Jury Duty and the James Holmes Trial

I’m back on the road, headed for Colorado where I hope to make some contacts for my project at the James Holmes trial.

Welcome back. The date was May 15, 2015 and I had been ordered by the District Court of Washington County to appear at suite 100 on the 3rd floor of the Washington County Courthouse at 420 South Johnstone in Bartlesville for what would be a very interesting two days. This week I am bringing you the story of those two days. Over the last few years I may have had more experience with courtrooms than the average person, including last August when I was at the federal courthouse in Boston where mobster Whitey Bulger was brought to justice after an eight week trial. I also attended the trial of Eddie Ray Routh who was convicted of murdering Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield in a small county courtroom in Stephenville, Texas. I myself have been called to testify before a multi-county grand jury in Oklahoma City. Most recently I sat in on the opening arguments in the trial of James Holmes, the so-called “movie theater shooter” in Colorado.

My courthouse summons did not have the drama of these cases but with patriotism running high over the 4th of July I think this is an appropriate topic to consider. My summons to jury service, or jury duty as it’s commonly called, required that I appear at 8:30 am and when I got there I found the 3rd floor packed with potential jurors. For the next several hours Judge Curtis Delapp read our instructions according to the law. Through my own research I had already learned how important jury duty is to our justice system. Every person charged with” a crime punishable by incarceration for more than six months has a constitutional right to a trial by jury”. (United States District Court –Northern District of Oklahoma Jury Plan)

If you are a citizen of the United States you must appear when summoned for service and if you do not a judge may find you in contempt of court. I learned that you cannot lose your job during jury duty and that you may be excused if a trial is going to last for a long time. Jurors and prospective jurors also receive a daily stipend of $20.

At the age of 64, this was my first time to be called and I was anxious to learn more about the process. As the judge reviewed the rules with all of us things started to get personal and one by one potential jurors were released. By the end of the day I was still there and the next appearance was going to be in the jury box as the selection narrowed down to twenty-four of us. First we were questioned by the asistant District Attorney Will Drake and then by the defendant’s attorney. More people were excused after each series of questions.

By now I had cleared my mind. The man in this case was innocent until proven guilty, I got that. Then we came to a round of questions about who our friends were and what knowledge we had of either the assistant D.A. Drake or his boss, D.A. Kevin Buchanan. As an avid newspaper reader I knew of both men and I had also personally supported Mr. Buchanan during his election campaign. I don’t know if this made any difference but soon after I was released from service with a warning that that I might be called back again. It was a firsthand experience with our rights and responsibilities as citizens of this great country and I hope to get the chance to serve in the future.

Moving forward I’ve just received word from Denver, CO that the trial of James Holmes should be wrapping up by the beginning of next week and if the river don’t rise I’ll be there. My experience has been that juries tend to come back quickly in these cases where the defendant had already plead guilty and I anticipate that the same thing could happen in this instance. Stay tuned to my website for more details.

Till then I’ll see ya down the road……