Now, I also had a deep sense of frustration that I would be leaving my co-workers to pick up the slack and I know the weather outside was not kind while I was sitting in an air-conditioned courtroom for weeks. (A fricken Tropical Storm came through!) That being said - Jury Duty is not easy, either. I would get home (usually between 5:30-6pm, having left home at 7am that morning) and just want to shower, eat and go to bed. I didn't log into WOW. I barely did any sewing. I didn't work on my novels. Jury Duty brought my ability to create almost to a standstill. I worked once a week with my Rhinos and then did 5 more days of jury duty. Life felt full. (Still good, but full.)
What I saw with my own eyes- She still smiles, laughs and can be bubbly and endearing. She is also in pain, needing help to walk, with a hitch to her speech and thoughts that sometimes seem to stumble. Her husband dotes on her and I imagine the main frustration with the whole thing is that it has taken over a decade to get to this point - the pivotal few weeks. [a fixed point in time]
Now, without question, the accident changed her life forever. (Fortunately, the husband and son were uninjured.) The crash happened in 2002 and it has been going back and forth for 11 years. She was the plaintiff and Ford Motor Company was the Defendant. She claimed defect and negligence in the way certain parts were built/performed on the vehicle and Ford’s view was that the vehicle design was fine, but she had been unbelted. (Note: this is hugely simplified. I am not going to break down every detail of the case. That would take way too long and some of it feels more personal and private. Do not rely on my summary as a full account of the trial.)
When we were given the basic summary while still in jury selection I found I wanted to figure out the narrative. What was the story? Having watched TV and movies, the plot tropes danced through my mind. Evil big corporation was going to have hot-shot, slick lawyers and would crush the small, helpless consumer. Or Greedy consumer saw big bucks in their eyes when they looked at a chance to sue the large corporation. Those were the polar opposites and I recognized them, waved at them and let them go.
A note on the Judge - Christopher Sabella. He was awesome! If you ever see his name on a ballot for re-election absolutely vote for him, I know I will. He was very professional but also very personable, ready with a smile that helped put me at ease in a glaringly new situation that would normally have had my introvert alarms blaring inside my skull. For what I would want and expect in a Judge - he has it in spades. He also teaches at HCC - here’s his Bio.
(Want to know how Judges are selected in Florida?)
The Attorneys for the Plaintiff:
- John Romano, (Romano Law Group) He was awesome and I highly recommend him if you happen to need a lawyer (I hope you never do) but I genuinely liked him and though he was professional, thorough and focused. I was also able to talk with him after I had been dismissed as an alternate and it is just so fascinating to see the other side of things. He came off as personable and genuine.
Hey look, a video!
Elizabeth Zwibel (Zwibel, Elizabeth, Law offices of) – Also very professional and excellent for her parts of the Trial. She did not have as large a role to play in examining the witnesses so I don’t have as wide a range of comments. I wish she had been brought more to the forefront and she could have been much better utilized, especially with Cross Examination (which she did not get to do, but I wanted to see it!) I would definitely recommend her if you needed a more local lawyer.
R. Gene Odom, (Martinez-Odom Law Group) – He was the main Lawyer (the one the Plaintiffs first brought on for the lawsuit.)
Attorneys for the Defense:
Jaret Fuente (Carlton Fields)
McDonald, Francis (McDonald Toole Wiggins, P.A.)
Both attorneys were excellent, and while very professional, they definitely did not come off as overly slick corporate lawyers. They presented a strong defense, kept their questions and arguments precise and remained personable. I felt able to connect with them.
And to round off my section of resounding endorsements – our Bailiffs were excellent - sharp, capable and friendly. I encountered a lot of new people in this whole experience and it was, by far, very positive.
The Jurors were an interesting mix of personalities (I was one of 2 women and I was the youngest in the room) but I’ve always gotten along well with guys and the Jury part really felt like some weird adult summer camp. We came together not knowing each other before hand, practically lived together for 4 weeks, all engaged in the same focused activity and had to come up with some kind of conversation since when we weren’t in the courtroom we were in the Juror back room. Plain white walls, desk, chairs, whiteboard, very plain. We joked about bringing in posters and potted plants or something. It was pleasant and it only took me about two days to relax and be comfortable in the social dynamic.
OK, this is getting a little long (like the trial!) and so I will break it up into multiple parts. Next up – a timeline of events, so stick around for the exciting, nail-biting action of Witnesses! Lawyers! Courthouse Cafeteria!
.....And the dreaded White-noise!