Thursday, August 19, 2004

Oprah Post Jury Duty 

Earlier this week I posted my concerns about Oprah Winfrey having been selected for jury duty in a Chicago murder trial. The trial is now over, and the defendant was found guilty. Before the trial, Oprah stated that she probably wouldn't be shocked by anything she saw or heard during the trial, and all involved expressed that Oprah's presence would not be disruptive to the process. Oprah at least seems to have changed her mind:
"It's a huge reality check, there's a whole other world going on out there," Winfrey said outside the courtroom, flanked by other jurors. Winfrey said she plans to do a show about the trial next week with other jurors.
The Chicago Sun-Times has a lengthier article, with additional insights:
"It's very distracting to have people who are known who are serving on the jury," said Oprah, surrounded by nine of her fellow jurors. "This is not good for the victim's family. A man has been murdered. This is not about Oprah."
But it perhaps was about Oprah's show, at least in the minds of some people involved with the case in one way or another. The jurors say that she never mentioned the idea of a jury reunion show until after the verdict was in, but I'm guessing it was at least in her fellow jurors' thoughts. Defense attorneys are expected to watch next week's show with interest, in case they are allowed a glimpse into the normally cloaked jury room and can get some evidence of undue influence on the jury decision making process.

Oprah's presence had an effect on more people than the jurors. According to the Sun-Times article:
Even the cafeteria workers were trying to impress the billion-dollar juror. Public defenders and prosecutors are accustomed to seeing food-service workers pushing a rickety cart from the second-floor cafeteria through the courtrooms and into the jury rooms. The carts normally carry unwrapped sweet rolls and small cans of Bluebird juice. But on Wednesday, the cart was covered with a white table cloth, the rolls were tightly wrapped in plastic and the juice was presented in glass carafes.
Martha must be furious. I guess being a juror instead of a defendant makes all the difference. Sorry - I stooped for a minute. But I'm back now.

According to
[Prosecutor Kathy] Van Kampen said all the hoopla had no effect on the trial. Juror Suzanne Goodman of Arlington Heights agreed."It was a lot of fun, it was like being on her show," said Goodman, who plans to appear on Winfrey's show.
I don't think many jurors would describe their experience in quite this manner. Or find themselves on the Oprah Winfrey Show the following week.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 6:22 AM