I was summoned for jury duty a month before my 19th birthday. Most people try and get out of it—which would have been easy enough as a full-time student. But I was interested to see what it would be like, especially since I'd probably be one of the youngest people there. I showed up at the courthouse in the second week of March, went through the metal detector, and found a seat in the basement. I'd fully expected to spend most of my time here—and if I did happen to get picked for a trial, figured it would be some boring civil case. I settled in and started to read. About an hour later, they began calling names over the intercom. To my surprise, they called mine. I still didn't expect much. We filed into one of the second-floor courtrooms after lining up alphabetically outside. It was surprisingly formal compared to those I'd seen on the news or reality TV, which looked more like old boardrooms furnished with a cheap wooden witness stand. This courtroom was true to Law and Order dramatizations; with raised rows of seating for prospective jurors, an elaborate bench for the judge, and a group of pews for public attendants partitioned off by a little gate. I sat toward the back near the windows. Judge Caputo sat to my right.
The judge introduced himself, then turned the floor over to the prosecution. The prosecution attorney informed us that this was a first-degree murder case regarding the State of Oklahoma v. Kevin Bernell Warrior. Warrior was being charged with fatally shooting Tulsa police officer Charles Raphael Dews, a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School. We were then given the regulatory rundown of court procedure, with emphasis on the principle of presuming innocence until proven guilty. Once the basic information had been explained, the attorney began the voir dire process. The questions were pretty ordinary until it was the defense attorney's turn to speak. He expressed his preference for thorough questioning—the more questions, the better his idea of who you were as a person and your ability to judge a case fairly. This led to nearly all 35-panel members being asked about their favorite books, movies and TV shows. Being a "V" last name, I had plenty of time to come up with answers, but promptly forgot them all when my turn came and vaguely remember mentioning Bob's Burgers in a court of law. (Fast forward to selection—I was not chosen, and I admit to holding a small amount of resentment toward the other Emily who did get chosen and said her favorite show was The Bachelor).
Kevin Bernell Warrior
As the questioning continued, I noticed someone call the judge's attention to the man next to them. This man, in his 50's with a scraggly grey beard, was slumped in his chair asleep. The attorney noticed and trailed off, waiting for the judge to address it. Judge Caputo called out to wake the man up and asked him why he'd fallen asleep. The man told Caputo he was shot many years ago and had a sustained injury that required medication. The medication, which he took during lunch, made him drowsy. The judge understood and the man promised to do his best to stay alert. After questioning, we recessed for lunch and I got a sandwich downstairs. Before returning to the courtroom, the man who'd fallen asleep was called into the courtroom to talk with the judge individually. The rest of us gossiped about the situation and agreed the man most likely was not being reprimanded, but that the judge was trying to accommodate him. Once a few minutes had passed, we entered the room and resumed questioning.
About half an hour later, a woman on the front row raised her hand. She was doing her best to wait patiently until the judge called on her so as not to interrupt the attorneys. She was clearly becoming antsy and started to leave anyway, and as she did, threw up all over the carpeting. The bailiff eventually shuffled over and set down a trashcan, which did no good given the fact that most of her lunch was already on the floor. She was obviously allowed to leave, and the judge spoke into his recorder that court would be dismissed for the day.
The next day, we all gathered outside the courtroom, sending last minute texts and turning off our phones. One of the other panel members was constantly flustered, chatting on the phone and fussing with things in her designer purse, wearing exclusively Banana Republic. Needless to say, she bothered me. It had come up that her husband was a police officer and she often hosted fundraising events for the Tulsa Police Department. I wasn't sure why she hadn't been immediately dismissed because of this, considering the case involved a Tulsa police officer, but I suppose since she did not know him or any others involved personally, they allowed her to finish out the voir dire process. At one point, she raised her hand and asked Judge Caputo whether, if she were selected for the jury, she would be required to be there on Friday. "I'm hosting a fundraiser," she said, "and I have twelve people counting on me." The judge, being the sassy man he is, whipped off his glasses and said: "I don't care if you have 12 thousand people counting on you, if you're selected, you'll be here for as long as it takes." I'm glad someone knocked her down a couple notches.
Speaking of Mr. Caputo, aside from being a talented, slightly audacious, district judge; he works as a professional wrestling referee. And he's nearly as fit as the wrestlers. Here is an article featuring some unexpectedly meme-worthy videos of Judge Caputo lifting weights and showing off muscles that are usually hidden beneath a black robe:
Tulsa County Judge lives a double life as professional wrestling referee…https://www.thelostogle.com/2017/01/11/tulsa-count...
In the recent midterm elections, Judge Caputo, while receiving a decent number of votes, was not reelected. This may be due to the current scandal in which Caputo is suspected of being involved with a prostitute at an illegal massage parlor. You can view Caputo's subsequent denial of these claims here:
I cannot say whether or not I believe the accusations and can only speak to Caputo's character according to the short time I observed him at his place of work—at which time he seemed to be a spirited and confident authority.
As mentioned before, I was dismissed from the case and not selected for the final jury (and neither was 'Miss Policeman's wife,' to my satisfaction). There was a moment when my blood pressure rose as the other Emily's name was called out, but in the end, I'm glad I didn't have to determine another person's fate. I later looked up the case and found that the jury sentenced Warrior to life without parole. However, after some more digging, I found an article presenting new evidence:
It indicated that the gun may not have been in Warrior's possession, therefore excusing him from the crime. During his time in prison, Warrior's cellmate mentioned a friend who had committed a murder around the same time but was not convicted since another person took the fall. Warrior realized he was that person. The defense attorney is looking to have a new trial for Warrior to ensure proper justice.
My first two days of jury duty were certainly eventful, made more dramatic by recent developments. As unexpected as this experience was, there was more to come.