Live, But Not on TV


New York— What's the only occupation that can guarantee you a way to get out of jury duty in New York state?

Tell the judge you were once a producer on Court TV.

Actually, I'm sure that's not the only one. But I know it did the trick for one woman who recently was in the same juror pool as me.

Being a lawyer isn't enough to get excused, even if you're a lawyer who has had dealings with the district attorney's office. I know that because a lawyer like that ended up on this jury, in a criminal case in Manhattan. So did I.

But the former Court TV producer, who's also a law student, was excused.

I think she missed an interesting experience — a better view of trials up close than you get even on Court TV, which I'm watching with a lot more interest these days. (Robert Blake's pretrial is a bit sexier than my trial was.)

The 10-day trial on which I served wasn't shown on TV. I don't think any New York trials are televised, and this one — even though it was a murder case — wasn't even covered in the papers.

But Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder seemed pretty much like a star to those of us on this jury, which reached a guilty verdict last Tuesday afternoon. Her 2002 book of memoirs is available on Amazon: 25 to Life: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth, $18.87 in hardcover. One juror brought a copy along to the second and last day of deliberations, and Judge Snyder autographed it, smiling, while her law clerk burst into laughter.

I haven't read the book yet. Library Journal
— which notes she achieved much in making laws work better for rape victims — reviewed it and said she's been called "25 to Life" by defendants, as well as "The Ice Princess" and "The Princess of Darkness."

We, the jury, would be shocked to hear her described so rudely. We might call her a "Blonde Bombshell," but then we usually had a New York Post
around, except when they were confiscated during deliberations.

Our trial was of a former "cold case," involving a 19-year-old man killed in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan. The key evidence was two eyewitnesses' testimony of the murder scene: They were supposedly standing quite close to the shooter on a New York City street.

Anyway, we concluded the defendant was guilty of murder, something none of us had ever done before, and we found the experience very sobering.

Our "foreperson," a very nice woman in her 20s, quietly began crying when we ultimately made a unanimous decision. She said it wasn't that she was afraid to leave the security of the jury room and stand in court and read the verdict — it was that it sort of hit her all at once about actually carrying out such a solemn duty as an American citizen.

Anyway, there's already an e-mail ring and talk of getting back together for drinks. (Is there a bar called Stockholm Syndrome?)

We should probably try to do it during the day, get a TV and critique someone else's trial.