Friday, November 20, 2009

And now, we wait

This is the hardest bit about trial. The calm after the storm. The moments that stretch into minutes, which drag themselves into hours.

The jury got the case at 10:30 AM yesterday, and immediately asked for some exhibits: video of the defendant in the police car after his arrest, photos of the vehicle he was in when caught.

And we, the lawyers, have nothing to do but wait, so we look at these requests like the soothsayers of old looked at tea leaves and bird poop, wondering if they mean anything. Which of course they do: the jury wants to see these items of evidence.

We hang around the courtroom for thirty minutes, talking to the detectives, the family, the defense lawyer, delaying the moment that we have to return to our offices to begin waiting there. We have work to distract us, but who can concentrate fully when a jury is deliberating their case? I can but try, I suppose.

Inevitably, in the vacuum between closing arguments and the verdict we wonder what we could have done better. I can't control what the witnesses said, so I don't worry about that. No, I wonder if we should have put on different witnesses (though in this case, the answer is an easy "no") and I wonder if and how my argument to the jury could have been stronger, better, more persuasive.

But in reality, what's done is done. When I got to the office this morning, I purposely delayed making my daily cup of coffee until after we came back from closing arguments so that I'd have something to look forward to, to enjoy. A measly cup of coffee.

And while it was brewing I reminded myself that it's not about me, that I'm not the only one bearing the weight of this wait. The family of the victim, the defendant and his family, of course, and the cops who put the case together. What we'd all give to be a fly on the wall in that jury room.

But instead we wait. And drink coffee.

Then, as I sip from my cup, I remember that I have to do this all over again in ten days, another jury trial on a serious violent offense.

And that makes me smile.

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