Before they get down to the real tough part and begin arguing among themselves, the jurors might recall the otherworldliness of court culture and how the two sides conducted themselves. There were the strange air hugs given by members of opposing counsel, as when they’d huddle before Fidler at the bench, arms sort of around each other’s waists but never quite touching. And the way, as the City News Service reporter Ciarán McEvoy pointed out to me, that the prosecution always alerted Clarkson’s mother and sister, Donna and Fawn, of the imminent projection of crime-scene and autopsy photos, whereas the defense didn’t — and even seemed to deliberately leave the pictures out on the podium, a few feet in front of where the Clarksons sat.
The jurors, like most of the courtroom spectators, have probably long forgotten statements that today sound quaint, as when Alan Jackson, in an April pre-trial discussion, had requested that the prosecution’s expert witnesses, many of whom came from the Sheriff’s department, not be shown on the Court TV feed.
“At least put some sort of fuzzy ball over their faces,” he’d pleaded at the time, to no avail.
“There’s not going to be any yelling, screaming or pounding of tables,” Judge Fidler had said during that same period. “I deplore any kind of theatrics.”
Fidler’s hard line on histrionics effectively scuttled Bruce Cutler’s role on the defense team and bled the trial of as much drama as possible. But if Fidler’s comment foreshadowed the trial’s lack of spontaneity, it was a quip from defense counsel Brad Brunon that touched on the trial narrative’s noir quality.
“It sounded like something Dashiell Hammett would have written,” Brunon had cracked about a prosecutor’s menacing description of the .38 special. No doubt Hammett, Raymond Chandler and any number of hard-boiled writers from the 1930s would have felt at home listening to noirish testimony about a fading actress’s fateful encounter with a faded music producer.
No trial panel is an open book offering easy reading, but court visitors have remarked that these 12 jurors and, now, five alternates seem to be an unusually collegiate group. During the 90-minute lunch recess, we in the media would spot them chatting amiably in the driveway that leads beneath the Criminal Courts Building or, under watchful eyes of Sheriff’s escorts, wandering about an open-air market held on the City Hall lawn. Now they are no longer tourists to the criminal-justice system but will take center stage to become both the trial’s leading actors and its most knowledgeable critics.