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Eastwood jury appeared in matching clothes during trial

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By Emile Hallez

Staff Writer

Jurors in Bruco Eastwood’s attempted-murder trial displayed an unusual collective behavior during the second week of proceedings, donning uniform colors of clothing every day.

On Sept. 26, each of the jurors walked into the courtroom wearing a shade of purple. The move raised a few eyebrows, though prosecutors and public defenders didn’t mention anything to Judge Christopher Munch.

The following day, it was green. On Sept. 28 it was blue, then gray.

And on Sept. 30, the final day before deliberations, the jury wore professional-sports jerseys and T-shirts, with only three of 14 members breaking the theme.

Further, the jury, which will likely be sharing weekdays for about three weeks in total, has been more gregarious with one another than courts typically observe.

During short breaks in proceedings, such as when attorneys would approach Munch’s bench, jurors quickly engaged in small talk, laughing and joking.

Many also reportedly go to lunch together, and on one occasion they held a chili potluck in the County Courts and Administration Building.

The jury’s closeness befuddled attorneys, who asked Munch about the uniform dress on Sept. 27.

“They seem to be getting along very well,” Munch said, hinting he was somewhat amused by the behavior.

For amusement, jurors also reportedly asked Munch to use his gavel, a rare practice for the judge, which prompted grins from both parties.

Though few lawyers have witnessed juries conforming so rigidly, such conduct is not unheard of.

“I haven’t seen it in my own eyes, although in the Scooter Libby trial, one day the jurors all wore Valentine’s hearts on their shirts,” said Tom Russell, a professor at the Sturm College of Law.

“It’s pretty unusual, but things like that happen now and again with jurors,” Russell said, adding that it is not uncommon for jurors to form friendships. “Particularly in long trials, jurors bond in the same way that hostages bond.”

After closing arguments, Munch read the final jury instructions and dismissed two members who were unaware they were alternates. As jurors filed out of the courtroom, they traded hugs with the two men being dismissed.

But the jurors, 11 women and one man, might also have been attempting to get attention, particularly because they might feel taken for granted, Russell said. Being unable to discuss the case or perform outside research can be frustrating, he said, adding it is unlikely the behavior affects their ability to deliberate as individuals.

“By and large, jurors do very good jobs. … Contrary to what you read in the media, they take their jobs very seriously,” he said. “They’re not permitted to discuss the evidence or deliberate before they get the instructions, so they don’t have a lot to talk about. … I don’t think it poses any threat.”

If nothing else, it gave Munch something to chuckle about in an otherwise solemn trial.

“The approach this jury has taken is commendable,” Munch said. “I wish I could take it and sprinkle it on people.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.