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.
“No food or beverage.” That’s one rule that’s clearly posted outside every single courtroom in New York City. This rule was strictly enforced during jury selection. Every time there was even the slightest sound of the hiss of the opening of a soda bottle, the court officers would spring into action, as though it was the cocking of a gun or the lighting of an explosive device. Once the trial started, however, I wondered how this rule could be in place when the judge, attorneys, and witnesses were all being served glasses of water during the proceedings. So, on the second day, I asked the baliff to clarify the rule for us while we were waiting for the judge to call us in.
“Can we bring water into the courtroom?” I asked.
“Yes, you can bring water in, of course,” he replied.
“Great, thanks for…”
“Or,” he continued, “pretty much anything that looks like water.” He then started to cackle.
“Oh.” I paused, suddenly realizing that an officer of the peace was endorsing the consumption of alcohol in a court of law.
I never did bring a gin and tonic to court in a Poland Spring bottle, but considering the length and the pace of the trial, I could’ve used a stiff drink several times.
And I may or may not have shown up for the more gruesome afternoon proceedings once or twice with a couple of beers in me.