This is going to give away much more about my location and life than I had intended to in this blog, but whatever. Enjoy.
Let me just note that many of the people named or deliberately not named in this tale, if they had a chance to read this (which would be awkward…for me), would probably say “Nuh-uh! Bullshit!” about some part of this. So, consider this the subjectiviest of subjective accounts and don’t count on my recollection to totally jive with all, you know, facts. Besides, with apologies for ripping or at least riffing off Dorothy Parker, it’s a “Nuh-uh! Bullshit!” kind of town.
It was a cold and shitty morning, Monday, but I hauled my ass down to jury duty anyhow. Johann dug the cars out of the about-a-foot of snow, including the traditional three foot driveway drift. Vrrroom. Vrrroooom. That’s me driving down I-25 in morning get-to-work traffic for the first time in a long, long time. I drove around and around and around in the downtown where I first learned to drive twenty-nine years ago. There are lots fewer one-way streets now than there used to be. Round and round some more, trying to park. Finally, twenty minutes after I was supposed to report, I ended up on the fourth floor of the badly designed, site too narrow from the get-go, parking garage behind the Pikes Peak Center. Construction underway in weird breezeway thing between parking structure and PPC.
Elevator out of order. I forgot to bring extra shoes, so I’m doomed to a sweaty-foot day in the black Wellie-style boots with glow in the dark circles on them that I’d pulled on for the walk from house to car in deep snow. Stomp, stomp, stomp (block and a half).
At the crosswalk, I’m behind an attorney I semi-recognize from behind (attorney haircut; formerly blond hair going beige instead of grey;wardrobe going beige instead of grey; ears at the beginning of transforming into olde guye ears; proper polished, broken in, non-cheap footwear (but, who am I to judge just then?)) and a red wool-wearing, big diamond earrings-having, frosty highlights woman — probably not an attorney, but a well-above clerical person who worked in the courthouse. I’m betting non-profit social services of some sort. Attorney is explaining to RedWool how much he hoped his totally guilty client who won’t take advice will agree to plead that day. I hope I don’t see that attorney in court. They turn into the Works Here security entrance and I walked around to the inconvenient to all parking Grand Entrance Plaza for the American Architectural School of Butt-Uglyism County Combined (’cause it houses county and district courts) Courthouse, across Tejon Street (and blocking the view of Pikes Peak ) from the Historic American Architectural School of Optimistically Opulent Prairie Whew We Made It Through the Nineteenth Century Former Courthouse where I used to volunteer and once narrowly avoided winning an ugly birdhouse in a charity auction at a gala benefit for Court Appointed Special Advocates, but ended up (that same night) dancing barefoot in the gazebo with the mom of Jen the Debutante from high school. But I digress.
Into the security line 50 minutes after I was supposed to report. Far from the last juror to arrive. ‘Thank you for your generous civic devotion and not making us send sheriff’s deputies to your door. Fill out a form. Stand up. Sit down. We ran out of chairs. Sit on the heater. You can’t sit on the heater. Were you raised in a barn? You can smoke in the courtyard. If you’re not smoking, get out of the courtyard. Here’s a movie to amuse you. It’s the same one we always play. If the employees here have to look at Nicholas Cage for one more god-damned minute ever in the rest of our lives… Well, watch the movie and maybe you’ll see what we mean. If there’s one movie that can get progressively stupider without limit with every successive semi-tuning-out, it’s National Treasure. Here, we’ll turn up the sound.’ (I paraphrase.)
People, taken on average, mostly look like junior high social studies teachers. Some in glow in the dark rubber boots.
When I moved to Colorado Springs the first time, during an April blizzard in 1979, the population of the entire “metro” area was well under 60,000 people and within six months we couldn’t go anywhere without recognizing someone or being recognized. Thirty-five years later, with the metro area over 600,000, in a room with a more or less random sample of the county – about 500 people — there was one guy who might have been the roofer’s assistant when my parents had the flashing re-done on their rental house eight years ago, but that was the closest I came to knowing *anybody*. Names were being named and groups were being called, but I didn’t much consider the possibility that my name would be called (for Bad Reasoning, superstitious causes, including that I’d never, even briefly in my kind of many jury duties, progressed beyond the hanging around in the holding tank, smelling my fellow seeming social studies teachers, phase). My involuntary mental math-inator was keeping track, though, even as I read my book and played with my phone (despite Terrible Connectivity). Of the original 513 people, there were 67 who had not yet been called to a panel at all. Lots of people had been called once and returned to the holding tank for possible calling to *another* panel. But I was one of 67 who hadn’t been called. According to the white board at the front of the room, there were possibly as many as five more juries to be formed.
I packed all my pens and cough drops and stuff up in my bag and was called as the seventeenth person in the next group of 38. We went up to the 7th district court (I kind of vaguely recall seeing the judge in a Bar Association play in the Pioneer Museum (former courthouse across the street) courtroom when my now-eighteen daughter was but a tot and who I even more vaguely recall from his…I think… District Attorneyin’ Days) on the 4th floor in three elevator loads of humanity. Smallish courtroom with somewhat bashed up forty-year-old woodwork that could use a thorough Murphy’s Oil Soaping. Merry, twinkle-eyed judge. Young black male defendant. You’d think that might be odd in a county wherein 6.51% (per Wikipedia) of the population is African-American, but I guess not.
Defense attorney has one of the more striking human profiles I’ve ever seen. He’s not breathtakingly great-looking, but in a sea of social studies teachers, he laterally displaces negative space in a notable way…so I note it. Leonardo da Vinci would (if he were on the jury, which would be cool) have sketched several studies in profile, despite the poorly placed lectern that makes it difficult to see the defense table from the jury box and despite the crappy, skippy, and disturbingly chewed on cheap ballpoints provided to the jury. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The pens do suck, though. And the note paper is wide-ruled. ::shudder::) Sadly, his face in profile will remain the only impressive…yeah, I’ll say aspect…aspect of the defense attorney throughout the trial. He is the more impressively dressed of the two attorneys, but I’m grading on a curve. Later, when he gets to talking, it will be difficult not to notice that he inflects his words as if he were speaking in sentences, but he sorts his words by category, rather than combining them for purpose. There will be a little burst of nouns, then a gesture for emphasis and a wad of verbs – occasionally even a swarm of unadorned prepositions. Even later, when we are deliberating, we look back and try to remember what the defense attorney said…about anything. It was a mirage of communication.
The assistant D.A. is…beige and balding and tiny — not especially short, but just sort of gaunt. Wispy even, bordering on haunted. He has hypnotically delicate, tiny hands. Cheap shoes. He needs a dose of Garanimals-for-Men STAT, but he probably has to shop in the School Uniform section of some children’s department and try to carry off the resulting purchases as professional menswear. Can’t be easy. His navy jacket does not match his navy pants, and the latter is/are depending on a child’s belt set at the smallest buckle hole to keep them hoisted above his non-existent hips. His neck is lost in his collar. His cuffs flop around his twiglike wrists Byronically. I never get over worrying he’s going to get a papercut and up and die.
The attorneys don’t ask many questions of the prospective jurors. They sort through the questionnaires. I think I spent about 45 seconds on mine. The A.D.A. does that Guaranteed to Alienate Adults thing à la Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, you’re all here because you were called for….a duty…does anyone know what kind of duty? You were summoned for, that’s right, let’s all say it: Jury Duty.” The attorneys remove a few people from the jury box without cause and other people get moved up into it. When the judge asks if there’s anyone who can’t serve fairly for some moral or religious or other reason, one woman who speaks slightly broken English says that she cannot sit in judgment on another person, that she would be haunted all the rest of her life by fear and doubt at having taken the place of God, the Only Judge. The judge questions her pretty hard about this and reminds her it’s a civic duty of Americans and she says she would rather be a disappointment to him, a human judge, than to the Almighty Judge. And she cries. And she gets sent back down to the Holding Tank of Justice in case she’s needed for some other jury. But, I happen to know that all the Leftovers of Justice, including her, were sent home pretty soon thereafter. So, I got moved up into the jury box and that’s the jury. When he called my name, Judge Gilbert asked me about the unusual spelling of my name and I said “It started out Dutch, but the Mennonites dragged it all over Europe for five hundred years and it lost a few letters and picked up some other ones” and he laughed and laughed.
The judge says we will start the case after lunch, get through a few witnesses, stop for the day around five o’clock, skip Tuesday because he does little hearings and quickie non-trial court-y things on Tuesdays and resume on Wednesday morning and maybe have to come back for part of Thursday. And we break for lunch.
I have the agitated blueberry yogurt from my bag for lunch and wander around the courthouse, except the fourth floor hallway which we’re supposed to avoid. Back to court. We learn that this is a domestic violence sort of a case. The defendant is charged with Burglary, Kidnapping, Assault, Harassment, and Violation of a Protective Order. Also, there’s a question to be resolved by the jury at the end of whether the facts support a finding that…can’t remember how to phrase it…he did domestic violence. There’s an emotional surge of “What Kind of Monster Could This Kid BE?!”
Underwhelming opening statement from the A.D.A. After it, I’m still not clear on what supposedly happened. The defense attorney reserves his opening. The characters appear to be a house, a sidewalk, Connie Homeowner, Gabrielle ExGirlfriend, Mr. Defendant, Junioretta Defendant-ExGirlfriend (pre-schooler), Teengirl Homeowner (who may not have seen anything because she heard yelling and went to find her softball bat or possibly baseball bat, possibly but not definitely in the garage), Littlesister Homeowner, Plainclothes Cop, and Uniform Cop (no relation).
The first witness is a licensed clinical social worker from TESSA who is there as a blind expert to explain common patterns in domestic violence. This is her fourth batch of expert testimony on the 4th floor that day, unless the jurors who clarified that for me later misheard. She is so good at her spiel of establishing her expert-y credentials that she basically questions and answers herself on the stand when the ADA demonstrates the unplumbable nature of his doofus-hood. The defense attorney’s cross might as well have been questions like “In your experience, do you find that cake is a popular option after dinner?”
Connie Homeowner is called as the second witness. She swaggers in and establishes herself as a type: the made-hard-by-experience, nurturing, low-class, white woman who defies everyone to cross her. Would love to be Cher in Mask, but totally isn’t. Basically, she’s my aunt Betsy. Her hair is in a ponytail. She’s wearing jeans. She is glaring beams of daggers at everybody. To call her a hostile witness is both an understatement and an overstatement. More than hostile in many regards, less than a witness in at least as many regards. She contradicts herself a few times. She can’t describe her own front door with any clarity. She rolls her eyes at how dumb everybody else is. She “can’t recall” a lot of things. Claims to have an undiagnosed, untreated, never really documented or discussed with any doctors ever anywhere traumatic brain injury. Her contempt is so generalized that it would be a case of ‘you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you’ for the court to find her in contempt of itself. If it weren’t for her, I probably still wouldn’t have a clue what the case was about.
Synopsis: Gabrielle ExGirlfriend and Junioretta, her daughter with the defendant, had been staying (for about four days) with Connie Homeowner and her daughters Teengirl, 16, and Littlesister, 9. Gabrielle and Mr. Defendant met when they were 15 in Texas. Connie has known Gabrielle since she (Gabrielle) was 2. Connie has known Mr. Defendant for about five years…since he was 17, right around the time Gabrielle (at age 17) was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis while she was pregnant with Junioretta. Mr. D and Gabrielle stopped living together last September or so, when some bad stuff happened and Gabrielle got a protective order against Mr. D. Gabrielle had Junioretta full time and moved into Connie’s house so they could kind of pool resources to take care of the three daughters. In mid-October, Mr. D wanted visitation rights with Junioretta, so instead of going to family court, he wrote up a parenting agreement with the terms he wanted and went over to Connie’s house at 9:30 on a Thursday night with (apparently…probably…but it’s unclear) his current girlfriend in the car to demand that Gabrielle sign the agreement. Connie opened the door and Mr. D either did or did not force his way into the house and either did or did not yank on Gabrielle’s hoodie such that she either fell out the front door onto the porch or got dragged down the front walk or maybe (but probably not) was in no way assaulted and just asked Connie to tell Mr. D to go away and he did with a spring in his step and a song in his heart.
The jury in Colorado is/are allowed to submit written questions to be asked of witnesses. The judge and attorneys review them and lodge and discuss any objections via a Not As Secret As They Think Whisper-ma-phone device that the court reporter listens to via headphones. I wanted to ask Connie “Who peed in your Wheaties?” but I found a slightly more delicate way to ask. I think her answer was “I don’t recall, due to lack of sleep and undocumented traumatic brain injury that has rendered me the wiliest unreliable narrator ever.” Another juror question was about whether she is still friends with the defendant. “Oh, yes. Definitely.”
Then we heard from Plainclothes Cop who did not claim any physical or otherwise traumatic cause for his lack of recollection, but he pretty much didn’t recall and didn’t care. He reviewed his report constantly and lost his place and mostly just agreed with excerpts read by the A.D.A. When asked to describe the state of Gabrielle’s clothing, P. Cop used the word “disgruntled” when he meant “disheveled” and I did not contain a squeak of humor and the judge did about three minutes of comedy routine at the expense of the cop, which the cop totally didn’t get.
Then, we went home. Tuesday happened. As expected, Wednesday showed up right on schedule. And so did the jurors and everybody. The defendant didn’t have any choice because he had been brought in from the jail across the street, although we didn’t know it at the time. He was nicely dressed, but kind of hard to see due to poor placement of the lectern.
Uniform Cop testified. There was a lot of objecting about hearsay. We saw photos taken by U. Cop. The A.D.A. got mightily bitched out by the judge for not putting the photos up on the Enormous Screen For Showing Evidence and getting the cop to describe them when we couldn’t see them, then passing them around the jury as a un-narrated color photocopies.
The prosecution rested. The defense’s only witness was Mr. D, who came off as an engaging, pleasant guy who was lying. His story of the evening included absolutely nothing amiss and a pleasant exchange of thoughts among friends. His hat had been found in the yard by the cops and he explained, when asked (by a jury question, because the ADA didn’t express any curiosity about it…not even to the extent of asking him if it was his hat), that October is windy, so he must not have noticed when it blew off.
There was also a big fake diamond earring found in the yard, but nobody ever established for us whose earring it was supposed to be or what it was supposed to mean. That didn’t stop the ADA from referring to it a lot in his closing. Also, the latch of the screen door was bent and that was supposed to mean something to us, but nobody ever connected the dots for us. We got a lot of blurry color photocopies of a screen door, though.
We were sent to lunch at about 10:30 am, for two hours, so the judge and attorneys could do administrative stuff and, not incidentally…well, maybe precisely incidentally, so the ADA could throw together a powerpoint to accompany his closing and make use of the neglected screen. Actually, technically, twelve of us were sent to lunch. The alternate suddenly found out who she was and was kept after to be dismissed. And we never saw her again, which was a bummer, because she had seemed great. We took a couple of weird moments to awkwardly mourn the loss of her in the jury room before splitting up and generally splitting for …let’s face it: brunch.
I had no yogurt. My options were to stomp a few blocks (not in the glowboots, I’m a little proud to mention) and have a real restaurant lunch just as soon as anywhere opened for lunch and risk running into people from various past local iterations of my life, eat at the Chik-fil-a Express up the block (No. Politically and appetitively No.), or avoid having to go back through the security line and just grab a sandwich at “Abe’s,” the totally thrown-together (years and years ago) foodplace thing in the basement of the courts building. Option #3.
Abe is an enormous black guy about sixty or so, with sore feet and a familiar accent. Kidney troubles show in his eyes. He reminds me of one of my favorite people ever. He’s “just trying to run a business” and telling one of his employees who introduces himself as “Chef Josh” that he better turn into “Josh who fixes that fryer he broke.” A couple of the other people from our jury wandered down and we hung out with Abe who was putting the day’s specials on a white board:”Green Chile and Chicken with Some Kind of Rice over Some Vegetables” — which I totally should have ordered. I’m tempted to go back through court house security some time just to dine at Abe’s House of Gastronomical Candor. We read the Indy and ate muffins and talked about maybe having sandwiches later. A guy in construction told us about post-flood foundation repair he’s been doing in Cheyenne Canon. We got onto the subject of Past Jury Duty and I mentioned thumb-twiddling St. Louis-style and a guy opened his mouth and removed all doubt by asking “Is that the St. Louis in Kansas or the St. Louis in Missouri?” I said “You may be thinking of the other side of Missouri. There’s a Kansas City in Kansas and a Kansas City in Missouri. St. Louis is all in Missouri, but there’s East St. Louis in Illinois.” I looked over at Abe because I had recognized his accent. He said “And what would you be knowing about East St. Louis?” I said “Well, I know some history because I worked for the Missouri Historical Society and I helped with some of the research arrangements for PBS’s “River of Song”… He gave me an ‘on thin ice there’ look and I said, “but mostly I know about East St. Louis from my grandma’s stories of underage her sneaking into somewhere to see underage Miles Davis play. The Elks Lodge, I think.” And he said “That’s what I’m talking about!” And slapped the table approvingly. Then I said I’d handled the Miles Davis trumpets as artifacts at the museum and he got up and walked away, shaking his head. So, I don’t know where I stand now.
Back upstairs to read for a while in the jury room and watch the clouds come in over the mountains and think about all the things the storefronts across the street have been in the past thirty-five years. Back into the courtroom for closing arguments. The ADA’s closing argument was slides of the elements of each crime but without specific things that had supposedly (almost certainly) happened to match each element. He also tried to account for the absence of Gabrielle from any part in the proceedings as evidence of the kind of fear and recantation common in domestic abuse, but without having established any of the — turns out, we learned later — semi-sordid tale of his own incompetence that had caused Gabrielle to be absent from the proceedings. The judge turned beet-tone and I thought the teeny-tiny ADA was in for a spanking. The defense argument was, essentially,’ nuh-uh and the defendant didn’t even sign the order of protection…how can you know he knew about it? How do you know it’s even the same guy who is covered by the order?’ ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘all the Really Unusual in Real Life names match and the form was stamped with an official-looking stamp that Mr. D had been advised verbally in open court of the terms of the order and provided with a copy.’ (We labeled this, later in the jury room, as an attempt to create Unreasonable Doubt.)
We were re-admonished and instructed for the first time and sent into the jury room to choose a foreman and the guy who I had finally recognized as being the dad of the family Dateline followed around a few years ago for a story about New Life Church said, “well, if there are no other volunteers, I’ll…” and I said “I volunteer.” And the St. Louis in Kansas guy pointed to me and said “Sounds good. Any objections?” And there weren’t any, so I was the foreman. Dateline guy was a bit miffed and sat close by me and tried to take over foremanning a few times and directed his frustration into picking much-needed fights with a guy a few seats to my right. Let’s call him…oh, I don’t know…Pigheaded Athlete. (N.B. Not *the* Pigheaded Athlete with whom I went to both high school and college. No relation.)
Everybody wanted to hear the recording of Connie’s 911 call again. Oh yeah, Connie called 911. That’s why the police came. I sent a request out to the judge and the clerk took us back into the courtroom. It was just her and the jury. We listened. We went back. We sat around the table and passed the evidence around: the hat, the earring, the color photocopies which included a picture of Gabrielle’s injury, a dime-sized scrape above her ankle, and a lot of pictures of her “disgruntled” clothing — some concrete dust and a little dirt on her jeans. We had a copy of the restraining order which had, for the first seven days it was in force, restricted contact and communication, but which – by the time of the incident in October – seemed to say only that Mr. D was double-super not supposed to do things that are already against the law to Gabrielle. We had a document with his prior court dates listed, and some prior poorly-judged incidents implied.
I looked out the window at the rain that was now falling heavily and that was expected to start freezing to the roads and eventually turn into ten inches of new snow at my house overnight and wondered if we could get through all of this in the two and a half hours left in the court day. I didn’t want to cheat justice with speed, but no point in dragging it out, either.
I asked if anybody had any doubts about the first parts of all the charges: that if the thing alleged happened, there’s no doubt about the who, when, and where. Everybody agreed that these are the people, place, and time in question. I suggested we start with what might be the easiest charges, so we did. Was Gabrielle assaulted by Mr. D? We went through the elements of the crime. Yep, she sure was. I signed that verdict sheet. Dateline Dad wanted to see the police reports. I reminded him that they were not among our evidence. He wanted me to request them from the judge. I said no, that I was reading the jury instructions and we couldn’t have anything that hadn’t been provided. Several Powerful Women agreed with me. He was further miffy.
Had the terms of the restraining order been violated? Well, it said he couldn’t assault her and we’d just decided that he had assaulted her, so yes…yes, he was guilty of that, too. We voted. Unanimous. I signed the form.
Okay, so he had been issued a restraining order because of domestic violence, to prevent him from doing more of it. He had violated the terms of that with (admittedly not necessarily provenly terrifying, but distinctly not nice) violence. There was violence. One of the relationships that counts as domestic is the parents of a shared child. Junioretta exists. Therefore, yeah, that was domestic violence. Unanimous vote. Okey-dokey. Question answered. Sheet signed.
Harassment? Yep. Voted. Signed.
That’s all the easy-ish ones. It’s about twenty after three. Still remaining: kidnapping and burglary, one in the third degree and one in the second…but I can’t remember which was which.
We had a list of definitions of terms and the judge had said he wasn’t permitted to further define terms for us, beyond the definitions offered in the jury instructions.
Pigheaded Athlete got caught up in the part of the burglary charge about how the defendant would have to have not had (sorry about that verb formation, but I’m moving fast here, narratively speaking) permission to enter the premises which we were not sure if we could understand as the property or if we had to understand it as the dwelling. Turns out, Pigheaded Athlete is in door-to-door cable sales. I know! And I had already shaken (shook?) his hand! Anyhow, he had an expanded view of his and thus everybody’s right of access to other people’s property. He also said he has friends whose houses he is welcome to walk right into without knocking and Mr. D had been welcome at Connie’s house before, so he would always be welcome. Connie standing in the door and saying “Go away!” was not enough to rescind his permission of access. Blah. blah. blah. Also, his kid was in the house, so he had a natural right to the kid that superceded Connie’s property rights. You should have heard the hail of “No way!”s that this inspired in the jury at large. Pigheaded Athlete had already told all of us that his girlfriend is pregnant with his first child and I doubt if I was the only one who was silently either hoping very much to eventually be on the jury that will decide his fate when he does something stupid or very much not to be on said jury. He also was pretty sure that if you stand on the porch and reach into somebody’s house and grab something, that’s not burglary. We wanted to know just what the hell he thought it would be, then. But, he had no answer for that. Oh yeah, by the way, the allegedly burgled item in this case was Gabrielle. We weren’t clear on whether he was supposed to have barged into the house or just stood on the porch and grabbed her out of the door. Dateline and P.A. both insisted that I ask the judge for better definitions of the terms we were struggling with. I said “Fine!” and wrote the question. It took a while, but we got a ‘Can’t tell you. Read your instructions’ note back.
While we waited for that answer, we switched over to Kidnapping. The definition included having knowingly moved one person from one place to another (no matter how small the distance) against that person’s will. We went round and round and round and round. I was agreeing with Dateline and some of the other Strong Women that there’s no doubt Gabrielle was moved and that there might have been a plausible motive to do so deliberately, because moving Gabrielle out of Connie’s house, into the yard, could have heightened Mr. D’s coercive power over her. P.A. and the post-flood foundation construction guy were not persuaded that it wasn’t an accident. Maybe he grabbed her and she sort of toppled because, due to the MS, she’s not as steady on her feet as most people, but that he had no intention of moving her…and she pivoted down instead of being really re-located. Round and round, angrier and angrier. I keep taking us back to the text…back to the definitions. I admit I was getting a little didactic, even for me. P.A. asked me – in a derisive tone – if I’m a school teacher or something. I said no, that I’m just kind of a bitch, but I’m willing to overlook that flaw in myself just as I was willing to overlook the implied insult and derisive tone he had just used with me. I threw in a “Watch yourself!” mom glare. He looked sheepish and said “Thank you.” I asked, generally, if anyone would like me to alter the way I was conducting the discussion or if anyone had any questions or suggestions or issues we had not tried or approached…or if there was anything anyone wanted to re-visit. FoundationMan asked how many unanimous decision we had achieved in the past seventy-five minutes. I said four of six. He asked if everyone was still satisfied with the four decisions we had made. Everybody was. He suggested we proceed in the same fashion as we had begun — i.e., with me kind of riding herd on the process.
Dateline and P.A. and a young woman wanted me to ask the judge if our decisions had to be unanimous. I read them the ‘Yeah, they totally do. Even if it’s a Not Guilty? Yeah.’ section of the instructions. They insisted. I wrote the note. The judge responded, in essence: “Duh!”
We talked for about 45 minutes about burglary and most of us decided we didn’t have enough clarity about what supposedly happened or what the words meant to convict of burglary. So we did one more round of discussion and decided, unanimously, not guilty. Then P.A. got suspicious and wanted to know if we had just agreed to not guilty for burglary so we could horsetrade with him for a guilty verdict for kidnapping. I said no, that’s the conversation and negotiation that comes next, but there’s no quid pro quo here. Partly because that would be wrong. He was satisfied.
FoundationMan said, as we returned to the question of kidnapping, that he didn’t know what to conclude from the absence of the victim, but without an aggrieved party who really thought she had been kidnapped, it would be hard for him to ruin this kid’s life (which would probably otherwise eventually recover from being the kind of stupid that *can* accompany being twenty-two) with a kidnapping conviction. He asked, really, how many of us had never willfully slightly re-located another person. He found the statute alarming, and it wasn’t impossible to see his point.
We went round and round and he was more and more persuasive. Finally, I came around to his way of thinking. And so did all but three, then two, of the jurors. And that’s where we were stuck at about 4:30.
I wrote a “What do we do? We’re stuck without a unanimous verdict on kidnapping.” note to the judge. While we were waiting for his answer, I looked again at the elements of the crime and saw, again, the word “knowingly.” I sat down with the two ladies who were the holdouts (and with whose views I remained fairly sympathetic). I asked them to help me understand their understanding of the word “knowingly” in this context and to help me support it with our knowledge of the facts. They puzzled over that and talked through it together and came back to the group and said that they disagreed with most of the rest of us about which part of the crime was not supported beyond a reasonable doubt in the facts, but that they couldn’t help but have a little extra doubt about “knowingly,” so they were ready to vote Not Guilty on the kidnapping charge. We revoted, unanimously. I signed the form and pushed the red button to call the clerk again. She was surprised and more delighted than she’s probably supposed to show that we had reached all the verdicts with ten minutes to spare. She saw the papers on the table and said, horrified, “That all has to go back together in order.”
See, there was some question about whether I was in trouble for having disassembled the packet of instructions that I’d been told not to disassemble. But, we had really needed to be able to hand around the definitions and the elements of the crime. It didn’t help that the pages had been mis-numbered (in pencil) when I received them. Fortunately, though, the involuntary math-inator came through again and I recalled what the error in the pattern had been. I enlisted the aid of Dateline to get it put together in time to go back into the courtroom.
The judge asked who the foreman was, even though he totally knew from all the signed notes. I identified myself and he said something like “Ah, yes, as usual, the foreman is the juror holding the verdicts in the instruction packet.” The clerk took the packet. The judge flipped through the packet and winked at me and said “This all appears to be in order.” So, the clerk had warned him. He read the verdict. There were only three people in the audience or whatever you call it who were not there in an official bailiff-y or witness-wrangling capacity. They were a guy with dreads, a young woman with kind of Greek looks and an enormous bun of dark wavy hair piled right on top of her head, and a guy who might have been Mr. D’s dad. The judge read the verdicts, starting with the two Not Guilty ones because they were the first charges in the case. After the second Not Guilty, the young woman behind Mr. D said “Oh, thank God,” but nobody else reacted at all noticeably, except the ADA who, judging from his hand motions, started deeply inscribing squares into the margins of his papers with a ballpoint.
The judge dismissed u s to the jury room and said we were free to go, but that he’d love to chat with any of us who could hang around and, oh yeah, he wanted to give us all certificates of jury duty with the case number as a lame form of heartfelt thanks for our service and so we’d have them to show for Get Out Of Jury Duty Free purposes if we were called to serve again within twelve months.
We went back and looked out the windows at the freezing sleet and the cars starting to slide around in the intersection of Vermijo and Cascade. Nobody left. The judge came back and said there was really only one question he couldn’t answer. Somebody asked “How did we do?” and he said that’s the question he can’t answer, partly because it would be wrong and partly because, having been on the bench for – I think he said – thirty years, he doesn’t listen to the case as a jury would anymore. He doesn’t have our perspective from which to second-guess us. He is focused on procedural issues. Later, though, he broadly implied that we’d done well in not convicting on the felony counts. Everything he was convicted of was a misdemeanor. He spoke ill of the…well, at least the panache…of the attorneys, and apologized for the places where the court had, essentially, wasted our time with nincompoopery. I’m paraphrasing. We asked what the deal was with Connie and why we hadn’t heard boo from Gabrielle. The ADA’s process server had screwed up and had handed all three (3? I still don’t get that.) of the subpoenas to Connie at the door of the house they still share. So, technically, Gabrielle was never subpoenaed and everybody at that house had been avoiding phone calls and contact from the DA’s office. Connie had refused to comply with the subpoena. So, the judge had issued a warrant for her and, while we were being selected for the jury, Connie was being picked up by Sheriff’s deputies and brought in to testify against her will. He couldn’t issue a warrant for Gabrielle because she had not been properly subpoenaed – which explained the judgely ire at the ADA claiming we should interpret Gabrielle’s absence from court as evidence of her fear of Mr. D. Oh yeah, but I shouldn’t recall that because we were instructed to disregard it as hard as possible. I paraphrase again.
The attorneys were invited to come back and get feedback from the jury. The ADA did and we had a good chat in the judge’s presence. The defense attorney, who used to – long ago – work for the judge before the judge was a judge, stayed with his client or in some other manner did not accept the invitation to visit us. It was a pleasant parting all around. Jurors shook hands all around and those of us who had strongly opposing views during deliberations thanked each other for making us think about things we wouldn’t otherwise have considered. Everybody I talked to or overheard expressed a greater and greater satisfaction (as it all sank in) with how the verdicts had gone. There was a great holding of doors and elevators for each other, then we split up to brave the appalling weather.
The highway looked crowded from my view of it from the parking garage, so I started north on Nevada Avenue and, near Colorado College, ended up at a red light behind a commercial van, expensively custom painted with a company logo: On the Spot Crime Scene Cleanup Carpet Restoration, which seemed weird.
I kept driving north, got on I-25 at the north end of Nevada and conditions went from kind of bad to Extremely Sucky fairly quickly. I got off the highway at Voyager Parkway and took refuge in the mega-parking lot of, yeah, you got it, New Life Church. I was driving my daughter’s car and recalled that its 4WD drive is no longer reliable when I tried to switch it into 4WD. It got about halfway into 4WD and, for a while, wouldn’t go in or out. I finally got it back into regular Go-Car-Go mode and took a very long way home on surface streets. And the roads iced over like glass and lots (but not the predicted ten inches) of snow fell on them. And I didn’t have to go back on Thursday.
I woke up in the night several times Wednesday night, wondering if I had ridden herd too hard on the process of jury duty. I hope not. I used my phone, in bed, to check the county inmate records and found Mr. D. listed among those currently detained in the CJC, but he was no longer listed by breakfast time. St.Louis Kansas from the jury plans to go to the sentencing, just to see it all the way through, but I think I won’t.