Last week, when at the Santa Monica Courthouse for jury duty, the courthouse got emptied because of a power failure. Today, when arriving at court for jury deliberation...well, if you live in Los Angeles, you might have seen us on the news. The entrance to the court was blocked off, police were out in force, and police cars had arrived and parked on the front lawn. There was, what is known in the vernacular as, a situation. Helicopters hovered overhead, as well. It took an hour for everything to finally be under control, and everyone standing around the parking lot were at last allowed inside.
What had happened is that the husband of one of the court workers was distraught and had driven up on the court lawn with a big knife. He had it to his throat and was suicidal, threatening to kill himself. If you look closely, you can seen his truck there on the law. See the sidewalk in the middle? Follow it up to a police car, and then look just in front of it (sort of under an angled tree). You can probably make out the blue pickup there on the lawn. Off to the right of this picture is where the perpetrators wife was, clearly distraught and being comforted by several of her co-workers.
This was around 8:30 AM. Eventually, the police got the man out of the car -- whether he was tasered is not clear. But there was a waiting ambulance, and he was taken there.
We finally got let in to the court at 9:15. As it happened, one of our jurors had arrived early and had gotten into the courthouse. She said she was at the front window when she heard a huge commotion outside.and looked down and watched it all unfold. Well, most of it -- eventually, the police below called up with their bullhorn to "Get away from the window!" since they didn't know at that point if the man had a gun or not.
The jurors all finally arrived, and still had a wait for a while before being let into the court. The judge, the wonderful Lawrence Cho, was out in the hall with us and sort of good-naturedly bewildered by it all, as well. He said that for the longest while he didn't even have a clue what was going on. He'd gotten to the courthouse early, decided to go get some doughnuts (which turned out later to have been bought for us in the jury deliberation room), and wandered back to the back entrance of the courthouse specifically for judges. He blithely wandered in to his court, and to his great surprise found it empty. "I had no idea what was going on!" he said. The only person there was his court assistant who was sort of freaked out and told him everything. As Judge Cho quipped, though with a seriousness, he thought it fascinating that the court security was such that he could wander into the building and stroll into his courtroom...and not have anyone stop him to tell him that there was a problem.
As I mentioned, between this and the power failure, Santa Monica should consider having a new slogan to make prospective jurors want to serve that, "Come to Our Court. We Have More Fun Here Than the Other Guys!"
Anyway, finally we got let into the courtroom, an hour late, and then into deliberation for our second day there. And we actually came to a verdict. More on that and the whole trial in a long article soon. I'm working on it, and...well, it will be hard to miss.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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