Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quick check in and movie lists

Hey everyone. I apologize for the lack of updates, and I really do have no excuse this time; I've just been lazing around NYC, enjoying the wonderful weather before the true brunt of humidity hits. I've also been seeing movies. A ton of them, in fact; if you count the two movies I saw on the plane ride over here, then I've seen a movie a day since I've been out here. I've seen, in order:

Coraline: I saw this for the second time, but this time in 2-D, and while it's much better in 3-D, it still worked really well. Wonderful film, and one I'm picking up as soon as it comes out on DVD.

Taken: This was a very weird film, with a lot of stilted lines and a really lame ending, but good action scenes and some very good tension throughout, especially in the scenes shown in the trailer. I can't exactly recommend this as a good film, but you can do a LOT worse as action films go.

Summer Hours: This is a pretentious French film about a family going through an estate sale. No, really, that's basically it. Yes, there's a theme of the changes that France has gone through from one generation to another, but really, this wasn't the most engaging film of all time. Some very good acting in it, though.

Up: I saw this for the second time, and this time it was in 3D. Having seen it in both 2D and 3D, I can confidently say that there is no advantage to seeing it in 3D except for the chase scene with the dogs in the middle of the movie, which is a lot of fun. But there is very little else if anything that the 3D adds, and it drastically darkens the picture on the screen, which is a shame considering how bright and beautiful the color scheme of Up is. If you haven't seen it yet, see it in 2D. You truly won't be missing anything. Also, the film was somehow even better the second time around, since I could pay attention to more of the details, and appreciated how the story had a lot of very subtle foreshadowing in the beginning. Great film.

Psycho: What a tremendous film. I hadn't seen it for close to ten years, but the scary scenes are still as good as they get, and Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates is perfect and utterly creepy. The film is definitely way slower than I remember it being, but because it's Hitchcock at his best, it still holds your interest, and the big reveal at the end in the "fruit cellar" is still shocking and done as well as it could have possibly been. I watched this with an awesome and mature eleven year old who is into horror films, and she immediately wanted to see The Birds once Psycho ended. Gotta love her taste.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Soviet Album Covers

Sorry I haven't been posting recently, y'all. I'm now in New York though, and will be for the next couple of weeks! Should be good times.

Here's a terrific, and by terrific I mean terrifying, collection of Soviet Russian album covers. These are totally NSFS, by the way (Not Safe For Sanity).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Pixar Films Ranking

I was thinking about this, and figured I'd give it a stab. What order would I rank the Pixar films in terms of my personal enjoyment of them, as well as how good of a film I thought they were? Well, here's my list.

2. The Incredibles
3. Up
4. Monsters Inc.
5. Ratatouille
6. Finding Nemo
7. Cars
8. Toy Story
9. Toy Story 2
10. A Bug's Life

First off, I love pretty much all of these films (Bug's Life is really the only one that left me kind of cold, and even that had some good moments). Cars and Finding Nemo are kind of tied for me; I liked Cars much, much more than most people and was almost tempted to switch it with Finding Nemo in this list, but I think Finding Nemo is a better movie. Also, WALL-E and The Incredibles, along with Beauty and The Beast, are far and away my favorite American animated films (my favorite animated film ever is My Neighbor Totoro).

I should note here that Nemo leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth because of how many friggin times I had to see it in college; I owned it the first day it came out, and because my room was big and had a TV, everyone came over to watch movies, and Nemo was the most popular choice after, get ready for this, Quills (the Marquis de Sade movie). I probably saw both Quills and Finding Nemo, no exaggeration here, about fifteen times my first year of college. And guess what? Finding Nemo had the better characters (the sea turtles, Mr. Ray, and Dory are just wonderful), but Quills holds up better as a film.

The Toy Story movies don't hold up that well to me in light of the later Pixar movies, although Buzz Lightyear is one of the great animated characters. Monsters Inc. is by far my favorite film of Pixar's pre-Brad Bird era. I saw that film in theaters opening day, in a packed house full of little kids. The kids were all completely into it, and there was a collective "awwww" at the end shot. One of my favorite film-going moments.

Really, these are all terrific films; like most people, I have yet to be disappointed by Pixar, and am in awe of their ability to not only put out great films on a consistent basis, but to try out completely different ideas every time. Let's hope that the next ten films are as good as these!

Friday, June 19, 2009


I just saw Pixar's latest, Up, and adored it. It's probably overall my third favorite Pixar film, after WALL-E and The Incredibles, but the beginning ten minutes or so, where it depicts the life of Carl and Ellie, might be my favorite segment ever in a Pixar film.

Boy, though, talk about a film where if you don't know anything going in, which I didn't, you would have NO idea where it was going. When the robotic dogs showed up, I almost felt overwhelmed with the oddness of the story, but once it started to come together, which happened right around when they met the explorer, I realized how excellent the story was. I actually like how overwhelmed I felt; I'm sure Carl felt the same way once Dug showed up.

Oh, and speaking of Dug, such a brilliant character. I had already fallen in love with him from the trailers (SQUIRREL!), but I loved and appreciated him even more as the film went on, along with the rest of his group (POINT). The writing was insanely funny for him and the other dogs, and the voices were spot-on.

Some other little notes. The animation was beautiful but seemed less showy than usual for Pixar, which I actually kind of liked. The animals were so well done throughout, especially Kevin (the snipe). Ed Asner was pitch-perfect. I love that Russell was Asian-American (he was based on one of the story boarders for Up who also directed the really cute short before it and is Korean). The villain in this felt slightly off and nasty from the very beginning, which is nice because when he truly lost it and became evil it felt totally natural and understandable even, and completely uncontrived.

Finally, there were a bunch of little kids at the screening I went to, and I was slightly surprised only because this is a PG movie and it deserves the rating; there's a lot of sadness, evil acts, and guns. And, not to my surprise, a good number of the kids got freaked out by the film, and several left. But just as many if not more loved the film; they were laughing and getting into it.

Definitely go see this if you haven't yet; it's one of the better films I've seen in a while.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Maybe the worst surprise ever unless you're a little girl

Miley Cyrus, at dinner in Georgia after a day of shooting for her new film, got up and played two songs on a borrowed guitar for everyone in the restaurant. Personally, I would have demanded my money back, if only because I would have completely lost my appetite, but that's just me. Would this have made you happy?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Long time no normal blog!

All right, I'm finally back! The past month or so of this blog has been taken up with trial related posts, but now that I'm done with work (as in unemployed for the moment) and the trial posts, I can get back to normal. Look for at least two or three entries every weekday here in the near future.

In terms of updates my training for the NYC Marathon is about to begin, and I'm about to head out to NYC on vacation! All good stuff.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Trial: Day 11 (May 21st)

Day 11

And it is done. What a wild experience. We met early today (8:30), and heard the prosecution's rebuttal. For my money, her rebuttal was by far the weakest performance she gave the whole trial; it was forceful but without much purpose, and almost got insulting towards our intelligence. I should note that she never once thanked us or acknowledged how much we had been through during this trial, which didn't really warm her to me. But here, she was clearly misstating testimony, to the point where the defense objected twice to it. The objections were pointless legally (the judge instantly shot them down), but they were valid.

Anyways, she didn't speak for too long, and we then finally got to go to our deliberation room! We got to go behind the judge's chair to a hallway and then down to the room, which was, as you might imagine, a drab room with twelve seats. The deliberation was great; we were all very attentive, and made absolutely sure we made the right decision. We had a terrific foreman, and while the discussion got heated, it was only because we were arguing over important points, which is what any group with a weighty responsibility should do. In the end, we found our defendant innocent, which was my belief from the very start of the case.

I was nervous at first that I would be the only one who thought he was innocent, but it turned out we all agreed that there was just way too much doubt and lack of evidence to convict him on any kind of charge. When we read the verdict, there was not a lot of reaction from either attorney, but our defendant looked very relieved; I can only imagine after being locked up for two years over something it seems pretty clear he didn't do. He also made a brief statement thanking us personally for acquitting him, which was nice but not really necessary; none of us felt that he was a saint, but that he had been given a deserved second chance, and that it was up to him now to make the most of it.

A bunch of us met with the defense attorney afterwards and shook his hand, telling him how great a job he did for his client. He was humble and a little overwhelmed by our praise of him; he seems like a pretty meek guy, actually. We then gathered in the parking lot briefly, went over the case, and then said our goodbyes.

I'm sad that I'll likely never see most of my fellow jurors ever again, but I became good friends with one of the jurors, Katherine, and I received business cards from a number of the jurors, and I'm sure we'll find a way to get in touch one way or another. It's an incredible bonding experience, actually; you, as a group of twelve people, decide another person's fate, and especially if you do it with the attention and care that we showed today, you become quite connected to everyone's feelings and ways of thinking. This is an experience I'll never forget, and really one that I'll cherish as a proud moment in my life, where I got to take part in serving justice. Being on a jury may seem like a burden, but don't knock it until you've actually been on one. It's an experience like no other.

Random Notes

Today felt weird. We've been coming to this courthouse and dealing with this case, off and on, for exactly one month. It doesn't necessarily feel like its been longer than that, but when you do something for a month, it truly does become routine (I think three weeks is often considered the point when something becomes ingrained). I'm not exactly sad that I'll never have to go to the courthouse again, but a part of me will likely miss it for a while.

The hallway we went through behind the judge's chair was way sparser than I was expecting. Somehow, I was expecting the area behind the judge's chair to contain his office or something, but nope, just a grey hallway that led into another grey hallway. There were some conference rooms with nice views of the city, and a random person working behind a desk...without a view or anyone around her. Man, that must be a soul-crushing job.

When we started deliberating today, we had none of the evidence and no way to play any of the audio evidence even if we had had it. These were the things we really needed to make our decision, and when we asked the foreman about it, he stated that he hadn't cataloged them yet (?) and that we would likely get them in the afternoon. Well, then why were we deliberating in the morning? We kept asking, and finally he gave us a bunch of evidence late in the morning, and was NOT happy about it. We of course still had no way to play the audio, and had to wait for that until after lunch. I guarantee you that if we had the evidence at the very beginning and an audio player of some sort, we could have been out of there before lunch.

On the way down to the first floor for lunch, the elevator took forever to arrive, way longer than usual. I made an offhand comment to one of my fellow jurors as we were getting in about how it seemed like there was only one elevator working. Then, a lawyer in the elevator with us that I'd never seen before made a comment to me that it was my decision that I had chosen jury service and that what I should do in the future to not be annoyed by the elevator is just not answer the call. Now, an important thing to note here is that his tone was upbeat and positive, as if trying to make it seem like he was chums with me and that we were bonding over how annoying jury service was. This is coming from a lawyer. Surrounded by jurors who have clearly been selected to a jury based on their badges being marked with which jury they belonged to. Needless to say, all conversation stopped for a while after his comment, and I just looked at him in disgusted amazement. He went from smiling to looking down at his feet quickly, and then tried to casually chat with his client. Yes, his client was in the elevator with him. If I was that client, I would have tried to find a new lawyer fast.

There were two things that I noticed instantly about the defense attorney as we met him up close. One was that his hands were cold and clammy. He had obviously been very nervous about our verdict. The other thing I noticed were his business cards. They were from Vista Print! Vista Print is a cheap online company that makes you something like 1000 business cards for twenty bucks. They're low quality, and they have generic designs. The only reason I recognized it was that I used the exact same design when I made my business cards from them! Pretty funny stuff. Still, it endeared him even more to me.

Every person involved in this case was terrific. The judge was easygoing and kind, but very good at controlling difficult situations and at taking things seriously when they needed to be serious. The prosecution and the defense both did extraordinary jobs, especially our defense attorney given that he was a public defender. And, most of all, I could not have had a better jury. It was diverse, intelligent, and just a very positive and passionate group of people. I'm truly going to miss them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Trial: Day 10 (May 20th)

Day 10

I should have posted this note before as an actual post, but c'est la vie. We were off for two days (Monday and Tuesday) before we resumed. Apparently in this time, although we didn't know it at the time, the other jury deliberated and found the other defendant guilty. I'll discuss that in more detail in my wrap up post.

Today we had the start of closing arguments. The structure of this is rather interesting; because the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution gives their argument, then the defense gives theirs, and then the prosecution gets a rebuttal, with NO chance of a rebuttal for the defense.

So it was interesting. We got an argument from the prosecution that lasted a little under an hour, which was forceful and intense but pretty light on the evidence, and then the defense had his. And man, did he have his argument. It lasted, no exaggeration, for close to three hours, and would have gone on longer if we hadn't had to end at five o'clock. It was actually an extraordinary argument; it was quietly passionate, and was WAY better organized and researched than the prosecution. It was also insanely thorough, and was quirky enough to have Seinfeld and Saving Private Ryan references in it. It also had a rather wonderful explanation of the legal matters that we had to decide, much better and clearer than even the judge's instructions. We are going to have the prosecution's rebuttal tomorrow, and then we get to actually deliberate! Should be good.

Random Notes

It's depressing that I could be gone for four days from the courthouse (Saturday through Tuesday) and still be recognized by the parking attendant as I pulled into the juror parking lot. Sigh. I've been doing this too long.

The judge had to leave for an important meeting downtown today, so we broke for lunch half an hour early, and got back fifteen minutes later than usual. When we walked back into the courtroom, it looked like the judge hadn't moved from his seat when we got back in; he did not look like a guy who had had to rush downtown at lunch hour, have an important meeting of some kind, and then get back uptown. But maybe he is just that unflappable.

At one point today, one of our jurors for whatever reason was late back from a break. So we had some down time in the court, and the judge told us a story about the California seal, namely how it was created and why the symbolism is the way it is on it. Too long to go into here, but one of our jurors revealed a random classical history knowledge, which surprised even the judge. Also, the judge is a California history nerd. Seriously; he knew something so obscure he even pointed out that he'd be stunned if any of us knew it (no one did, and it was so obscure I've already forgotten what it was).

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Trial: Day 9 (May 15th)

Day 9

This was officially the day of burnout for all of us on the jury. There's something about getting to the end of the week and realizing that you haven't led a normal life for two weeks, and that there isn't a clear end in sight. Even though I don't particularly mind this as a change of pace, there really is something extremely draining about going to court every day.

I can't speak for anyone else, but my mind was definitely wandering during portions of today, especially during moments where I knew that the testimony wouldn't be very relevant. We actually had a surprisingly diverse range of testimony today, everything from CHP dispatchers to the wife of the defendant accused of murder (she was, for lack of a better phrase, dumb as a brick and completely unreliable).

But something unbelievable happened today; the case ended!!!! Yes, both sides, after nine days, rested their cases. But of course, we're not done. We get to hear closing arguments, and then we get to deliberate. Yippee.

Today also featured a number of very funny moments in the court between the judge and both the defense and the prosecution, including both sides being EXTREMELY testy towards each other. The DA in particular was on edge today for some reason. The judge handled it all with aplomb, however, and seemed to be in quite a good mood today in general.

Also, we were asked to be by ourselves again today, and interestingly, there wasn't really that much discussion regarding the conversation that our defendant had with the detectives. The prosecutor tried to make it seem like he was making stuff up when he described the room, but he remembered a wall heater (albeit in the wrong part of the room) that I had never noticed even after looking at the pictures of the apartment for two weeks. Also, if what he was saying was the truth, then I could easily understand why he didn't remember everything clearly. He also really didn't incriminate himself when presented with fake evidence and eyewitness accounts from the detectives, which suggests there's more truth to it than fiction. We shall see what happens next week. We're going to be gone Monday and Tuesday of next week due to a scheduling conflict, so these will resume on Wednesday.

Random Notes

I was pulling into the jury parking lot today when I realized I didn't have my juror ID, which you need to park there and to get into the building. I also had twenty minutes before my call time. So I sped back home, got the badge, and made it back in time (of course, we started thirty five minutes late, but still). However, as I was speeding out of the parking lot, I got to an intersection that was photo enforced and started to make a right on a red light. Now I slowed down, but not to a complete stop like I should have, and a guy went blazing through the intersection, turning left, from the other direction (it was a green light for him). He went through just as I was turning, and a camera positioned at the intersection flashed brightly twice. I have no idea if it was catching him or I, but I have a feeling it was him. In any case, if it was me, then I may have my first ever traffic citation ever coming up. Somehow, I doubt it, but we shall see.

Today was a bit strange in that I never once entered the cafeteria; we got out too late to do that. There's a good chance I'll never enter that cafeteria again. Thank god.

When we came back into the courtroom after lunch, and everybody was setting up, the judge made an offhand comment that someone had accused him of speaking too fast today. He said it sheepishly and with a grin. He added that he wouldn't tell who it was, but that he felt bad. We all laughed good-naturedly, but it was a bit odd. This all went on official court record.

There were a stunning number of observers today for some reason, and they all seemed to be there for our case as opposed to waiting for their case to be heard. At one point, there were easily thirty people in the observers chairs (usually, there are about six or seven).

Today confirmed that both defense attorneys are public defenders. They're both decent, although one is clearly way better and more confident than the other. If I had to be a defense attorney, that's likely the route I'd want to go; it just seems the noblest to me.

I did a little research on our judge today. He's been a judge since 2002, and was appointed at what strikes me as the relatively young age of 46 (he's 54 now, and doesn't look a day over 40)! He's also Latino (I had no idea) and graduated magna cum laude from Whittier College. He was the head of the habeas corpus case branch of the DA office in Los Angeles, and dealt with about twenty five major cases as a DA (as in murder/high-profile cases) before becoming a judge. What struck me the most about this is that there's a habeus corpus branch in the LA DA's office! As it turns out, LA has by far the largest DA's office in the country; it employs well over 1000 attorneys, and has police-led investigative branches of its own that are bigger than a lot of police squads across the nation. Pretty wild.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Trial: Day 8 (May 14th)

Day 8

This was an incredible day. Very different than usual, and much more substantial than any other day has been. We arrived at 8:30, but there was a huge accident on the 405 that forced a large number of the jurors to be late. So we started around 9:10, but the court was actually ready to go by 8:30, believe it or not.

Today we had the other detective on the stand, and he was on the stand all day. What was very different today was that the defense attorney for the main defendant, who is usually very good and terse with his questioning, was off; there were lots of objections, and he really didn't seem to be arguing his client's case well. Then the defense attorney for our defendant got up and did a lengthy, brilliant cross examination. It was not only engaging, but exposed a lot of holes in the overall search for the murder weapon, and was very well researched and thought out. Almost all of the objections that were made about his testimony were correctly overruled. This is the opposite of what usually happens. I actually enjoyed it very much; it seemed like perfect cross examination.

We then took an extended lunch, and then something happened that we had been told was going to happen at the beginning of the trial; we got to sit in the courtroom alone with our defendant only, while the other jury was sent home. And what we got to hear that both the other jury and the other defendant didn't get to hear was extraordinary.

Our defendant basically called the detectives from jail and admitted to what had really happened that night. To put this in perspective, we have heard phone conversations between the two in which they seem to be conspiring together to hide things and to create alibis. We also heard our defendant talking about how he didn't want to be a snitch and how he hoped no one else would be. Then, we get an hour and a half conversation between our defendant and the detectives, in which he eventually explains that he was just saying stuff to the other defendant to make it seem like he was in cahoots with him, but really didn't want to have anything to do with him. Personally, I was always confused as to why our defendant would want to be friends with the other defendant; there's a twenty year age difference between them, and they don't have any friends in common that I can tell.

But the most stunning thing about the conversation to me was when our defendant started breaking down and admitting that he wanted to just forget the whole thing, and that he had been really scared and wasn't sure of what really happened, but had actually been trying to help the victim. It was very emotional, and you could tell the detectives felt the same way. I also looked over at our defendant when he was listening to this part of the conversation, and he had his head in his hands. Believe me, this guy isn't an actor. It was a stunning and, at least for me, case-changing moment. It'll be VERY interesting to hear the testimony regarding this, as we actually got let out late today because of how long the conversation was. But believe me, no one wanted to leave. It was just too important. So this was a pretty incredible day; easily my favorite so far.

Random Notes

I only got about three hours of sleep last night, and ended up not only getting two cups of coffee, but inspired about five other jurors to join me in getting the second cup. There was a great group of coffee drinkers sitting outside the courtroom today.

I had forgotten how long the line is to get into the courthouse at 8 in the morning. There was literally a line of over a hundred people in the main lobby waiting to go through the metal detector, and for reasons unknown, no one was moving forward. When I showed up, they saw my badge, and instantly let me through. I felt like a VIP.

Continuing with the coffee theme, check out the pricing scheme at the cafeteria. Small cup of coffee: 1 dollar. Large cup of coffee (about double the size of the small cup): a buck twenty five. Pack of gum (any gum): a buck fifty.

When we were alone in the courtroom today i.e. not with the other jury, things suddenly became way more casual. We were asked direct questions by the judge, the lawyers were more talkative in general, and the bailiff was engaged. It almost made me wish we only had one jury and one defendant.

I rode up in the elevator today with one of the detectives from the case. I'm not supposed to speak with any of the lawyers or witnesses until the case is done. But it was just him and I, and he mentioned how long the line downstairs was to me. I said something like "Yeah I know" good-naturedly, and we didn't say anything more. I feel like I violated some sort of rule, even though all we did was exchange small talk. This is what being under oath to not talk about anything related to the trial does to you; it makes you paranoid about making small talk.

Obama's Middle East Speech

One of the all-time great speeches. His intelligence and sophistication is on prime display here, and the issues he brings up, from economic development to women's rights, are really the absolute key things that will define not only his presidency, but the world at large for the forseeable future. A must-read.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Trial: Day 7 (May 13th)

Day 7

This was a wild day in the court. Like yesterday, we started pretty close to on time today, which was nice. We heard more testimony from the detective, who to be honest came off as confident but not deeply interested in being exact with details. This seemed a little distressing, but he's also been a homicide detective for close to a decade, and a police man for longer than that; I can see how this could wear you down after a while.

After lunch, we had testimony from, FINALLY, a defense witness (yes, the entire trial so far has been the prosecution), who was a crime lab technician. This was actually kind of interesting for several reasons. For one thing, like Michelle Madrid the crime scene investigator, she's very young; she basically just got out of graduate school, but has testified in court around sixty times. She was insanely formal, to the point where, believe it or not, she had prepared a PowerPoint that included a history of blood splatter research that went on for two slides. The presentation was mostly incredibly pointless, but when we got to blood splatter, it got interesting, and we heard more exact details about a sweatshirt found on the main defendant that was splattered with blood.

What was funny is that once she was done with her testimony, the prosecution used the EXACT same tactics the defense has been using all trial, namely trying to discredit her as an expert. This time it worked better than usual, mainly because of her youth; she got a bit tripped up over certain things, but it was clear from the beginning, even when the defense was questioning her, that she didn't know that much about the case. She was probably not the best person to call to the stand for the defense.

We then took a ten minute break so she could shut off her computer and store it (I'm not sure why the jurors had to leave the courtroom for this), came back around 2:45, listened to fifteen more minutes of cross examination from the main detective, and then took our standard break at 3. For some reason, we got a longer break than usual, and we went back into the courtroom around 3:30.

When we got back in, as we were sitting down, I made a side comment that I needed a break as a joke. This made everyone around me crack up, but we were quickly silenced by something stunning happening. The other defendant was actually speaking, even appealing to the judge! We have not heard a thing from either defendant the whole trial, and here was one speaking out of turn! The judge kept trying to order him to keep quiet, but the defendant was having none of it. After a minute or so of this, we were ordered out again. I got my break!

We were outside for half an hour, and at one point the prosecution left the room and joined us outside! We obviously couldn't talk to them, but it was still surprising. They went back in after about ten minutes, and then we were called in five minutes later, only to be immediately sent out again! Clearly, there was some kind of chaos going on in the courtroom. At 4, we were called back in...and dismissed for the day! Unfortunately, we have to report back two hours early tomorrow, to make up for how long we were outside of the courtroom today. So as you can see, strange things are starting to happen. We shall see what's going on tomorrow.

Random Notes

The cafeteria lady and the parking attendant at the free juror lot are both starting to recognize me. I can't tell if this is a good thing or depressing that I've become a regular at a courthouse.

What do homicide detectives often call the big file that contains all the info for a specific case? A "murder book."

There were some real characters in the court today. There was a creepy guy who went in and out of the court three times. We only saw him exit the first two times, but when we left, he threw the door open hard and close to ran out of the room. Needless to say, we all stayed far away from him. There was also a clan of people (I mean, we're talking about around twenty people), all related, who rode up in the elevator with myself and one other juror, walked into the courtroom for all of two minutes, and left just as quickly. You got me.

With all the breaks and sidebars we had today, I had time to do three the courtroom while there were sidebars. Based on my average times for Wednesday, that means we were waiting around in the courtroom for about twenty minutes today. Man.

My jury has become extremely chummy. I definitely got on the right jury; the other jury is older and seems much less energetic and interesting in general (I overheard a conversation today in the bathroom between two of the jurors from the other jury that was about, get ready, the prostate). We have such a great mixture of people on our jury, and we're all incredibly nice as well. I really hope I can stay in touch with most of these people.

The judge was hysterically funny today. At one point, he looked at one of the defense attorneys with an incredulous expression as he was following an admittedly bizarre line of questioning. He also predicted an objection before it happened and overruled it! The prosecution couldn't believe it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Trial: Day 6 (May 12th)

Day 6

Super-quick note here. The two detectives I mention in the random notes did eventually testify, but were present for pretty much every day in the court, which still baffles me.

This was, without question, the most boring day so far in the court. Believe it or not, we did one thing today. We listened to phone/jail cell conversations between the two defendants. That's it. These lasted for three hours, which was about how long we were actually in the jury box today. It was unbelievably boring, although it was also by far the most damning evidence we've heard yet. These are not exactly the smartest individuals of all time, so they definitely said some very incriminating things, but also didn't just flat out admit anything. There were also some very odd statements made that raised new questions about what exactly happened, and also what the stakes might be in the case. But amazingly, we heard no testimony today of any kind, and the defense lawyers literally just had to sit there and listen; they never got to the stand. I really have nothing else much to say about today, except of course for the notes. The prosecution should wrap up their case tomorrow, thank god.

Random Notes

We actually started relatively early today, but had a major delay once we were all in the courtroom because one of our jurors wasn't present, even though we had seen him before waiting with us outside. Why was he late? There are two parking lots around the courthouse; one is for jurors exclusively and is free all day but fills up quickly, and one is for all the other businesses around the area and costs money unless you get validated. Usually, we don't get to the courtroom in time to park in the free lot, so we park in the other lot and get validated. He went downstairs to get his parking ticket validated, which usually takes all of a minute or two to do. However, he was informed that because of the fact that the juror parking lot had spaces available (this was the first day so far where the lot actually did have spaces available in the late morning, so I don't blame him for assuming it didn't), he couldn't get validated and had to move his car. Yeah, I don't get it either. But anyways, this forced him to have to go down to the parking lot, move his car, get out of the garage, which can take a while thanks to a slow elevator, get through the metal detector, which can take ages, and then make it back. Needless to say, a stupid rule made us start twenty minutes late today. I don't blame him at all.

Each juror got a copy of three different transcripts. All in all, we're talking roughly eighty pages of transcript each. Considering we have thirty jurors, that's a lot of pages.

One of the transcripts had just come out of the printer, and was so sharp I got a nasty paper cut from it while in the box. I had to sit and try not to bleed on the transcript. Ewww.

There have been two detectives that have been present every day of this trial, and all day as well. This is one thing that genuinely surprises me; you would think that bona fide detectives would have, I don't know, more important things to do than to just sit and help the DA out without testifying for two weeks. Maybe they're getting overtime for this.

It was Juror Appreciation Day today! This meant that on our way out from the courtroom today, we got a nice packet containing the history of the court system, the history of the LA judicial system, a pen, a sticker that reads "I Served," and the best thing of all, a portable copy of the Constitution! I want to put the Constitution in my shirt pocket and see if it can stop a bullet.

Mary Poppins As It Should Be: Technoized!

Believe it or not, this is the 100th post I've made on this blog. And I can think of no better way to commemorate that then by posting one of the best remixes/video syncs I've ever seen. I didn't know that the potential for this to happen was why I loved Mary Poppins so much, but I've been enlightened. Enjoy!

[thanks to Andrew Sullivan]

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Trial: Day 5 (May 11)

Day 5

Well, the second week of the trial began with a surprising day, at least based on what I expected. The main testimony for today came from the coroner, and we got to witness the autopsy scene. At first, it was really sickening and wrenching to look at the photos. The stab wounds were remarkably large and thick, and it is icky-feeling to be looking at a dead person's naked body so clinically. But after a while (the coroner was there all afternoon, from 1 to 4), the testimony and process became less sickening and more...boring. I can't explain it, but the exactness of the descriptions, the lack of emotion on the coroners part (he's been doing this for ten years, and has close to 3,000 autopsies under his belt), and the length of the questioning and the testimony was enough to make me get bored with the whole thing. It's not that I don't care, but it just got dull arguing over the semantics of what kind of knife could cause these wounds, and whether or not an adrenaline rush could make one not feel the pain of someone stabbing them 172 times.

I did learn one thing today, however; I would never want to be a coroner. I just can't imagine how I would view humans, and especially the naked human body, after being a coroner for a long time. Since the coroner really was the whole day, and because there weren't any moments of incident or sparring among the lawyers today, this was a pretty straightforward day with not a lot more to say.

The day did end with the playing of a conversation between the two defendants while one was in jail, but I'll comment on that below. The only thing really to say about the phone call is that, yet again, there were major technical difficulties that forced us to delay the playing of the tape until the end of the day. Wackiness. Overall, an interesting day.

Random Notes

The court was running remarkably close to on time today. The morning took a while to start (we basically didn't start until 11), but after that, we started within fifteen minutes of when they said we would start every time. This is after a week of consistently starting closer to 25 minutes later than every call time.

I got to the courthouse early today, and went to get my parking ticket validated. Lo and behold, they had run out of validations, and by the time someone had arrived with more validations, I was in a rush and was able to make it to the court just in time. I am now completely uninspired to arrive even remotely early.

The coroner that testified today has done around 2,800 autopsies. Of all those autopsies, eighty of them have been stab wounds. That somehow seems remarkably low to me.

I picked up an annual report of the courthouses of LA. Our courthouse, the Airport Courthouse, dealt with close to 240,000 traffic violations last year. That somehow seems remarkably high to me.

That dreck they call coffee in the cafeteria? I followed the lead of the book Homicide by David Simon and put a ton of sugar in it. Worked like a charm. It basically tasted like sweet paint thinner instead of just plain old paint thinner, which is always better.

In one day, in two completely different conversations, one in the courthouse and one out of the courthouse, I heard for the first time about the law firm Jones Day. It's so bizarre when that happens.

Thanks to that phone conversation that was played at the end of the day, I heard the following phrases more times in one day than I had ever heard them in my life up until now: "What's up, my nig?" "I gotta get my chirp." "Huh? (said in a really obnoxious, slangy tone, more like "haah?")" and "The po-po's got it."

According to the detective that had monitored this conversation and others that we will likely hear tomorrow, there is absolutely no expectation of privacy in regards to phone calls made from prison. Also, in one of the best phone options I've ever heard, when you receive a collect call from someone in prison, you have the option of dialing 7 and blocking all calls from inmates.

In conversation today, I was talking with an older gentleman, Steve, on the jury about how I have never been in an accident or gotten a ticket of any kind while driving, and he asked how old I was. When I told him, he replied good-naturedly, "I've been getting speeding violations since before you were born!" One of the better lines I've heard in quite a while.