Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jury Duty, The Glasgow Smile, and Drunken Golf Cart Driving

Disclaimer: This post has been receiving lots of hits, I guess that is what happens when you blog about a celeb. So I just wanted to say that I don't know the exact truth of what happened that day or truly claim to, this is just a story about my experience as a juror. I would have written the same account if I had served on a case with a non celeb.

A few weeks ago, I got a summons in the mail to serve jury duty. I've always kind of wanted to serve jury duty. I've watched a lot of Dateline and Law & Order ,so I imagined myself being on a really important case that people would talk about for years. But I was required to report after a horrible few days. Nothing truly terrible had happened, just a perfect storm of little disappointments after little disappointments, making me want to go home and hide my head under the covers permanently. Or at least boo hoo a little about the unfairness of my life.

But I showed up at the Long Beach County Courthouse Monday morning anyway overflowing with patriotism, sunshine, and puppies. There were at least 150 people there, and there was standing room only. After about an hour, they made an announcement that they would be sending a panel over to the San Pedro courthouse. The minute they said that I knew I would be stuck to going to San Pedro. 30 out of 150 people, its just my luck. The last place I wanted to go in the world was San Pedro. Because to get to San Pedro you have to go over not one, not two, but three bridges! I am terrified bridges. So much so, that I have spent a considerable amount of time studying how to survive if your car plummets into the river from a bridge. If that ever happens, believe me you want me on your side.

Of course I was chosen to go to San Pedro, so I crossed the bridges driving as slowly and carefully as a blue-haired lady. A farming tractor passed me, I'm not even kidding. I'm that person you hate when you are driving. I got to the courthouse and then the waiting began, and we waited, and we waited, and we waited. And I began considering naming this blog post We, The Jury, are Bored. But finally they let us go for lunch. Two women I had never met before asked me to go to lunch with them. The amazing thing is I said Yes! Do you know how monumental that is? It is like the Red Seas Parting! I am painfully shy, and the thought of spending an hour with strangers is enough to make my nervous little heart explode into a million different pieces.

After lunch, we finally got called into the court room for jury selection. When I entered the court room, the defendant looked really familiar to me. But I couldn't place him. He was a pretty scraggly looking, had two long scars on the corners of his mouth (known as the Glasgow smile), and wore sunglasses. I found myself kind of staring at him. Soon twelve people were called to be interrogated by the lawyers. My name wasn't called, so I was sure I wouldn't make jury. One of the questions put forth by one of the attorneys was if members of the jury had a problem with judging someone who was an actor. I was shocked? An actor? My brain was going a million miles an hour, I had to figure out who this was.

One by one jury members were dismissed, and I took my place as juror number 2. They asked me question after question, it was quite nerve-wracking. "Yes, my brother is a prison guard, no that doesn't effect how I feel about criminals." "Yes, I can tell when one of my students is lying to me." "No, I don't think I drank a lot in college, but what is a lot?" They also asked if I recognized the defendant. The defendant laughed when I said I recognized his face, but not what he was in. After about five minutes, I passed the test, and was sworn in as a jury member. I guess I am your average, everyday person. I don't know if that is a good thing or just makes me boring.

One of the rules of being a juror is that you are not allowed to look up anything about the case on the computer. But I really wanted to know who this actor was, but I resisted the urge to google him for a while once I got home. But finally I gave in to temptation. I was so scared when I logged on to imdb.com., I just knew there was a secret tracking device in my computer. And any minute an entire SWAT team would burst through the door and haul me away to the place they take all wayward jury members. It is a bad place, where cookies don't exist and no one is allowed to hug golden retrievers.
My google search turned up Tommy Flanagan. He was in Braveheart, Alien/Predator, Gladiator, and more recently Sons of Anarchy. He is probably a B level actor, but it was still pretty darn exciting. I mean what are the odds that I show up for Jury duty, get chosen for Jury duty, and then it is a celebrity?! That is just so Southern California. The case was a DUI case, but not your run of the mill drunk driving case. It was a drunken golf cart driving on Catalina Island case.

I'm really bad at explaining things to people, so I will do my best. But it might still be pretty confusing. Basically Flanagan, his brother, and his girlfriend were at Catalina Island, when they drove their golf cart down to the gas station to get gas. The girlfriend drove to the station, but once they reached the station, Flanagan and his girlfriend got out of the cart to look for the gas tank. They found it and Flanagan went to sit in the drivers side, while she pumped gas. But they were on the diesel side, so they had to drive to the other side.

The girlfriend tried to get Flanagan’s attention to switch sides, but he was too busy talking to his brother. So she decided to drive from the passenger's side. As she reached over to drive, her black beach bag fell on the floor, pinning her foot on the accelerator, and causing the golf cart to go through the center of the gas pumps, hitting a car on the other side. They went to be checked out at the hospital, where a police woman came to interview them. Flanagan was obviously very intoxicated, and refused to take a breath analyzer test because he had seen what happens to celebs on reality TV shows. In the interviews, both Flanagan and his girlfriend kept flip flopping on who was driving. So the purpose of the trial was to determine if Flanagan drove, and was he under the influence.

Being on a jury is really strange. I kept locking eyes with Mr. Flanagan and that made me extremely uncomfortable. Do I smile? Do I nod? Do I pretend it didn't happen? Ha. Plus, we weren't allowed to talk about the case even with the other jurors (before deliberation), which was odd, because it was all we wanted to talk about. After two days of testimony (with Flanagan testifying himself), it was time to deliberate. We only had an hour to deliberate, before we had to leave for the day, so we took a secret ballot. We were half/half, and completely hung. I thought there was no way we would wrap it that day. But we spent time going over all the evidence, and ultimately decided there was too much doubt to say he was for sure guilty.

We all agreed the whole story was "fishy", the bag thing was most likely a complete fabrication, and that someone is covering up for someone. Personally I feel like he was driving, but there just wasn't enough proof. We came to a unanimous verdict of not guilty. As soon as the verdict was read, he thanked us, and shook our hands on the way out. Once he left the court room, he yelled "FREEEEDOM!" By happenstance, he walked near me on the way to the parking kot. He said, " This was just such a f***** ridiculous case, thank you so much!" Imagine that with a thick Scottish accent. He wanted to talk more but I was just so uncomfortable, since I kind of felt he was guilty. So I stealthily slipped away as quickly as possible.  He seemed kind of nice, but Im just so shy.

But the moral of this story is Don't Ride in Golf Carts with Tommy Flanagan.


  1. I can't believe he talked to you afterward! That's pretty exciting. It also sounds like jury duty gave you the chance to really break through your shyness. I'm not shy at all in groups, but when it comes to official things, I melt. I would have freaked out when being questioned. Even though I'm not the one on trial! I just can't handle the pressure. ;-) I love that you had such a southern Cali experience. Your life is so exciting!!

  2. That was such a fun story to read...I couldn't wait to find out who your celebrity was, LOL! My dad was from Glasgow, but I have never heard of the "Glasgow Smile,"...pretty interesting! Loved hearing about your experience, thanks so much for sharing it!

  3. Hmmm, the whole thing sounds sketch, I agree. And I am SO proud of you for going to lunch-- I know what a big deal that was for you! EXCITING!

    I think he's guilty from what you wrote bwahahahha.

  4. How wonderfully exciting! Thank goodness it was only a DUI and not something really serious and disgusting.

  5. How exciting! If he had talked to me afterwards, guilty or not, I would probably start stuttering like a fool...of course he probably would have been to busy wondering why my face was flaming red to notice the stuttering. :)


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