By Kay Ebeling
I thought they were saying hello to me so I waved back. But those weren't welcome smiles on the attorneys' faces as jury selection began for the Salesian cases jury trial in LA Superior Court. As I hunched down I could hear whispering from the judge and lawyers at the front. You know how you can tell someone is talking about you.
The clerk said I had to move from the first to the second row. Then the judge and lawyers beckoned and he picked up a blue easy chair and lifted it over the railing so I could sit in the aisle. The blue chair was on wheels so I could move up and down the aisle as the attorneys argued over where it was okay for me to sit. I rolled down the aisle when jurors were lining up in back, I rolled up to the back when they were talking with a juror up front.
The first issue for jurors is time, whether they can serve on a 30 to 35 day trial. The jurors still in the room want to plead hardship over serving 6 to 7 weeks. The other 300 or so potential jurors had gone home to return Monday May 5.
I hadn't been there three minutes before I looked up and saw all the attorneys turned around and looking at me. Honest. I thought they were saying hello. So I waved hello and smiled. Okay not proper protocol in the middle of jury selection but I'd just fought metro rails and buses for more than an hour to get there, they're not always reliable, and I was flushed, it was hot, I was late. The two front rows may have been filled with reporters two hours earlier when proceedings began, but now as usual, I was the only one.
At one of the approved points on the aisle, I settled down to continue my sketch and a juror who was still within earshot of me said something like, Do you come here often? And I said, "Shh, I'm a journalist, I'm not allowed to talk to you." But it was too late.
Javier stood over me with new orders from the judge. He and a security guard pushed my chair on wheels up the aisle all the way to the back. When they asked the jurors to start lining up ten at a time in the back, I just had to wheel down the aisle to the center of the room. But by then the judge and attorneys were gone.
Nobody can figure out what to do with me. I'm the press, for what it's worth, moreso than any other media in the city when it comes to the Clergy Cases, they have to let me stay there, but NOBODY wants me there, the judge plaintiff or defense lawyers.
I sit where Javier tells me to sit. He comes back a minute later and says sit in that seat instead. So I sit in the second row. Get settled, take out my laptop fold my case get out my sketch board look up see all those faces. I end up on wheels rolling up and down the aisles. That still doesn't satisfy them and they all get up and leave. All because of me and my blog.
That look on their faces stays with me until next morning. I settle down and start sketching.
From my perch in the back, if I sat on my feet, I could barely see the proceedings up front. I angled, squirmed up to see over the heads so I could at least finish my sketch. I knew I better draw that picture fast as I could hear a little of what was being said, even from the back. There was a lot of tension about me being in the room.
Funny thing is I've felt that way so many times before. . .
We broke for lunch. Javier said come back at 1:30 but don't be waving to the jurors. Maybe that was it. When I first sat down in my first approved seat, this black lady with white hair in the jury pool gave me such warm smile I had to smile back.
I promised Javier, "Don't worry, I won't even make eye contact with anyone."