Maybe I jinxed it last Wednesday morning when I told my mom, "I think we'll have a verdict before noon." If that really was my fault, I'm sorry. I caused a lot of people a lot of pain and Tarrant County-oriented anguish as we waited one very long week for a verdict in self-proclaimed "Bishop" Terry Hornbuckle's sexual assault trial. If you're just now coming out from under that rock, he was found guilty on all rape charges involving three women yesterday at about 3:30 p.m.
After closing arguments August 15, the jury was sent out to deliberate in the late afternoon. Heck, I thought, you either believe these women or you don't. We'll have a verdict in no time. Oh, how very wrong I was. Turns out the lawyers in the Hornbuckle case assembled the most meticulous, inquisitive jury panel in the history of justice. The jury sent out 42 notes asking for clarification of testimony or evidence over their 33� hours of deliberation.
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That means that for 33� hours over the past week, I sat in an ice-cold hallway on the sixth floor of the Tarrant County Justice Center bumming copies of W off a Fort Worth Star-Telegram photographer. I memorized the schedules of the local broadcast news teams who came in and out on rotation. I ate more Quizno's (it's a block from the building) than I think is probably safe for one human.
At first, every time the jury sent out a note, all us media types would tumble into the courtroom like a herd of well-dressed, slightly rabid cattle, frothing at the mouth for any word from the jury. Never mind the fact that the A/C was, we were told, malfunctioning and stuck at approximately 10 degrees below zero. We needed the scoop! By the fourth day, we just sat outside and grazed lazily on rock-hard court benches, sighing idly as another silly cub reporter who hadn't been camped out for days ran in and out breathlessly.
So why I actually got up and went into the courtroom a few minutes before 3:30 p.m. yesterday is really beyond me. I had managed to commandeer a cushioned chair out in the hallway, and I'd even brought a good book (those broadcast news people, they read John Grisham-so pedestrian). But I shuffled into the meat locker, as we called it, and it wasn't long before the jury buzz came. A bailiff walked in from the back door and gave defense attorney Leon Haley a thumbs-up. It was almost as if it wasn't real at all.
I scampered to a good vantage point on the left side of the courtroom and sat, poised with pen and notepad in hand. Looking around, I noticed that all us reporters had assumed that very same position, which made us look a little bit like a family of Meerkats stuffed onto court benches. And when the verdict was finally read--guilty, guilty, guilty--we scribbled away. Finally. --Andrea Grimes