About the jury
The jury of four women, eight men and three male alternates, was selected in two days. Unlike big celebrity-type trials with a lot of media coverage, no one had even heard of this case, and so a media-tainted jury pool was not among the reasons anyone could be excluded from service.
On the first day of trial, the youngest juror was replaced. And two alternates remained. The jury pool was screened for people who would be able to attend a four-week trial. The second replacement came as the trial entered its sixth week. One juror had a pre-scheduled surgery. She left two days before closing arguments began. And then there was one remaining alternate. Another juror, thinking that the end of the trial was near, scheduled a vacation for, what turned out to be, days after the trial would ultimately end. It was a close call. The juror said he wanted to finish his service even if the trial and jury deliberations ran into the vacation time and he had to pay airline overage. Now that is dedication.
During the jury selection, there were people who gave "all and sundry" excuses for why they could not, would not, should not serve. One woman said she would not be able to resist the urge to drive past the house where the crime had occurred, and that she would not be able to resist "googling" the case. The judge gave her a look askance and granted her wish to escape service.
Judge O'Neill spoke eloquently about the unique nature of the trial by jury system and the rights and responsibility of citizens to participate. He said that laws should be changed to make it less of a burden on the ordinary person to serve. For example, all employers should be required to pay people during service, and the daily juror "pay" should be increased. He said he found it ironic that everyone seems to want to get out of jury duty, but everybody wants his or her right to a jury trial. Is it reasonable to expect a panel of willing jurors for yourself when you do not wish to serve willingly for others?
Who was on the jury?
Among the jurors were a retired bar owner, a nursing student, a civil engineer, a bartender, a desktop publisher, a computer system analyst and a psychology professor.
After the Dateline interview with the jurors, some of them sent me notes about their thoughts on having served on this case.
- “I found being on a jury to be very serious business. A person's life and future was in our hands. I was impressed by my fellow jurors efforts to be fair and very sincere about their duties. I was also grateful that my employer supported my jury services. Not everyone can serve on a long-term case due to the financial hardship.”
- “It was my first time on a jury. It was a huge responsibility to ultimately decide somebody's fate. This was a once in a lifetime experience and it affected me a lot. I do feel we were fair. I noticed that people who are selected to be on a jury take this responsibility very seriously and try their best to be fair.”
- “Jury trial is central to our society and I think all of us should serve when called, unless one has family or work commitments. I would want a jury like the one I served on in this case to hear the facts of any case involving family, my friends or me.”
- “I found the experience both trying and rewarding. I would do it again because it is a duty that is at the heart of our democracy.”
--Charmaine Lewis, Dateline producer