It Happened Outside the Courthouse

The trial was in its morning recess, and a few of the regular court watchers had gathered outside to chit chat. I was giving an interview to a local reporter, when I noticed a woman who looked like one of the jurors standing close by.

I couldn't be absolutely sure, she wasn't wearing a juror badge, and jurors are instructed to wear their badges whenever they are roaming around the courthouse or the nearby vicinity.

Now what I or anyone else has to say about the trial is inconsequential unless of course you're the person having to decide whether to sentence a convicted killer to death.

The judge and the attorneys on this case have gone through great lengths to seat a jury that they believe will be fair and impartial. To prove they mean business, jurors must take an oath, and swear to abide by the law. One of those laws is to obey the judge who at every opportunity has recited an order to jurors to stay away from the media. Now, here we are on day 2 of the trial and a juror is listening to what could have been potentially outrageously inflammatory opining about the case.

Maybe she didn't hear anything and maybe I'm mistaken. So as our 15-minute break was drawing to an end I gave the woman the benefit of the doubt, and a head start into the courthouse.

It so happened that we ended up on the opposite side of the metal detectors, next to each other, waiting for our handbags to clear. That's when she turned to me and asked, "Are you Nancy Grace?"

Talking to a juror would have been career suicide at Court TV, where I started out as a reporter. As a former trial attorney I could have been sanctioned. Even the perception that you're trying to influence a juror could land you in hot water no matter who you are.

Here I am face to face with a juror in one of the most litigated cases in Arizona asking me if I'm Nancy Grace.

It's not the first time I've been mistaken for Nancy Grace. At the trial of Michael Jackson's physician, Conrad Murray, I was punked by a character on one of the late night shows who hounded me because he thought I was Nancy Grace.

That was funny. This was not.

"No," I blurted out. I was taken aback. In all my years covering trials, no juror has deliberately engaged in conversation with me.

By the time I got to the courtroom, the trial was about to resume. I felt duty-bound to report the incident to the court's public information officer who is the liaison to the media.

Now I was put in the awkward position of having to be debriefed by the attorneys and the judge. I was sworn in as a witness, I took the stand, and recounted the incident.

When court resumed after lunch, there was an empty seat in the jury box.

I wondered if the juror was upset about being dumped from the trial. If she was, she can blame Nancy.