When I Was the Foreperson on an Attempted Murder and Assault Trial in Baltimore City
Sorry this is so long...
- •I had my first jury duty summons while I was still in college. I had a letter from my university to verify that I was away, and instead of that being acceptable, they asked for the exact day I would be back in Baltimore. So, the first Monday of my winter break senior year of college, I went downtown to the court house.
- •I had just gotten @mindy's book, and read that while I waited. It was the only thing that made me feel better about being there. Eventually, my number was called and for whatever reason, I was placed as the second alternate juror on an attempted murder and assault trial.
- •The case had to do with a fight between two 18 year old boys, where one's mother intervened and claimed she was attacked by the other boy after sending her son inside the house.
- •The events of this case had taken place in July 2010. It was being tried in December 2011, a year and a half later.
- •Witness #1: the son who was in the initial fight, who had since been incarcerated for something else, and came to testify in a DOC jumpsuit and shackles.
- •Witness #2: the younger brother, age 15, who claimed he couldn't read (though we later established that he could) and refused to talk to either lawyer, probably because the legal system had already failed his family (see above)
- •Our star witness: the mother, who would go on to give a completely nonsensical testimony that we were later told to disregard because they confirmed that she had been on heroin while testifying.
- •The second day of the trial, two jurors had been removed, #9, who was replaced by the first alternate, and #1, who was replaced by yours truly.
- •Once the deliberations began, I was supposed to run the room as the newly appointed foreperson.
- •Four jurors began a conspiracy theory about two older gentlemen who had been seated in the back of the courtroom, and how they must have been intimidating the mom, which was why she was strung out.
- •Was told by two other jurors that I couldn't understand this case because I "wasn't from the hood." Struggled with comments like this for the entire time, as a 21 year old, tiny, educated, white girl. Tried to explain to them that we had all heard the same case, and had to stick to the facts, the things we had heard in the room the last two days.
- •They didn't like that.
- •Eventually, we would find the defendant guilty of assault but not of attempted murder. There wasn't enough concrete evidence, and the witnesses who took the stand had little to offer, especially since the events had taken place so long ago.
- •As we were leaving, one of the middle aged women who had been on the jury with me and had only said 5 words the entire two days, pulled me aside. She told me she was a law student, and that I had handled the room the right way. Would have been cool to have that back-up at the time.
- •As I listened to Serial this past winter, it reminded me of this experience. The legal system in Baltimore is so problematic.