You can’t rush a jury. It doesn’t matter what your deadline is or what you’ve got planned for the weekend, those twelve men and women will take as long as they’re going to take and not a second more or less.
The jury in the Eamonn Lillis trial spent today in their second day of deliberation. Every time they came out of their room every eye in court scanned their faces trying to read a sign, any sign of an impending decision. They had seemed very definite when they asked for those bits of evidence yesterday, or they definitely looked as if they had a verdict when they came in just then. And every time the expectation builds it’s disappointed. The jury will take as long as they take. How long? How long is a piece of string.
First thing this morning we listened back to part of Lillis’s evidence as they had requested. The jury sat with their eyes closed concentrating on every syllable as Mr Lillis’s voice echoed round the silent courtroom. The facility to play back evidence has been around since the new electronic recording replaced the traditional stenographers but now all the courts have this facility.
Then at almost ten past 12 they headed off to their room to resume their deliberations, armed with the recording of the 999 call and the suitcase full of bloody clothes. That’s when the waiting started in earnest.
An hour later they were back in the court to be sent off to their lunch. Time was they’d be bussed half way across Dublin for a hotel lunch, now the lunch on offer is prepared in-house and they have their own dining area.
With any jury wait the process starts to get tedious once it goes into the second day. We don’t have the jury’s distraction of actually deliberating so it’s a question of desultory conversation and sharing the papers. As the afternoon wore on the laughter had a slightly hysterical edge but there was no end in sight.
At 4.40 they came back to ask for a smoke break. Judge Barry White gave them the option of going home as he was planning on sending them home at 5.30. The foreman replied firmly that no, thank you, they’d like to get back. The heads on the press bench were all turned, scanning the faces again.
Once they’re sworn in they have to troop out for a nicotine fix as one although at least they don’t have to share a floor in a hotel any more. As soon as they had left the speculation went into overdrive. “Oh they definitely look like they’re close.” “I’d go further, they look like they’ve got a decision.” “They’re probably going out for a smoke instead of sleeping on it, they’ll come back with a verdict.”
The jury returned at 5 and immediately went back to their room. Everyone waited expectantly but nothing happened. And nothing continued to happen as the half hour ticked away.
So they’ve been sent to their beds for the second night. Tomorrow morning we’ll all be there again, peering at their faces and trying to read their minds. We won’t be successful, they’ll come back and surprise us when we’re not expecting them. That’s the way it always happens. It always does with juries.