establish that JP had a gun. Nothing successful from the cross.

This witness was really critical because she really established the initial timeline for the day of the murder. Based on when they left she helped determine how long the scene at the Concord house probably lasted. From my own observations it had to be really strange to relive this, not just because her friend had been killed but because she would have been the one in the car had she not had a warrant out for her.

10:05 am – They call Karen Novak. This is the witness I was really interested to hear about. Her house is the one in Concord where the murders occurred. She had to be compelled to testify to avoid jail time. She did not testify willingly.

Karen testified that her husband at the time(who I assume we’ll hear from her later) had lost $30-40K in the stock market by getting into her online brokerage account without her permission. Her then husband was in jail when all this started and had contacted her to express his desire to “make it up” to her. The scheme was a bogus check scheme. Her description was that she would get a check, deposit it, and then give a portion of it to some other people while she would keep most of it. She was asked if this seemed a bit strange? She said no (I’ll get to my commentary on this later).

Next, she described that she received a $14,000 check in a greeting card. I don’t recall the exact writing in the card but it was strange. She apparently did not think that it was strange that she had received this check. She goes to deposit it because some people came by to get their portion of the check. She deposits it at Bank of America and gives them their $5,000. She found at later the check was bogus. So, now she’s out an additional $5,000. Apparently, she’s just upset at her husband, and not furious (her words if I remember them correctly).

Joshua, her husband at the time, had another checked dropped off. This one was for $17,000. When she went to deposit it it turned out this one was fake as well. She says the reason she was able to cash these checks was because she had overdraft protected linked to her credit card. The prosecutor again questioned her about how she could not have realized or be suspicious of these checks. She played dumb on these questions.

The next part of the scheme was that she was to receive a large amount of drugs, crystal methamphetamine, and then sell it to make up the money that she was now out. At first she claimed she had said yes but then later changed her mind. She tried to get the delivery stopped but appeared unsuccessful in this attempt since later on some 3 pounds of crystal meth was dropped off at her house by two men. She never opened the door to greet them. They just left a duffel bag on her front porch, made a statement and then left. The bag was dropped off on a Friday.

At this point, her daughter’s boyfriend Leron (otherwise known by his nickname, Puff), is brought into the story. He was the one that brought the drugs in the house and put them in the dresser in his room. Later on, somehow she had gotten JP’s number and contacted him about getting the drugs picked up. Some of her statements seem to contradict each other at this point in her testimony. She had also been in touch with her husband about getting the drugs out of the house as well. She kept re-iterating that she just wanted the drugs out of her house.

The prosecution asks if she was a meth user. She admits she uses the drug.

We stop for our mid-morning break at 10:55 am

11:10 am – The prosecution continues with the witness again. We’re starting to hear about the “plan” which is supposed to just encompess them making “those people”, the druge dealers, know that they just can’t come to her house like they did before. This part really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I don’t know why they would want to come back to her house after picking up the drugs. She didn’t want to say anything about scaring people which seems somewhat strange as well. My guess is it’s signficant for some reason or another. She was very emphatic that she knew nothing about a plan to kill the courier.

Fast forward to the day of the murders. She was at home in the morning but then had to leave to go to work where she was taking care of an elderly person. At some point she had called and found out that the courier had arrived at the house. She tried to call back later to find out what was happening and couldn’t get an answer. At this point she became “frantic” (her words). She left her job, which she was not supposed to, and raced home. When she got to her street she saw a car in the driveway but did not go to the house and continued to call. This was also strange to me. She just continued to call the house. She finally got an answer and that everything was okay. Rather than going in the house she said she just turned around and went back to her job. The phone records the DA seem to confirm that she was in communication with the house multiple times and correlate with when she was sitting in her car down the street from the house.

Karen said that she never talked to Dominique again after the search warrants were served and her house was searched.

There were times where she also said the drugs that were dropped off were “bunk” or not worth anything. She admitted to taking some of the drugs and using it.

There was also a lot of talk about whether or not Karen actually saw a gun and whose it was. She just said that she knew there was a gun on the china cabinet I believe.

The prosecution is done with the witness and it’s time for lunch. After lunch the defense will cross-examine the witness.

1:30 pm – The cross examination by the defense begins. The defense tries to paint a picture of Karen testifying in exchange for immunity. After that he starts by trying to use Karen to point Puff as the bad guy in all of this. In addition he tries to attack her credibility about her previous involvements in an armed car robbery and prescription fraud. In addition, he attempted to establish that Dominique was not involved by Karen directly, but that Puff was the point man for Dominique’s involvement. She generally confirmed that although I’m not sure how that is significant.

The prosecution redirects and asks whether or not she smoked the meth from the 3 pound brick before or after the night of the murder. She kept saying she didn’t remember when she used it.

The defense and prosecution went back and forth a few times on the gun and whether or not she saw it and so forth but it doesn’t really seem that material to me.

That is pretty much it for this witness. I’m not really sure what to believe from this witness. First, it’s obvious that she was much more involved in the plot than she let on. I’ll be curious to find out after the trial what we weren’t allowed to hear. Second, the woman is high if she thinks anyone will believe that she didn’t know that all those checks were fake. I’m sure she did but of course she’s not going to say anything on the stand. In addition, does anyone really believe she doesn’t remember when she used the meth from the 3 pound brick? I think not. Basically, she just places Dominique at the scene more than anything and her phone calls establish additional evidence to the timing of the crime and so forth. It also helps confirm how the drugs came into her possession and so forth.

2:50 pm – The last witness of the day is one of the criminalists that worked the scene after the bodies were discovered. Basically he provides information about the fact that the bullets in the trunk lined up with the positions of the heads. This shows that the victims were shot in the trunk of the car. The defense asks some questions about where the car was between the time it was towed and when it was finally examined by the witness. They were interesting questions but ultimately not damaging or of much material value.

That’s it for today. This has by far been the most interesting day due to the third witness which took up most of the day. She also provided the most drama so far.

Tomorrow – The seventh day of jury duty and the third day of the trial

Jury Duty: Day 5

September 26, 2003 (Tuesday) – First Day of Trial

This is the fifth 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.

This starts the trial itself. I think it will be interesting for folks that have never gone through a long trial to hear the insights and see what it’s like to endure a trial this long and this serious. I’m also doing this for my own sanity because of the rules of the court which I’ll cover next. I’m not going to use the names of jurors or if I do I will use first names only. As for witnesses I will occasionally use their names if they are materially involved and not just witnesses that establish specific facts such as criminalists and people that came across the scene innocently.

Case Overview – The People vs. Dominique Alexander Wright

We have been told at this point that the charges against Mr. Wright are two counts of felony murder with both firearm and robbery enhancements. Apparently there is also another count of robbery. They’ve spoken of narcotics being involved as well but I was surprised that there were no narcotic enhancements. My guess is that it is not considered an enhancement as part of the felony murder rule but I’m sure I will learn more as the case goes on. We’ve also been told that the murder occurred in Concord California and the bodies were disposed of in unincorporated Contra Costa County on Morgan Territory Road.

Court Rules

I’m sure I’m going to miss a few of these so I will probably come back and edit this later but here goes.

  1. Don’t discuss this case with anyone, especially and specifically other jurors, either of the lawyers, the defendent, other people in the courtroom, anyone outside the courtroom including friends and family. Pretty much, just don’t talk about this case at all during the course of the trial.
  2. Don’t go and visit any of the crime scenes.
  3. Don’t research anything offline or online.

8:30 am – The court rules for jurors are read and the judge goes over terminology that will be used such as an objection, or the parties involved or other terms that we will hear in the course of this case. The official charges against Mr. Wright are also read at this time.

9:00 am – The Deputy District Attorny Mr. Cope makes his opening statement. The statement is pretty detailed in his case. He goes through the entire crime as the prosecution wishes to present it to us later through witnesses and evidence. This is where we really start to get an idea of what we are going to hear in this case. The items above were just what we had been told during the jury selection process. Now we’re getting to the details.

During the opening statement the DA detailed the timeline that the prosecution believes it. Some of this statements about what happened during the commission of the crime start to raise questions in my head about just how they know it. Then he tells us that it came from the defendent himself. So of course that grabs my interest a bit although I assume that the defense will have a different take on this statement.

10:00 am – The public defender Daniel Cook starts his opening statement. He pretty much says that most of the facts in the case are not in dispute but that what crimes that were actually committed is the real question. To me this means this will come down to what rules we are given at the end and then what we are able to draw from all of the testimony and evidence presented to us.

10:20 am – The prosecution’s first witness is someone that lives on Morgan Territory rd. She sets the timeline of when the car was on fire and where it was found. The witness describes the scene and tells us that it was about 3:45-4:00pm when her and her family came across the car. She tells us that the fire response came within 5 minutes of them calling 911. The police came much later she said.

For a first witness this was pretty uninteresting. All she did was establish the timeline of when and where the car was discovered and the condition it was in at the time. I assume most witnesses will be like this but there was that part of me that kind of expected a more dramatic witness since I’ve never been in a trial and have only seen them on television.

10:35 am – The prosecution presents their next witness. He is an engineer for the forestry service, which in this case means he is a fireman. He testifies about the events that led to him arriving at a burning car and putting the fire out. He also established the time of 4:00pm. He then talks about checking the engine and realizing the fire didn’t start in the engine. Next, he tells us that he looked in the trunk using the keys no less and found the two bodies. The keys had been left in the ignition and apparently hadn’t melted. After he discovered the bodies he notified police. He also tried to insure that the scene was preserved as much as possible since he knew it was now a crime scene. There was no cross-examination from the defense.

This was the last witness before lunch.

1:20 pm – After lunch our next prosecution witness is the pathologist that performed the autopsy on the two bodies. I figured this is where we would see the photos that we were warned about during jury selection.

The pathologist discussed his background and qualifications first. For expert witnesses they have to officially establish their expertise and then ask the court to qualify the person as an expert in a particular area(s) for the case. The pathologist is a medical doctor and then has more extensive training in pathology, specifically of a forensic nature. The prosecutor had this guy explain how the coroner based system works here in California and how it differs from most other states in the country. Of course, we have to be different than most other states. Anyways, the long and short of it is that he works for a private entity that contracts with the county to perform autopsies.

The pathologist was here to testify as to the cause of death. In both cases it was gunshot wounds to the head and/or neck. The female victim was shot twice in the neck in close proximity and at nearly identical trajectories. He estimated that it took her 1-2 minutes to die due to blood loss. I seriously hope she was fully unconscious for that period of time. The male victim was shot twice in the head and once in the neck. The shots to the head would have killed him immediately. The pathologist could not say in what order they were shot.

In all 5 cases the victims were shot at relatively close proximity because of the presence of stipling and tattooing from gunpowder and metal fragments from the barrell of a gun. There was tight contact on the shot to the male victim’s head and neck while there was most likely near contact on the female’s body. This showed that the shooter was standing very close when they shot them. Based on the trajectories it was also likely that the killer was standing over the victim (like from standing outside the trunk looking down).

In addition, he testified that the victims were not killed by the fire or the smoke in the vehicle since neither’s blood showed any trace of carbon monoxide.

The pathologist also testified that the victims both had bruising on the face indicating that they had been hit with blunt objects. He felt that the male victim had been hit more than the female victim.

The photos were of the bodies, how they were bound and the positions they were placed in when they were in the trunk of the car. It was hard to see the photos since they were broadcast on the wall of the courtroom.

The defense attorney asked his first questions today. They were more about the definition of death. I’m not sure where he was going but it didn’t seem to really challenge anything the pathologist had testified too. He also had a report from a different pathologist that disagreed with how many times the victim (I forget which one) had been hit (blunt force trauma). The pathologist said that he was aware of the report and that it agreed with everything except for how many times the victim was hit but that because it wasn’t the cause of death it really wasn’t relevant. I agreed with this statement. I was thinking the same thing as the defense tried to ask the question because I couldn’t fathom how many times someone was hit would mean anything because the gunshots were the cause of death.

This witness was the first key witness of the trial. He specifically established cause of death in the victims and how many times they were shot. On a side note, I didn’t find the photos as gruesome as we were told to expect. I think I’ve seen more graphic photos on CSI before but that’s neither here nor there. The photos were all just of entry and exit points to illustrate the findings of the pathologist.

3:30 pm -That was the end of the first day of trial. We got out a little early since the prosecution had exhausted his list of witnesses for the first day. Obviously we haven’t heard enough evidence yet to get a feeling for anything but you can see the foundation that the prosecutor has to lay before he gets to the evidence that could establish guilt. It’s hard to say what the strategy of the defense is at this point although based on his questions during jury selection and his opening statement it seems as though it’s going to rest more on whether or not his client committed the specific crimes he is accused of vs. any crime.

On a work note, I’m getting good WiFi signal from the McDonald’s across the street so that’s good news. I can answer e-mails at lunch and during break.

I’m also starting to get to know some of the folks on the jury. It turns out that there are two jurors whose daughters are roommates and they didn’t even know it. Basically, they had each met their daughter’s roommate but not the roommate’s father yet. I also found out that one of the jurors is the girlfriend of the son of my wife’s department secretary. If you followed that, you get a special reward. It’s really a small world.

Jury Duty: Day 4

September 25, 2006 (Monday) – Jury Selection Day 4

This is the fourth 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.

8:30 am – It’s Monday morning. We’re back here in section 28 again. Joy. They start up with more excusals from last week. I have a feeling those people just love the fact that they came in for 15 minutes to be told to go home but are probably also glad that they aren’t going to have to sit on the case.

They quickly finish with a few more questions on the new people that replaced those that were excused and we have 25. Some of us wonder if they’re done. My thoughts were that maybe they’ll just pick 16 from these 25 randomly and we’ll be done or they have some other means of picking the 16 from these 25. But I turned out to be wrong. Now, the preemptories start. I was expecting the lawyers to excuse us openly but they do everything in sidebar so you don’t know which lawyer didn’t like you.

People start getting dropped a lot from this group. They run through the folks in 17-25 pretty quickly so they start to refill the spots from 17-21.

10:00 am – My name is called. Damn. I know I’m in trouble because they’re almost out of preemptory challenges from our estimate. The bailiff told someone each lawyer had 10 preemptories and we’ve been counting the total that we think were pre-empts and it’s getting tight. They ask me about my hardship request and I tell them although I don’t qualify under the hardship guidelines I wanted to let them know that I still had to work and I can’t just stop working. The judge seemed a little annoyed but they go on. The prosecutor asks me if I understand that the jury is my first priority and I tell him yes but that it doesn’t change the fact that I will have to work nights and weekends (sounds like a cell phone commerical) to keep up with work. He asked me if I would tell them if it got to be too much while I was on the jury. I said yes. The defense attorney doesn’t ask me anything. I’m quite shocked (more on that later).

I could probably have pushed the whole thing a bit more, been more obnoxious to the judge but that really wouldn’t be right in my opinion. I know I can look at the evidence fairly and intelligently. Especially more than some of the people I’d seen in the room. And the fact that someone’s life (well, there’s no death penalty but I’m guessing it will be a long time if he’s found guilty) is essentially on the line it’s important that the jury actually cares about the process. If I feel the evidence is enough to convince me without a reasonable doubt then I will also have no trouble voting to convict him. I am still somewhat surprised that I wasn’t excused because the other folks that had similar work issues as me got excused. I think I was caught somewhat in a numbers and timing game. If I had been in the hot box earlier in the day I probably would have gotten much more scrutiny but we’re a week from initial jury selection and they wanted to get this trial going. They’ll never tell you that, of course, but that’s just my opinion. It’s no big deal, though. Most folks at work were surprised that my opinionated self didn’t get ejected but I am less openly opinionated with people I don’t know so that probably didn’t help me there. There is a part of me that thinks this will be a very interesting process so I am pretty intrigued. I’ll see how I feel after doing double duty for 4 weeks, though. 🙂

I think everyone was still a little surprised, even though a lot of folks probably knew by the time we got to the oath, that it was going to happen but I had been up there maybe two or three minutes when the judge said to administer the oath. I think I was in a little bit of “oh my god, this is really happening”.

Oh yeah, how do you swear to the tell the truth if you’re an aethiest? Being one it’s always a touchy subject to bring up in such a religious society that I can’t in good conscience swear anything to god. Of course, I’m not going to lie or what not but still, I never will be comfortable with the fact that almost all oaths end in sentences such as “so help me god”. It’s completely unnecessary.

We’re told to report on Tuesday morning at 8:30 am for the reading of the charges and the opening statements by the prosecution and defense attorney. I was a little surprised here again that we were going to start tomorrow. With such a long trial I would have expected them to give us at least a day to get everything in order. They were pretty casual in getting this trial going and to not give us a day is really kind of crappy in my opinion.

Final thoughts

This process was very slow. You can tell that lawyers are paid by the hour. Okay, these two aren’t but you can tell the process is driven by people who don’t care about efficiency. This really frustrated me. I understand that the process needs to be extremely detailed and thorough because people’s lives are affected by this but I think they could find ways to make it smoother.

No ID cards for long trials? I’m going to have to come to this courthouse for 4 straight weeks and they’re still going to make me go through the metal detector line? They should give me an ID and let me come through either an expedited line or something. I know they can’t do background checks on all of us but it’s the least they could do for those of us on long trials. Which brings me to my next comment…

They’ve NEVER checked our ID. Seriously. No one has ever asked me for identification since I got here. I could be paying someone to sit in my place and they’d never know. Can you say jury compromise?

Why doesn’t the courthouse have a separate entry and assembly area for jurors that is separate from the areas that witnesses, lawyers, observers, etc. use? If there was say a private entrance, hallway and gathering rooms per courtroom you could be much more confident that the jurors wouldn’t be influenced either on purporse or by accident.

Tomorrow – The fifth day of jury duty and the first day of the trial