Friday, April 1, 2011

Jury duty

This month I received a letter in the mail summoning me to court for jury duty.  I was super nervous when I got the letter.  I'm not very good with new things.  Actually, I hate it!  It's so bad sometimes that I get nervous going into a new store, by myself, that I've never been too.  I'm such a baby! 

When I got the letter I was just about to start the daycare and was not very happy that the first month I'd have to tell the parents that I might need some time off.  I tried calling the courts to get out of it, but never got anyone on the phone and didn't really want to leave a message.  I remember thinking that there was a reason I wasn't getting through to anyone.  At the time, I thought that maybe I wasn't going to have to go to court at all.  If you call into court and get out of jury duty they put your name back in and you can get picked again within a year.  Now I know that God wanted me to be at the trial that I was at.

I had 4 different court dates that I was supposed to call and see if I needed to go to.  The first two were settled outside of court and I didn't need to go.  However, on Sunday night I called again to see if our Monday morning court date was still on.  (You have to call after 4:30 the night before to see if you need to show up to court the next day at 8:30 am)  I was completely surprised when the message said we needed to arrive at 8:30 am the very next morning.  Ugh! 

Monday morning came and I arrived about 30 minutes earlier than I needed to be there.  Parking can be difficult around the courthouse and I wasn't about to be late.  I hate being late! 

After signing in and waiting in a room with 40 other potential jurors for about an hour we were told that we could go into the courtroom for juror selection.  I thought that I would be extremely nervous and shaking, but I was actually very calm and deep down had a feeling that I might be picked.  Thank you, God for preparing me ahead of time.

The 40 of us piled into the courtroom with every witness that would testify, family members of both the man accused and the owners of the bar and the man being accused himself.  That was super crazy!  At this time we didn't know what the crime was.

The judge told us that out of the 40 of us there had been a "random" (I say "random" because I know that God does not do random) pick of 20 of our names that would sit in the juror box.  Then the 20 of us would be asked questions, but that all 40 people should pay attention because if they (the judge or attorneys) would dismiss someone another potential juror would come and sit in that seat.

So the names began... #3 Sarah Bush.  What!?  My name is the third one.  They were not alphabetical either.  And that's the chair I sat in for the next three days. 

As soon as the 12 of us were picked we were told to go call family, employees or anyone else that we needed to because we were immediately going to start the trial.  I called Thomas right away and told him I was in for the long haul.  Asked him if he needed anything from me or if he had any questions about the boys and then I had to shut my phone off. 

Our trial was about a man who on October 12, 2009 (Josiah was only a few weeks old) robbed a Superior bar.  He had come in with a huge knife, the blade was at least 6 inches long, and shoved it at the bartender then stole $3000.  We were shown video of the actual robbery from the bars surveillance cameras. 

It was so interesting to sit and be a juror.  We had to be escorted everywhere we went and needed to keep quiet about the entire case.  It was surreal watching the attorneys call their witnesses or cross examining.  A few times it got pretty heated in the courtroom.  One was when the bartender pointed right at Rick, the man being accused, and yelled "That man right there robbed me!  I will never forget that nose!" Then proceeded to stare directly at Rick for a long time.  And a few other times it got heated when the district attorney cross examined both Rick's girlfriend and an lady that claimed she had met Rick in a parking lot during the time of the robbery.  (therefore, Rick could not be in two places at one time.)

The trial was expected to last only 2 days, but technical difficulties pushed it into 3 days.  The attorneys said their final statements and then around 3 (I think) we went into deliberation.  We sat and discussed the case for 3 hours before reaching a guilty verdict. 

The whole process is so fascinating, but I enjoy things like this.  I thought it was a lot of fun.  Which may sound weird to some since I was there to decide on a verdict that would change a persons life forever.  During the beginning of the trial I realized how powerful this whole thing was.  I got really nervous and overwhelmed when I thought about having to decide someone elses fate.  I said a prayer and asked God to help me see clearly.  I felt I wasn't smart enough or capable of deciding something so grand in this persons life, but then while I was praying I felt this sense of peace come over me and I knew that I was there for a reason.  God had chosen all 12 of us to be jurors in this specific case for some reason.  I then had much more confidence in the decision that I needed to make.

When us jurors went into deliberation we were not all on the same page.  Talking through the time line, going back and looking closely at the video tapes of the actual crime, Walmart tapes of Rick and a friend buying supplies the week before and talking about "other scenario" that could have happened really helped us all see the decision we needed to make. 

After we decided we needed to wait until all the attorneys, witnesses and family members could get back to court to hear our decision.  It was about 6 pm at this time.  I wasn't very nervous walking back into the courtroom to give our verdict.  That is until I saw Rick, who I could practically reach out my hand and touch as we walked into the courtroom.  He had never been shackled at any point during the trial.  He always sat at his table and looked like anyone else in the room.  But when we walked into the courtroom to deliver our verdict I got a quick glimpse of him and he was standing there with shackles on.  I don't know if I thought that that only happens in the movies or if I wasn't really thinking about what Rick would like at that moment.  When I saw him there with his hands cuffed and extra police officers standing around I realized how scary this could become. 

As the baliff took the paper that said guilty or not to the judge my heart was pounding so fast I thought for sure people would be able to see it thumping away.

As the judge read our verdict... guilty of armed robbery I could hear a few gasps and one lady scream.  I did not want to make eye contact with anyone in the courtroom, but decided to take a quick glimpse in the direction of the peoples side who "won."  And I could see them hugging.  I never once looked in Rick's direction. 

After our verdict was read the defense attorney wanted each of us to go around and tell him what we had decided.  This verdict needed to be an unanimous one.  The judge then began to ask us, "Sarah Bush is this your verdict?"  Which I then responded, "Yes."

After the jurors job was done in the courtroom we were allowed to leave and while we filed out two or three cops surrounded Rick.  Scary! 

Hands down the whole experience was the most fascinating and scariest thing I've ever had to do, but one that I would for sure do again.

Thomas found this article in the paper today.

* During the trial the Superior Police testified that Rick, his friend and his friends girlfriend were at a hotel that is only a few blocks from my house.  And when Rick and his buddies girlfriend were arrested they were on the road directly in front of my house, only about a mile or two away.  I told Thomas I'm ok with moving.  I know that a lot of people drive by our house everyday, but to hear who those people can be sometimes really scared me.  When the police officers said what street they were arrested on I immediately thought of my little boys playing outside and it freaked me out.  So don't be alarmed when I post... we're moving.  :)

1 comments:

Katherine said...

Sarah,

Your experience was incredible! Thank you for being so real and sharing all your emotions. I got jury summons but ended up moving to Waukesha county before my date and therefore was ineligible to serve in Milwaukee County. I hope you are able to continue enjoying your home for now!

Katie

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