Two weeks ago, I answered a jury summons to serve at the local courts. It was actually my second summons after the boss requested I postpone the first one I received a few months prior due to another colleague already out on jury duty. The boss had a good laugh when I told him that my first day of jury duty was going to start on my day off from work. To add insult to injury, the night before I worked a double shift, then had to report to the courthouse early the next morning. I got the last laugh though, when after 2 days of waiting in the jury pool, I was selected for a jury, which didn’t please the boss very much.
If you’ve never served as a juror on a trial before, I can tell you it’s nothing like what they show on Law & Order or any of those other legal dramas. Things don’t move that quickly at all. It’s very mundane with a lot of attention to details, with lots of sidebars by the lawyers and the judge giving us breaks. I knew what to expect since it was my second time serving as a juror, but I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to all the delays.
The case was a drug trial. Based on a warrant, police executed a search raid on an apartment. Inside the apartment they find “Troy” and 2 young children; a 8 year old boy and 6 year old girl. While searching the apartment, police find in one of the 5 bedrooms a vial of crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and 2 guns. A .380 caliber pistol and a 9mm assault rifle. The man inside who is the father of the 2 children is charged with multiple counts of drug possession with intent to distribute as well as multiple weapons charges, and two counts of endangerment of minors. Troy’s girlfriend, “Keisha” the mother of the children, and who’s apartment was the one raided was later also arrested and charged.
The prosecution argued that the two defendants, both in their 30s, lived together as a couple with their children and sold drugs out of the apartment. Testimony from the police officers involved was tedious, describing every detail involved with the raid. Dozens of items were introduced into evidence. Among them, the guns, drugs, paraphernalia, bullets and DNA testing results. Troy’s defense lawyer argued though he spent a significant amount of time there, that he didn’t live in the apartment. And he didn’t sleep in the bedroom where the drugs and weapons were found. Keisha’s lawyer argued that she had no knowledge of the drugs and guns being in the apartment. That she also did not sleep in that bedroom and that various family members stayed there at points in time who could’ve brought the drugs and guns into the apartment.
It took an entire day for both the prosecution and defense to present their closing arguments. Notably the defense attorney for Keisha said something that stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing but it was something to the effect of, “Don’t convict her for her choices in lifestyle or relationships.” But it was just those choices that played a role in our deliberations. Part of Keisha’s testimony was that her primary source of income was food stamps and SSI for her 2 children, whatever money Troy gave her, and she also earned money on the side working as a hairdresser out of her apartment. But she drove a late model mercedes, wore designer clothing and shoes, and despite having a huge apartment in which she paid a very low rent, kept little furniture in the apartment. Two of the bedrooms were kept empty and Keisha claimed that Troy would sleep on a mattress on the living room floor, which made no sense to me in an apartment with 5 bedrooms. Troy was a high school dropout who had served time for a prior felony conviction, and according to the prosecution, was arrested numerous times prior to the most recent charges. He was also unemployed, yet testified that a friend owed him $1500, but did not elaborate where he got the money to loan. Though he claimed to live with a cousin, the DA showed evidence that Troy received mail, including a new food stamp card at Keisha’s address.
The jury concluded during deliberations that Troy and Keisha did live together as a couple in Keisha’s apartment. That Troy sold drugs and kept the guns in the apartment, with Keisha’s knowledge of his activities. Based on that, both were found guilty of all charges. As the forewoman of the jury, it was my job to read the verdict, which was tedious. I had to say the word, “guilty” 18 times. One for each of the nine charges the defendants had. Maybe it was some irrational fear I had or just nervousness, but I avoided looking at the defendants while reading the verdict. A few of us briefly met with the defense attorneys for a Q&A session after the trial was over, they seemed incredulous that we came to the verdict that we did. One of the questions we had for the lawyers was the nature of the warrant. When Keisha’s lawyer commented it was for “selling drugs”, we were even more confident we made the right decision on the verdict. I was curious what kind of jail sentence they could receive, but didn’t have the nerve to ask.
“Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas”, “birds of a feather flock together”, “guilty by association”, “be careful of the company you keep”. All those anecdotes come to mind when I spent the next few days processing what took place over the 10 days I served. The judge told us it was not our job to be concerned about that, but It saddens me when I think of the two children, now ages 8 and 10, who will probably now grow up without both of their parents. Who will care for them? How will they maintain a relationship with mom and dad while they are incarcerated? What interventions will be made in their life to keep them from repeating the mistakes of their parents?