“Jury: A group of 12 people, who, having lied to the judge about their
health, hearing, and business engagements, have failed to fool him” -
Henry Louis Mencken
Accused I-5 strangler Roger Kibbe, right, talks with attorney Peter Fox an appearance in Superior court in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens:Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)
Comedian Norm Crosby once said, “When you go into court, you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.” Yes, I was one of those unlucky 12 who couldn’t think fast enough. No, not on the trial pictured above, which I shot about a month ago. If it were, it would’ve been grounds enough to dismiss me from service, but no such luck. Like most of the other people called for duty, I tried my best to think of ways I could get out of it. On the voir dire questionaire I put down the all the law enforcement officers I knew, but to no avail. In the end, there I was, raising my right hand, being sworn in, the very last juror to be picked.
I’m usually and observer of the criminal justice system, photographing various stages of trials from arraignments to sentencing hearings. It was interesting actually being a part of the process.
Court is wasn’t like it’s portrayed on TV. It’s a just-the-facts-ma’am kind of affair. No courtroom histrionics, no emotional confessions, no dramatic echoing “ka-chung” sound like at the beginning and end of TV’s Law and Order. Court is really, really boring. Direct examination, cross-examination, redirect and so on, testimony can ping-pong back and forth between the prosecution and defense. They can go over the same things again and again, lasting what seems forever.
Court never started on time. The best we did was 10 minutes past the time we were supposed to start. Once we had to wait 45 minutes before the doors to the courtroom opened. The rest of my fellow jurors and I had to wait in a crowded hallway, with a limited amount of hard seats. I know that there can be court business that needs to be attended to, but I wished that the jury could go in the courtroom to wait on the comfy chairs while the judge and attorneys had to confer in the hall.
The judge and the court staff made our experience as pleasant as possible. The judge used his good humor to keep things light as possible. Whenever the the judge and attorneys conferred in chambers, the court reporter would turn to us and kept us from nodding off by asking us what our favorite jokes were, what good books we were reading, where we went for lunch etc.
The judge admonished the jurors not to talk about the trial with each other or anyone else. During a breaks and lunch recess, the we would talk about our jobs, movies we’ve seen and even the weather, sometimes struggling to say anything other than what happened in court. Once deliberations started, though, the floodgates were open, everyone gushed forth their thoughts and observations. After a while things calmed down and we went over the testimony and evidence with more order.
The end of the trial was when the term “doing your civic duty” really hit me. We twelve people from varying backgrounds listened to the arguments and examined the evidence. We rendered a verdict that we could stand by and justice was served, no Law and Order “ka-chung” needed.