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Sometimes, of course, there is no sign of the Holy Ghost inside the jury room. Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Margiotta stood accused of mail fraud and extortion, and a court clerk warned prospective jurors that the trial might last four to six weeks. Richard Yurack, who had recently been laid off as a chemical salesman, had time to spare and thought the trial would be interesting, but in the course of 65 witnesses and 4,000 pages of testimony, says Yurack, the whole case "just got too complicated for some of the jurors."
The jurorsseven men and five women, among them two butchers, two secretaries, two housewives and a garbage mancould not understand the judge's 2½-hour instructions and so asked to have large sections in writing. Says Yurack:
"The more we got into it, the more we were getting off the track. So then somebody said, 'We've got to start somewhere. Let's see if we can figure out the charges.' " There were six counts, each with subdivisions, but after seven days of arguments in the ill-ventilated chamber, the jurors remained hopelessly divided. Three jurors adamantly held out for conviction. Says Yurack: "The rest of us could have gone home and played tiddly winks." On the eighth day, the jury gave up, and now the ten-month-old prosecution will have to be resumed in November. Says Yurack: "I would not have wanted that jury to judge meGod forbid."
One of the strongest and most quirky elements in a jury's thinking is often racial antagonism. In Washington, D.C., where 80% of the jurors are black, one white juror recalls a trial in which a white policeman was accused of hitting a black. Says she: "When we went into the jury room, the seven blacks sat on one side of the table, and the five whites sat on the other. The blacks just smoked cigarettes and glared at us until we voted against the policeman."
In Miami, it took three weeks to impanel jurors in the trial of four blacks accused of beating three whites to death during last year's rioting, and the pressure was so great that one prospective juror suffered a respiratory seizure. The chosen jury was sequestered in a motel, forbidden to have television or telephones, constantly watched by three police officers. "We walked around like little soldiers," recalls Foreman Dale Dollar, 25, a black who works for Florida Power & Light Co. "It felt like the jury was on trial."
After seven days of testimony, the nine white and three black jurors received 30 pages of instructions, which Dollar calls "intimidating," and then the real struggle began. Says Dollar of the four days that finally led to guilty verdicts for three of the defendants: "It was so tense in there it was mind-boggling. One juror, Barbara Freeman, was pounding on the table, calling those guys animals. She was hollering, 'Murder one! Murder one!' " Says Freeman, an advertising production manager: "It's a real skin stripper. You find out a lot about yourself. I came out not liking myself. I was impatient and in general pretty intolerable."
Sometimes the juries' efforts to reach a verdict verge on farce. In Miami, for example, a jury deliberated for more than six hours on whether four defendants had