Lest you think I would shirk my jury service…

Let me tell you about my second time being called up.

(I have been called up 3 times now, counting yesterday. The first time, I got as far as voir dire – but apparently I was not good enough for one of the lawyers because I was released on a peremptory challenge. And yesterday, well.. you know what happened. They heard me hacking and whining and realized what a pain in the ass I would be and let the whole damn room go before we even talked to a judge).

But the second time. In a word: awful.

Not awful in an overall sense, because – in the end, justice was served. But awful in that it was one of the hardest weeks of my life. It was 7 years ago, but it still feels like yesterday.

And you read that right: week. I served on a week-long trial for attempted first degree murder and first degree assault.

Watch out, folks. This ain’t a pretty story. I’ll tell you the facts, and try to get through them quickly.

[Deep breath]. The defendant picks his wife up from the night shift and makes her drive him around, trolling for drugs. When he can’t find any, he starts beating her senseless. While she is driving. Knocks two of her teeth clear into the backseat. Finally makes her drive him home, where their 4 children are – one of them only 18 months old – and drags her from the car into the house by her hair. When she begs for mercy, he drags her into the bathroom and cuts off her hair… taking pieces of flesh along the way. Then beats her some more – splashing her blood around the bathroom. The kids are upstairs are scared shitless. Finally, he dumps her on their bed, and gives her a pot to spit her blood into.

The next morning, when she does not report to work (seeing as she works about 16 hours a day to support him, and all), her coworkers call the police. Because the wife has always said he would kill her one day. Because the coworkers have heard him threaten to kill her one day.

The police arrive by around noon, no one answers. Bam bam bam! They try to knock down the door and the husband comes at them with a 2×4. He holds the police off for as long as he can, until they break through, cuff him… find the wife… find the kids – frightened to death and cleaning up their mother’s blood.

A whole week, I could not breathe a word of this to Bryan. A whole week, I looked at gruesome photo after gruesome photo of this poor woman. A whole week, I watched this man – this monster – literally intimidate every single witness for the prosecution with his facial expressions and mannerisms.

I. was. a. fucking. nervous. wreck.

Even the wife was so scared of him they had to hold her in contempt of court to testify against him. (Which I thought they could not do? Joansy?)

The pictures of her before and after… she looked like a completely different person from the assault. Her entire face plate had to be restructured. And tired. She looked… so. damn. tired.

The prosecution was meticulous in their explanation of first degree murder. That there must be premeditation. And that premeditation can include an act, or in this case, a failure to act. Leaving his wife to bleed to death when she so desperately needed medical attention. For hours. And furthermore, blocking the police from entering the house when they called out, saying they were checking on her. The doctors estimated had the police arrived even 15 minutes later, she would have been dead.

When we went to the deliberation room, we took an initial vote. Just to get a feel. Everyone was unanimous on the assault charge. It was about 50/50 on the first degree murder charge. Which, I think, was good. That is the point. We needed to talk through and take this thing seriously.

Which we did and finally all agreed on a verdict. Guilty.

I have never shook so bad as when we reentered the courtroom. Thank god I turned down the Head Juror position that they tried to foist on me. I would have literally passed out.

The malice on that man’s face was incredible when the verdict was read. In-credible. And he took a hard, long look at each and every one of us. Every. one.

Luckily the judge quickly ensconced us all in his chambers, so we did not have to hang around much longer after that. But that is when I remembered. Remembered that I clearly had said the exact name of where I worked during voir dire. Not just that I was a “graphic designer for a cancer center.” The exact fucking name. Stupid ass me for being so enamored with the process that I got carried away. As the jurors murmured about all the monster’s little innuendos, I thought I was going to throw up. Right there on the judge’s $10,000 desk.

I finally got home and was able to tell Bryan the whole story. We sat in the front room and I cried as I told him what had happened to that poor woman. And you wouldn’t believe what happened. Someone pounded on our door. I was like a cat – jumped straight into the air, hissing and screeching and probably shaved 10 years off my life in those 10 seconds it took for Bryan to rush to the door. As I hyperventilated he told the kid selling candy bars we didn’t want any, and I asked him if we could lock the door, and resume the story in our bedroom, under the covers… so I could feel safe.

But it took me a while to feel safe. Weeks even.

Probably not until I got the call from the district attorney’s office telling me he had received a 35 year sentence, and since he had been in prison for assault previously (something they could not tell us until after the trial), that he would probably serve a great deal of it.

Can you imagine what that poor woman feels like? And her children?

And while I left a piece of my heart in that courtroom, I am very thankful I was able to serve on that jury. And help protect her, help protect them – help protect all of us – from that man. Yes, I am glad he got a fair trial and our system works. But mostly, in this case, I am just glad he is away and gone.

This article has 18 comments

  1. zenrain

    i am so glad he is away and gone, too…. and i know it was terrible, but she is lucky to have had your smart head in that jury…you have definitely served your jury time ūüėČ

  2. Tree

    What a truly frightening story. My skin pimpled out in goosebumps. I hope the wife and children are somewhere safe and okay.

    You did a great job on that jury.

  3. joansy

    Damn. I can just imagine how tough it must be to be in that position. And that poor woman.

    re: contempt – yep, it happens quite often in domestic abuse cases, and also cases w/ gang members. Basically, the rule is that you can refuse to testify if you’re going to incriminate yourself, but even then the prosecutor can “immunize” your testimony by agreeing that you won’t face any criminal charges and then you have to testify. Most of the time spouses have a “privilege” or right not to testify against each other, but most states exempt domestic violence victims from the privilege.

    re: fear – it’s completely understandable, but the good news is that defendants going after jurors almost never happens. You would think that prosecutors and judges might be targets too, but no. The primary target of defendants who do attack people in the criminal justice system: defense attorneys. It doesn’t happen often, but they are always top of the list as most defendants get that everyone in the system was just doing his or her assigned duty, but defense attorneys take the brunt of the criticism for the loss of the case.

    He won’t have an easy 35 years (or whatever percentage of that your state requires before parole eligibility). Men who beat women tend to be relatively weak in comparison to many others in the prison system and they are unlikely to have a lot of friends (or gang members) who are in the system looking out for them.

    Was he on on meth? A lot of the cases I’ve seen with really nasty violence are meth addicts with fried brains. It’s such a bad drug.

    Anyway, I’m so glad that you didn’t have to go through it a second time.

  4. Nat

    Chilling story. I remember being haunted for a long time about a court case I covered for the paper here.

    How is it you get called so often?

  5. Shell

    Wow! I’m so glad you got out of it this time. You have definitely served your time!

  6. monstergirlee

    Thank goodness for you Aimee for helping put that monster away. I got chilled just reading about. Poor woman, her poor kids. cripes.
    (thanks for the info Joansy)

  7. Anonymous

    OH MY GOD. What a horrible story.

  8. g-man

    U.F.B.

    Glad you were able to get through it. I hope that the woman and her children are doing well today.

  9. tmrperry

    HOLY SHIT! I hope that woman and her children will never be seen by that man again. And I hope he never sees the light of day again.

  10. Karen

    We need more people like you on jury duty Aimee. If the American penal system is anything like the UK, the fact he did this to his wife and terrorised his kids means he’s easily missing ALL of his own teeth now, plus walking around with a few nasty scars and probably begging the guards to let him shower alone.

    I’m glad you got through it OK, but I can totally understand you being completely freaked out.

    I hope that woman and her kids are happy now and living a life free of fear and violence.

  11. ali

    wow. that’s crazy. and good that he’s gone. must be a weight lifted for you.

  12. diana

    what a terrible story. it must have been hard to sit there day after day listening to the horrid facts. and i’m sure it’s something that stays with you forever.

  13. sue

    I feel for you. Although I’ve lucked out and every time I’ve been put on jury duty the case has been settled and I’ve not had to serve, one of my fears is I would have a case like that. Makes you really appreciate your loving husband, doesn’t it? Take care and hope you’re feeling better soon.

  14. Anne

    I’ve never heard this entire story Aimee. I can’t even begin to imagine what that experience was like.

    I agree that you have done more than your fair share of jury duty.

  15. mayberry

    I’m so sorry Aimee. That’s just awful. I did serve on a jury once in a drug case and even that was very stressful and wrenching; so I can only imagine that what you went through was 100 times worse.

  16. aimee / greeblemonkey

    Thanks all.

    And thanks Joansy for the further explanation and reassurance.

    Allison, no! I didn’t feel defensive… just realized I sounded all down with jury duty and certainly didn’t want to give that impression. Although this post may sound even MORE down with jury duty, LOL.

  17. soccer mom in denial

    I really hope my comment yesterday didn’t make you defensive. Seriously.

    That is an incredible story, both yours and hers. Violence is a horrid, horrid thing. I hope she and her children are getting counseling.

    This is a really powerful post.

  18. Catherine

    Holy shit. Many of us have stories of abuse in our past, be it our own or our mother’s. But this one takes the cake! MAN. I can’t even begin to imagine serving as a juror on such a case. Thanks so much for sharing.

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