I was on the jury of a Manhattan murder trial for nearly four weeks, which finally ended last week. These are some of my tales from the seemingly never-ending courtroom drama that enveloped my life.
“Don’t think deliberations are going to go quickly,” my boss warned me the day before closing arguments. “There’s always one crazy on the jury. You just don’t know who it is yet.”
As we stepped into the jury room to begin our deliberations after our month-long trial, I had no idea what to expect. I knew exactly how I felt about what verdict should be handed down, but I had no idea what was going through everyone else’s mind. When we received the verdict sheet and started to discuss the charge, it became clear that nearly everyone was on the same page: the bastard did it and needed to be put away.
But the defendent had pulled a wild card: guilty of a lesser count by reason of “extreme emotional disturbance.” I called bullshit on this defense, as even the defense’s own expert witness wasn’t willing to say with any certainty that the defendant was emtionally disturbed.
In this case, most of the jury was on the same page. Most, as in, 11 of the 12 jurors. One juror was holding out, and he wanted some testimony from both the prosecution and defense experts read back in the courtroom. This was the only thing separating our jury from a final verdict, but it could have sent us into a tail spin of days of endless deliberation about the legitimacy of a psychological defense. This one juror could be the crazy one that I was warned about – and, coincidentally, he could be the one who believes that the defendant was, in fact, crazy.
We waited 45 minutes, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the judge to call us back into the courtroom. After reviewing about ten minutes worth of testimony, we filed back into the jury room. The door closed. Everyone turned their attention to the one juror with doubts. We held our breath, and he opened his mouth to speak:
“Damn,” he exclaimed, “that guy is fucked!“
Minutes later, we read the verdict in court, and were finally freed from four weeks of our civic duty.