Monday, January 31, 2011

True Crime – What Kind of Juror Would You Be?

Blame the snow but I was watching Court TV (TruTV, whatever) and their coverage of a trial in session of a doctor accused of poisoning his wife and fleeing the country. From what I gather the husband spiked calcium pills with cyanide and gave them to his wife – and I couldn’t help but notice that he used the store-brand of calcium pills. Not that I don’t love CVS, but I say if you’re going to poison your spouse, at least spring for the brand name goods, not generic.

Incidentally, it appears to be pretty easy to buy cyanide online. Who says TV isn’t educational?
Other than that, the reality in this reality TV is that court cases tend to be tedious, drawn-out and frankly boring affairs. Very procedural and the questioning is always awkward to watch. It’s not at all like Law & Order. I base this opinion on watching televised cases and from a couple of cases I observed in high school out of curiosity, since one of my friend’s dad was a personal injury lawyer.

Myself, I have never served jury duty. The only time I’ve ever even been called was when I was in college and living out of state, so my mom returned the form stating I was unavailable and that was that. I am amazed that this civic duty has never come knocking at my door since then … I think that I would be interested to serve on a jury because of my semi-obsession with ‘true crime,’ but at the same time I might go insane with the tedium and dealing with my fellow jurors – not known for my patience.

Have any of you served on a jury, and what was your experience? Did you feel like you were performing a valuable civic service and experiencing first-hand a world-class judicial system in action – or is it as bad as everyone says it is?

I am curious to know if you think that serving on jury duty deserves the reputation that it has, of making people run in the other direction.

And I don’t even want to think what would be going through my head if I were ever to have the misfortunate to be on trial for something, and facing the prospect of being judged by a jury of my peers.

In other true crime news, I think a lot of people are a little too excited about the upcoming Casey Anthony death penalty trial. Court TV/TruTV is already hyping their coverage, even though it’s January and the trial doesn’t start until MAY.

You may recall she is the young mother in Florida accused of killing her two-year old daughter Caylee a few years ago. My obsession with “true crime” drama notwithstanding, I had not followed the initial coverage much but I watched a show about it the other night and all I can say is I understand now why the mother has been charged with murder.

Note – the main reason I didn’t follow the coverage of this salacious crime initially is because Nancy Grace was beating that horse night and day, night and day – and Nancy Grace is THE DEVIL.

Anyway, this mother Casey who has been charged seems suspect as all hell. From the word go, she has been lying to everyone. She even started by telling an ex boyfriend the baby was his when she was pregnant, even though they had stopped dating months before. A paternity test confirmed that the math didn’t add up. He was still willing to be there for her and the baby, and he proposed, she backed out 5 months later.

She (Casey) was living with her parents with her daughter (Caylee). The grandparents seem to have been a bit obsessed with the grandchild Caylee. So then one day Casey just up and takes off with Caylee. For a month she evaded her parents, who did not see their grandchild at all during that time.

Finally, pressed by her parents, Casey told them that Caylee had been missing for that entire time, and had been supposedly kidnapped by a nanny. The parents called the police, and trust me from here it only gets more confusing. The police couldn’t find this supposed nanny and there was no evidence she had ever watched the child; the car that Casey had been driving was found abandoned with evidence of decomposition in the trunk …

Meanwhile, during this month when her child was supposedly missing, rather than calling the police or telling her parents, Casey was apparently out drinking and partying up a storm based on what seems to be a lot of photographic evidence. Thanks Flickr. No reason was given as to why she didn’t report the alleged kidnapping in the first place. There are also some weird/gruesome details related to when the body of Caylee was eventually found that I won’t talk about here.

It’s exhausting to keep up with that much crazy.

Not that the creep factor is exclusive to Casey Anthony. Most of the show I watched involved interviewing her parents (no actual interviews with the accused, who has been sitting in jail this whole time) and I can see that the crazy apple didn’t fall far from the wacko tree. The dead child’s grandparents came across as drama queens with their own issues and have given some conflicting stories. They made it clear that Caylee was not Casey’s child, she was their child too. It all smacked of weird.

We’ll see how it all shakes out at the trial, don’t see how she won’t be found guilty, but you never know with a jury.

Gotta go, watching a show about the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, got to keep an eye out for these people …


  1. Oooh. fun.

    I've been called 3 times. I was in the courtroom all 3 times, and served twice. I too, was very excited about the true crime and civic duty n'all.

    But... I've finally come to the conclusion that in their wisdom, whoever thought that 12 (or 6) jurors was the right number was a statistical wiz that must've calculated that MOST of the time, at least ONE person in that room would have A) their head screwed on straight, B) care enough to see to a fair trial and C) be smart and/or eloquent enough to convince enough of their peers to find SOME just outcome.

    My experience has been that most of the people who end up in the jury box fail on at least one of the above, usually the second (caring).

    In spite of their duty, most people just want to get out of there. Courtrooms are boring. People don't like confrontation, etc. Most folks will agree to something just to get out of there, in spite of any evidence to the contrary. In both cases, there was a person who disagreed with the rest, only because they felt somebody needed to.

    I love "12 Angry Men". Although its obviously a very dramatized perspective on the jury room, it does capture how petty people are about jury duty, and how they bring their own prejudices to the table.

    If you do ever serve, I encourage you to take your job very seriously, and follow your heart. And, if you want to get into some serious juice, learn yourself on the true rights of jurors: the Supreme Court has told judges they do NOT need to inform jurors of ALL of their rights. Most judges won't. Check it out.

  2. I don't know if I should be impressed or frightened by your knowledge of the Casey case. I'm leaning toward frightened.

    As for jury duty, I've was called in every year for about 4 years straight back in the early 90s. Since then, nada. Got called in jury pools, made it to the court room each time, but never got interviewed for a seat. Seems that everyone who said they couldn't afford to be away from their business was selected every time, and much to their dismay. I've always been curious about the deliberation process, just to see how differences of opinion and interpretation play out behind closed doors. I'd rather be on a jury, though, than watch a jury on TV.

  3. Never been on a jury, but testified before both Grand Juries and criminal ones. I was nervous as sh*t the first few times, especially being grilled by the defense attorney and getting asked insane questions by Grand Jurors, but after awhile you learn all the "tricks." The basic rule is to know your stuff and don't let anyone (including the judge) throw you. Our academy taught us a lot about testifying, but the most I learned is from actually doing it a lot and having the ability to interview jurors with the prosecutor after a trial about what "worked" and what didn't (though, I'm proud to say that all my cases that ever went to trial always ended up in a conviction)!

  4. Oh, I have been called to jury duty twice, but both times as soon as they found out what I did for a living, I was easily dismissed...

  5. Ted, Kevin, Jon - thank you for the thoughtful comments. Of particular interest to me since as you can see I'm sort of obsessed with crime stories and yet the justic system has denied me my right as a citizen to stand in judgment of someone - er, I mean to evaluate evidence as part of an impartial jury. Yesterday I checked out the Crime & Punishment Museum, I'll have to tell you guys about it in another post. don't be scared, Jon!
    Ted that's a good thought about doing a little research before serving on a jury and not going in cold - I would not have thought about my rights as a juror. Food for thought!