Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jury duty: deliberation

Day 1 of deliberation was a flood of repressed questions and thoughts. We were finally able to discuss and opine (as the attorneys would say!) about what was on our minds (and in some cases, in our dreams) for the past couple of weeks.

After the two alternates were dismissed, a bailiff, who was a uniformed Hennepin County deputy sheriff, was assigned to us to prevent inappropriate contact with the outside world, and to ensure that all twelve of us deliberated, ate lunch, and generally spent the whole day within sight of each other. The deliberation room is equipped with a tiny private bathroom, and we were provided with some snacks, so the room, barely larger than its conference table, was to be our world for the duration.

During the trial, we were permitted to have our cell phones with us in the courtroom, but they had to be powered off. During deliberations, the bailiff took custody of our cell phones and laptop computers and sat with them in the small jury anteroom.

The jury foreperson's primary responsibility was to check the verdict boxes on the verdict forms, and sign the form (with the date and time) on behalf of the jury.

All of us on the jury very much wanted to deliver a true and just verdict. We took our responsibility and the possible consequences to all involved very seriously, some to the point of losing sleep, most thinking about the trial even during recess. We represented a cross-section of livelihoods and ages, but these intense subjects and proceedings were foreign to us outside John Grisham or Law & Order. It was an entirely different experience to be part of the legal process for real than watching it on TV.

Day 2

On day 2 of deliberation, we reviewed the testimony of key witnesses and recorded salient points on large flip chart sheets attached to the walls of the deliberation room. I think that differences of opinion were expressed respectfully, and thought processes evolved in good faith.

After lunch, we voted on each charge for each defendant, our foreperson signed the verdict forms, and we informed the bailiff that we reached our verdicts. The judge, clerk, court reporter, attorneys, and defendants were called back to the courtroom.