07 December, 2014

Jury duty - part 2

Logistics - Pay - in Kentucky a juror is paid $5 a day for their service and $7.50 a day for expenses. (at least in Jefferson County). There are 3 garages that provide a $1 daily discount for jurors, if you have your parking ticket validated. The closest and least expensive garage is across the street from the courthouse, it costs $7 a day with validation. This parking garage is usually full by 9 am. There is a snack bar/grill on the 2 floor where you can get a burger, etc. There's not much choice for a GF, DF vegetarian unless you want salad that is mostly iceburg lettuce. This goes for restaurants in a two-three block radius as well.

Each day varied on start time (9, 9:30, 10), lunch time (11:30 - 1:30), and end time (4:00 - 5:30). The jury was escorted to a jury room each break. We weren't allowed to exit the room until the Sheriff came to get us and then we all went to the elevators together for lunch or leaving at night. We also gathered at a designated place each morning and were escorted upstairs. Add 30 minutes to end of day above for actual time we were out of the building heading to cars. We were taken different routes/exits at the end of each day.

Court doesn't run quickly and there is a lot of time the jury does not hear what is being said between counsel and the judge. There are many objections and requests to approach the bench. The judge has a white noise switch that helps prevent the audience and jury from hearing their conversations. 

The fifteen of us had plenty of time to chat and try to get to know each other. I wouldn't say intimately, but finally could address by name and knew at least a little about each. We weren't allowed to discuss the case amongst ourselves until we were sent for deliberation. We were admonished to not speak of this case to anyone, not family or friend. I think this was easiest for me living alone and not having any friends that I hang out with or talk on the phone with regularly. Also, our phones had to be off while in the court room so I just left mine in the jury room. One afternoon when we were in the jury room on a break one of the jurors started making comments about one of the counsel. No one said anything. So I looked at them and said, "please stop".  The commentary was inappropriate and I could tell would start us talking. I'm sure my request added some tension between the person and I. 

The prosecution called officers, detectives, and crime scene analysts to testify. We saw pictures of the crime scene and different view points of the park from various locations. We learned that Ms Sheckles was shot in the back 3 times and once through the leg. One bullet exited her chest and went through her chin back to front. She couldn't be found when she was to appear as a witness in the trial of the murder of her boyfriend and that trial was dismissed. She had been found in early 2009 and during pre-trial hearings was ordered to appear for the 2nd trial of his murder. D.E. Hammond was in the courtroom at this hearing. She was clearly in fear of her safety and stated so. It wasn't long after that hearing when she was shot in Shelby Park.

As I said in my last post, we were shown hours of video interviews with witnesses. These witnesses were brought in and as they were questioned they would answer "I do not recall" repetitively. So, the videos and some audios were shown to help them remember. Still, a couple of witnesses would not recall while being questioned by the prosecution. However, seemed to be more open to answering questions by the defense.

As I said, this was one of the hardest things I've done. I did not decide until we were in deliberation what my final decision was. We were sent to deliberation on Thursday about 11:30 am. We talked and talked and sent questions to the judge. Each time a question was sent the judge brought both counsels back in and they discussed our questions. We watched the testimony of Ms. Sheckles current boyfriend again. He was an eye witness to the shooting. He ID'd the shooter in a separate proceeding. We deliberated until about 8:30 or so that night. There were 4 charges. Three we were able to agree upon fairly easily. The murder charge was something different. It had 4 parts and while we were unanimous on A and B, C and D were sticking points for a few jurors. The entire trial was exhausting, but the deliberation even more so. Many of us talked about things in our lives that seemed to relate to this. Some shared very intimate pieces of their lives. The process was emotional and mentally draining. When we finally came to a unanimous decision, which is what is required, we were all relieved. The judge had us come back in on Friday morning for the sentencing. Some jurors thought this would be quick and easy. It wasn't. We went into the jury room after opening statements, witnesses and closing statements by counsel about 11:00. We discussed and talked until about 3:00 or so. After the sentence was read and we were released back to the jury room the judge came and spoke with us. She answered many of our questions. We learned things about the defendant we couldn't hear about during trial. There were witnesses we did not hear from and she wasn't sure why they weren't called to testify. We also found out that the defendant is now going to be tried for attempted murder and kidnapping.

There is much drug trafficking in this city. Some of it is done in our beautiful city parks. There are young people that look up to older ones that provide clothing and shoes and these young people will do things for them even murder. There is much drug use and so much addiction and poverty. We have too many homeless children in our city and country.

I went to a discussion group last month called the Distilled Spirit Discussion Group. It was enlightening and I learned about Restorative Justice. This is a program for youth offenders where they are given the opportunity to pay for the crime they've committed instead of being punished and shamed. 

Click on the link to learn more. I hope this can continue to be utilized. Restorative Justice Louisville It makes me wonder where the defendant and Mr. Pettway might be if their earliest crimes were handled in that manner. 

I will never forget this experience. I hope someday all of this hate and poverty is eradicated from our world. Sending out the most loving and peaceful vibes I can.

peace and love




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