I was picked for Jury Duty. What a process. I’ve never been on jury duty before. So I go in Tuesday morning. There were 40 of us called up about 9:30 – pretty early considering – I didn’t get to read my book at all. We all go to a courtroom where the defendant and his attorney and the prosecutor, the judge and the various court reporters are all turned to face us in the seats (where like on TV you see the spectators). And then the whittle-down process began. On the questionnaire they had asked if we knew anyone in law enforcement and knew any victim of a crime or witness to a crime or were one ourselves and if we ever served on jury duty before. And even though I know Jeff Besong, I made it all the way down to the final 7. I was second chair. I wondered if it meant anything, you know like in band, but it did not. 7th chair ended up being the alternate which she didn’t find out until it was all over. So she didn’t get to vote with us. I wasn’t allowed to talk about the case so I didn’t want to blog last night incase I spilled something. But now our very fine and humorous judge Philip said we can talk about it all we want. Here’s the story…it’s long…
I have conveniently forgotten everyone’s name. And truthfully couldn’t remember throughout the two days. But let me back up. So jury selection was finalized by around 2:00 and they immediately started the trial. They took the 7 of us back to our deliberation room and gave us a mini break to pee – went back into the court room where everyone’s chairs were now turned around facing the judge and witness stand and we filed into our very comfortable jury seats. There were no spectators. Just us. I was in the first row. They gave us notepads which were not allowed to leave the room when we went on breaks. I took pages of notes. All of the women took notes. There were two men who didn’t take any.
It’s really different from TV in that you don’t get the back story like on TV. So they start with various testimonies and I’m trying to figure out what they are talking about. We knew the charges but when there were various people testifying I kept waiting for the objections. A few times I wanted to yell out RELEVANCE? LEADING THE WITNESS? Nothing. Do they not watch the Good Wife? The charges were robbery with a deadly weapon, battery with a weapon and resisting arrest with violence. I thought by the line of questions they asked the jurors that it was going to involve a crime against a police officer but noooo it was basically a drug deal gone bad.
So get this. The person that was shot is named Edward. He was the person selling drugs, which he denied of course, but then he wasn’t on trial for selling drugs. He was on trial because they were trying to put the shooter in jail. He claimed that two people came to his apartment, attempted to rob him and he got shot in the process. He knew one of the perps to be named Little Joe. The other person he didn’t know, who is now the defendant. He clearly points to the man saying he was the shooter. We learn that his name is also “Jo” but his real name is Edward. See what I mean? Like what the eff? So there are two Jo’s and there are two Edwards. And everyone is lying. But there’s the police report right?
The police didn’t lift one fingerprint, didn’t even try. Took pictures of blood and casings. There was supposedly money left on the dresser (so what was stolen right?) but no pictures. So then they pick up Little Jo because before Edward was shot he said it was Little Jo and someone else he didn’t know. He identifies Little Jo in a photo pack, then he passes out for 3 days because he’s been shot 4 times. Officer Deacon picks up Little Jo who comes in willingly and he confesses to everything and they have it on video. Well most of it. He has the gun in the trunk of his car that was used in the robbery. He says he stole the gun from the shooter cause he was going to sell it for money. But they can’t pick up any prints off the gun because Big Jo was wiping it clean all night. They do find Edwards (the victim’s) blood on it though. Oh wait, he also said that Big Jo knew Edward because Edward sold him bad drugs and he wanted to settle the score. But remember now, Edward our victim denies ever seeing this person before in his life and doesn’t sell drugs.
So Little Jo identifies this other “Jo” but doesn’t know his real name but had a phone number. They then stage a call (that they did NOT video or record) and arrange for the big Jo to meet Little Jo in a truck at Big Jo’s sisters house. Although they are calling Big Jo’s niece’s phone. I mean, lots of notes I’m taking. So,they proceed with their plan, Big Jo comes to the truck to meet Little Jo where 4 policemen jump out, a struggle ensues where he scratched a police officer’s arm (the violence). Big Jo comes back to the police station and Officer Deacons takes him into the interrogation room at like 1 am, thinks he has the camera rolling for the interview (or maybe he knew it wasn’t working but does the interview anyway), during the interview Big Jo ends up confessing. Then the officer completes some victim card, takes it back to Edward at the hospital, said the guy confessed. Edward, the one shot, then looks up on the computer, Edward the accused who has confessed , and said yes that’s the guy. No photo pack shown to Edward the victim, because Edward the shooter has confessed right?
Apparently not. I guess Big Jo is still entitled to a trial? Is that why we were there? Somewhere along the way he decided to recant his statement (duh) and/or tried to say it was coerced. Or it’s the defenses idea to say it. In any event now we have no record of his statement other than the officer telling us he confessed.
Day two we get to meet Little Jo. They bring Little Jo, in handcuffs, on to the witness stand. Little Jo, who is now serving 10 years for this very crime, says that he made a mistake in identifying big Jo and that he was pressured to give someone up so he just said it was him cause he didn’t know him. It really was a guy named Ooochie. And he was afraid to give Ooochie up because Ooochie was a bad man (but apparently not afraid to steal his gun). He said he believed in Karma and now Oochie got his and was dead so he thought he should come forward and confess that it wasn’t Big Jo. Everyone was smirking. The judge, the court reporter, the jury. So little Jo testifies that Ooochie dies, but no one can find any evidence of a person name Ooochie. I think Ooochie is going to go down as popular (in my mind) as Keyser Soze (the Usual Suspects). I’m going to blame everything from now on, on Ooochie.
So we have Little Jo’s confession, giving up Big Jo, who then takes it back. We have a testimony from an officer that Big Jo who doesn’t take the stand (although we are not allowed to consider that) confessed. But now we’re supposed to question the confession because it wasn’t taped? Noone actually ever said he didn’t do it, or he wasn’t there. We have Edward that was shot (not to be confused with Edward the defendant) who clearly points to the man. We have ONE recorded interview with Little Jo. We have no fingerprints, not even the gun in his possession. The only DNA found on the gun (didn’t swab at the scene apparently) – the only DNA was that of our victim Edward (not the shooter Edward). And as far as resisting arrest – we had one testimony from one of the policemen in the truck that said he scratched another officer (who wasn’t there) and that was after being punched in the back, side, and face.
Good grief. There was a lot more testimony that we considered. A lot of the filmed interview with Little Jo we considered. We considered the Officer who did the interview, and the officer that didn’t show up with the scratches. So without any hard evidence we found him Guilty on all counts EXCEPT violence to the officer at the arrest. We gave him a break there because the officer he “hurt” didn’t even bother to show up and there weren’t any pictures. There were so many holes in this case. However we were told from the onset that testimony is evidence so since there was no “hard” evidence the only thing we had to consider was testimony. It took us 2+ hours of deliberation. One thing we had to do was go backwards and ask ourselves does anyone think he DIDN’T do it. And not one of us thought he didn’t do it. We then had to come to our own personal terms as to what convinced us so we could sleep.
We agreed that the defense didn’t do a very good job. I felt there were so many things he could have brought up that he didn’t. I also would have (as we all agreed) thrown out the resisting arrest with violence except HIS attorney said there was no refuting that. Why ? Why was there no refuting? There was no evidence of it? I mean everything in this case was hearsay or circumstantial. So we gave him that one break. In my mind I was convinced that he did confess, even though the officer didn’t have it recorded. I mean the police work was ridiculously shoddy. All the way around. But in the end we all agreed and feel much better that he is off the street….again…Poor Little Jo admitted to being convicted of 12 of 13 crimes. He is currently serving 10 years for this crime. My biggest question was if in fact a robbery even happened. I think it was just a bad drug deal and a crazy crack-pot shooter but do you throw the whole thing out cause it’s not clear there was a robbery? Someone explained that it couldn’t be attempted homicide because of the lack of evidence. I don’t know. It’s a lot of crazy. Clearly he was trying to kill him. Four shots!!??
So that was my last two days. We got a lot of breaks at first. We could make phone calls on our breaks. We had to do everything together. We left the room together. We were allowed in our deliberation room where there were two bathrooms, but if we wanted to go to the vending machine or when we left we all had to stay together. I had texted Phil to let him know that we were going to hear one more witness and then deliberations. I had been drinking so much water and hot tea (it was FREEZING in the court room) but it was okay since we got so many breaks. Until the end. We came back from a break at like 2:00, then the last witness and the final arguments and all that stuff lasted until like 5. I had to pee so bad I thought it was going to come out my eyeballs. Then before we could do anything else we had to turn over our electronic devices. So we couldn’t let anyone know what was going on. It was interesting that they didn’t care at all about communications during breaks but once it was over we were cut off. They said they would feed us but no one wanted to be there that long, that’s when we went to the vending machines. We came to a unanimous decision pretty easily. We rewatched Little Jo’s interview on the DVD, we looked at pictures, looked at our notes. When we left though we had to leave our notes. Noone was allowed to take their notes home. We were allowed to take our jury instructions, which had the defendants name all over the place, but I preferred to leave it all behind.
Oh here’s something. Big Jo, Edward, the alleged shooter, was sitting the whole time and to me he looked small. I couldn’t really imagine him standing over Edward, the victim, saying what he said, but when he stood up to have the verdict read he was a BIG man. He was much scarier looking and I was further convinced we made the right choice. Although you can’t go by looks but he’s guilty, no doubt about it.
Then they walked us all to our cars. Mine started thankfully. I have to say we were all a little shaky and nervous leaving. One thing the defense said he wanted to do was “poll” the jury. So they went through and said each of our names, first and last, and said, “is this your decision”? What the EFF? We signed the paper and said we all agreed. Why do they have to say our names now? So for that reason I had a little trouble falling asleep last night. But I don’t really think Big Jo is going to come after any of us. Little Jo might be having some trouble in prison though. What a lifestyle. On the heels of my Miami visit…wow.
So home I came, stopped by the soccer field to see Jorden at his first soccer practice. Tons of cars and people at this place with 3 or 4 soccer practices going on, and a baseball game. Came home to a messy kitchen, but dinner made, watched Modern Family and Blackish and laughed. I had trouble falling asleep as it happened to be breezy with some tree limbs falling, and I was jumpy. But once asleep I did not have trouble staying there. Today is a perfect day for Lyming, in-between dishes and laundry, to rest up after my jury ordeal. Unfortunately my income is already spent, save $5. I had to buy lunch there and hit the vending machines for dinner. The first day I left at lunch and met Phil as we were very close to each other. That was nice. $15 a day doesn’t go very far.
The whole experience was…well it was an experience. One of my fellow jurors has a husband who has Alzheimer’s and she was just happy to be there doing anything else. I was a little happy to put on dress clothes and drive in rush hour traffic and be doing something other than dishes and laundry listening and taking notes (like school). It was different. But very happy to come home to our little house, put my feet up and watch TV.
Tonight is date night, rescheduled from Wednesdays now that Jorden is starting soccer. Wonder what we’ll do?
So help me God.
OH… PS – car is still starting every time. ??