Monday, November 10, 2008
Part One HITHER. Part Two YON.
On Day Two, I arrived in Lower Palookaville by 7:55am. We were told to report by 8:30. Being conscientious, and not knowing traffic conditions on a morning commute to Lower Palookaville, I had left my house way too early. I parked in the juror’s parking lot and walked to a nearby convenience store, where I bought a newspaper and a cup of coffee.
I walked back to the courthouse and hung outside, enjoying a cigarette with the coffee and newspaper. I was sort of hoping to run across a reference to the trial in the newspaper. That would have given me a legitimate excuse to tell the judge I had become prejudiced, at which point she would have had to send me home. No such luck, though. I was reading a Boston newspaper, and Boston newspapers don’t care a whit about a trial in Lower Palookaville. I could have bought the local Lower Palookaville newspaper and probably found something, but I wasn’t looking to specifically disqualify myself when I bought the paper. I just wanted to read about the Celtics. Unless Big Baby Davis or Kevin Garnett turned out to be a witness, I was still uncontaminated.
When I assumed it to be about 8:30, I went inside. After emptying my pockets and going through the metal detector, I walked upstairs to our deliberation room. Most of my fellow jurors were sitting around the heavy oaken tables. They all said a friendly "Hi!" as I walked in, and I returned the cordial greeting. Four of our fourteen were still missing. While waiting for them – the last arrived by about 9:00, which didn’t seem to faze the court officer assigned to us – I had a chance to size up the group. They were a decent lot, some with a good sense of humor, none with what I’d classify as a startling lack of intelligence. In fact, it seemed to be a fairly bright bunch of humans overall. I hoped they saw me in as good a light as I saw them.
As the minutes dragged on, while we waited to go to the jury box, we seemed to naturally divide into males at one end of the room and females at the other. The men would talk mostly about home repair, driving, and other things stereotypically associated with men. The women spoke of children, cooking, and other feminine clichés. We all staked out positions at the table, and we would more-or-less maintain them as ours throughout the course of the trial. My seat was on the side, by one of the corners.
Time passed, slowly. It was now after 10am. We speculated on why they hadn’t yet called us into the courtroom. The overriding hope was that the two parties were negotiating a settlement of some sort, leaving us free to go, but we doubted this. We all wanted it, though, so we let that pleasant fantasy have full reign until 10:25, when the court officer came in and asked us to line up in order of our seat numbers. We were about to be led into court, almost two hours after we were asked to be on-hand. This would turn out to be standard procedure, although we never waited quite so long as we did that first day. I don’t believe we ever got into the courtroom before 9:15, excluding the final day of the trial.
(We found out the major reason for this after the conclusion of the trial. It would detract from the narrative to tell you about it here, though, so you’ll have to wait until the end, same as we did.)
Mr. French’s lawyer was standing by a big stack of three-ring binders. After we were seated, he handed one to each of us. They were stuffed full of photographs and official papers, all marked off by tabs. These were the exhibits we were called upon to examine as the case wore on. There were some 55 photographs – most taken by Mr. French, but a double handful shot by Mr. Irish - and perhaps a like amount of doctor’s reports, police records, psychological evaluations, and other pieces of written ephemera, concerning both men and their wives, all to a certain extent undecipherable without background information. We would, of course, be given the background information, and in excruciating detail.
But not too quickly. We found out that the main job of an attorney is to object whenever his opposition might shed some light on things. It is the judge’s job to sometimes agree, leaving a juicy tidbit hanging in the air, and other times to roll her eyes and look as though she’d like to flay the skin off of the lawyer who objected, meanwhile saying, "Overruled." We all loved her when she said this. When she didn’t have an immediate answer to an objection, she would motion the counselors to meet her at the sidebar. While they discussed the finer points of law out of our hearing, we would busy ourselves by counting the number of projections in the molding on the ceiling, or wondering if the paint job in the courtroom looked as it did because they ran out of money in the budget or they actually planned it that way.
The first person called to the witness stand to testify was Mr. Irish. The attorney for Mr. French questioned him. He was then cross-examined by his own lawyer, with a quick follow-up by French’s lawyer. Irish’s turn on the stand lasted the better part of two days. After Irish was excused from the stand, his wife was called. This was followed by French taking the stand; his wife being heard from; two neighbors testifying; Irish’s daughter having her say, followed by a cousin of Mr. French; the police chief who had been French’s superior at his latest job; a state-employed psychiatrist; and, finally, a police officer from the town where both Irish and French lived. In total, we had seven days worth of testimony, arguments, exhibits, and – at least in my case – writer’s cramp from taking down the pertinent details.
I’m not going to give you every bit of testimony we heard. If I did that, you might get the mistaken impression that I’m a journalist, and I wouldn’t want to attempt a conceit of that magnitude. In any case, if I gave you everything, this blog would become as mind-numbingly tedious as the actual trial. While there wasn’t a lack of interesting stories - and some fabulously graphic photos accompanying those stories, too - it all came out in dribs and drabs. Both lawyers attempted to obfuscate whenever their clients appeared guilty of something, while concurrently painting the opposition as a son of a bitch who’d steal candy from a cancer-ridden baby. So, to save us all some time – and also keep this story as wonderfully perverted as it truly is - I’m going to attempt to lay out the progression of un-neighborly behavior in chronological order, as best I can from the fifteen pages of handwritten notes I took during the proceedings. We weren’t given exact dates for everything, but no matter. Taken as a whole, it is as comprehensive a collection of hideously childish behavior as you’ll likely ever hear concerning two ex-cops in their sixties.
I’ll be giving you the entire sad story tomorrow. I promise it will be worth coming back for.
(I know. You want it now. I do apologize. I’m going to be totally honest with you [which is more than Mr. French and Mr. Irish probably were, but I digress.] I had written the next part, some 5,000 words worth, giving Mr. Irish’s side followed by Mr. French’s version of things. That sounds like fun, but after re-reading what I had written, I found too much repetition, despite the differing viewpoints. I decided that it would be better to give it to you chronologically, both sides interspersed and no particular point of view. So, that’s how I’m re-writing it, and you’ll have that re-write tomorrow. See you then.)
Go To The Entire Sad Story.