Jury Deliberations

Dog kennels area at the Murdaugh propertyThe news that Alex Murdaugh was convicted of murdering his wife and son came as no surprise, but that the jury deliberated for a mere three hours after a six week trial suggests that the jurors went into deliberations with their minds pretty well made up.

It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that deliberations went something along the lines of a preliminary vote where there were ten votes for conviction and two opposing (or undecided) followed by a discussion where it quickly became apparent that everyone thought the defendant was guilty but perhaps they should delay just a little bit longer for appearance’s sake, and then a final vote.

In the, I think, if I’m recalling correctly, five juries that I’ve served on that reached a verdict, the fellow jurors were most insistent that we not rush to judgment too quickly, regardless of what the final outcome ultimately was. The trials lasted anywhere from a day or two to four weeks, but none of the deliberations lasted less than three hours, and running into two or three days for the longer trials.

But I think one can never be sure with juries.

Anyway, there was one trial where I was selected for the jury, but we never reached a verdict.

This was in about 1995, when I was living in Olde City, or Old City, if you prefer.

The trial involved a defendant accused of shooting a shotgun at a fellow’s testicles.

In nearly every trial I’ve been called up for, the jury selection has been slightly different. In this one, twelve of us were called into the jury box at a time and the judge questioned us first, asking if we’d be able to serve, etc. He became increasingly annoyed as the candidates ahead of me came up with one lame excuse after another as to why they couldn’t serve on the jury, so when I answered that yes, I could serve, he thanked me, but he was still annoyed.

Eventually, the prosecution and the defense approved me, and I went and sat with the other selected few in the jury room. Once the twelve plus alternates had been approved, we were sent home and told to report the next day.

The trial began as the prosecutor described the crime in his opening statement and outlined in horrific detail the victim’s testicles being blown apart by the shotgun blast. Well, horrific for us menfolk on the jury anyway.

Then one of the defense attorneys (there were two, as there were two defendants, the case involved more than just the testicles being blown into smithereens but that’s all I recall of it), as I said, one of the defense attorneys began his opening statement, and as he did, someone came into the courtroom carrying a longish package and dropped it on the prosecutor’s desk.

The second defense attorney jumped up, “Objection, you honor!”

The first attorney, the one giving the opening statement, looked confused, and turning to the second attorney said, “What are you objecting to?”

The judge looked equally confused. “On what grounds? To his opening statement?”

The prosecutor just looked back and forth from one attorney to another.

The jurors, well, we just sat there bemused.

Finally the judge called a recess and he and all the attorneys and the court reporter retired to his chambers where they remained for quite some time.

Eventually they emerged, and the judge explained everything to the jury.

It seems that during a pretrial motion it had been ruled that the shotgun would not be introduced as evidence, but he didn’t explain why. Because we the jurors might surmise that the longish package that the detective had placed on the prosecutor’s desk might be a shotgun, and that therefore this might prejudice us, he was calling a mistrial and dismissing us with the thanks of the court.

 I think he was seriously underestimating our ability to ignore that longish package, but there it was.

Leave a Reply