Monday, January 20, 2020

A Letter from a Juror

I received an e-mail from this evening from a juror on a recent case tried down at the CJC.  It wasn't one of my cases, but he wanted to share some of his insights on his experience that I thought were pretty interesting.  I'm sharing what he wrote here, with his permission.  Hopefully, a County Commissioner or County Judge might take note of it too.

Murray,

I recently finished serving on a felony murder trial jury, and I’d like to offer some comments and ask a question that other lay folk might be wondering. (Nothing about the case, btw).  You probably know all of this, but serving on a jury for the first time it was quite an adventure.

You have written on the terrible conditions in the criminal court building. After fighting long security lines, elevators, crowded hallways, and general frustration for a week, I can testify that things are terrible. How disappointing things are in this shape 2 1/2 years after hurricane Harvey. Also, the underground jury assembly room is still closed, so jurors gather in a cramped old cafeteria room under the Admin building. Harris County is larger by population than a lot of states and we don’t have the competent leadership at any level from either party to have made repairs. People seem to be standing in line along every wall in the building. A mass of humanity. There are elevators out of service, flaky monitors and electronics in the courtroom, waiting for 4 or 5 elevator cars going down before one has room to get on, the list of frustrations goes on. 

As a juror, we got some special treatment at the security in the lobby and being escorted around every day by our assigned Sheriff. But my heart goes out to those families of both victims and defendants having to fight all these headaches in addition to the stress of the trials. It was a rainy week last week, and long lines out in front of the building with no shelter. Families and trial participants thinking they are early but facing glitchy elevators which backs people up to security and out the front door wondering if they will be late. We can do better. 

Aside from the building, I must say the people from all roles (defense, prosecutors, judges, police, staff) working in this mess on a daily basis were professional, upbeat, friendly and making the best of it.  With all the good reasons to be of short temper and grouchy, everyone I came in contact with was pleasant and very helpful. My thanks to all of you working in the legal system in less than ideal conditions.

Thanks for your blog and the occasional view behind the scenes of our legal system. I have enjoyed your writing since you began your blog in your prosecutor days.


The juror asked that his name not be mentioned, but I genuinely appreciate him for taking the time to write in and share his observations.  I replied to his e-mail and told him that it was rare to hear from a juror on a case, but it was always appreciated.

5 comments:

Todd Miller said...

Murray,

As an outsider, this juror hit the proverbial nail on the head. How long are our “leaders” going to allow this? These are just the surface flaws but they should be the easiest to fix.

Anonymous said...

At the current pace, they'll decide what to do with the Astrodome before they finish fixing the CJC.

Anonymous said...

It’s nice to hear from a juror and their perspective. I was at the courthouse in July and August for a trial and it was shocking to me just how bad the conditions are. Another thing that was frustrating was the lack of easy access to a victims advocates room for the family to sit during down time. It was kept locked and when it was opened we would have to wait for someone from another building to come and open it. We spent a lot of time just sitting in the courtroom sitting during long breaks or in the hallway, which was uncomfortable because the media was also out there. Harris County needs to step up and fix the problems they have.

Anonymous said...

Commissioners Court can't spare any money our of their budget for criminal justice. How else would they be able to build dog-walking parks?

Anonymous said...

Can't pay the elevator repairmen overtime to replace the elevators, but they can install tents for the lines outside.