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Jean Marbella: Finding clues to Dixon jury's mood in a member's hair
Someday in a future that seems to grow more distant by the day, there presumably will be a verdict. Maybe not until there's snow on the ground, it can seem as we wait and then wait some more, but if and when jurors decide the fate of Mayor Sheila Dixon, I'll look back and think: Ah, this was the turning point.
After days of sending out notes that signaled turmoil among their ranks followed by ones indicating progress, the jurors fell silent on Tuesday. There were no questions about legal definitions, no temperature readings of their discussions, not even a really-need-a-smoke bit of comic relief.
But the lack of verbal signals doesn't mean a total absence of hints in this real-life game of Clue. I've gotten if not to the root of the mystery, to the root of one juror's hair.
As deliberations have gone on, one juror's hair has undergone daily transformations. She ended Monday with a noticeably different hairstyle than she started with, going home with a French braid that wrapped around her head. Tuesday, the jurors didn't start the morning in the courtroom, instead going straight to the deliberation room, but when she left that afternoon, it was partially Bo Derek-ed, with some little cornrows on her crown.
These jurors, remember, are discussing the case behind closed doors for about seven hours a day. They don't leave for lunch, which is brought in, and they have to buzz for someone when they want to send a message or ask for a break.
So obviously, another member of the group is braiding this juror's hair at some point during the day. Presumably not while they're deliberating, but perhaps during breaks, such as when the four smokers on the jury have gone outside for cigarettes.
I may be going slightly crazy with the courtroom version of cabin fever as I await the verdict, but indulge me a bit here.
Do you let total strangers touch your head? Do you let someone you've been arguing with start knotting your hair? In a tense atmosphere, would two of you suddenly decide to play beauty shop?
I think the elaborate hairdos speak to a growing comfort level in the jury room. A group of strangers a couple of weeks ago, they've been thrown together and asked to do something extraordinary: Come to a unanimous decision on whether the mayor of their city has stolen or misappropriated gift cards intended for the poor.
Given the magnitude of the task, I'm not surprised the first two days of deliberations last week ended with notes referring to overheated discussions and requests to let things rest for the day.
But since those notes, there have been no more signals of distress. There has been a question about whether an exhibit was stricken - it wasn't - but no other questions beyond asking for breaks or, by late afternoon, for dismissal.
The jury presumably has resolved whatever tensions prompted the earlier notes. It has somehow figured out the legal terms that in the early days had them first requesting a law dictionary and then asking questions about intent and its role in theft and misappropriation.
With the dictionary request denied, and the questions about intent answered by referring them back to the jury instructions, maybe jurors figured they're pretty much on their own at this point and have found a way to guide themselves.
Ironically, with the jury apparently settling down to its work, the rest of us left in the courtroom, where lawyers, media and other observers await a verdict, the atmosphere was getting a little more crazed with its potent mix of boredom and anxiety.
Every note from the jury sets off a buzz of speculation, huddling by lawyers and rampant theorizing about What They're Thinking - none of which can either be confirmed or denied by anyone except the 12 jurors hidden away from the rest of us.
With Tuesday's silence, and the failure to act as hoped - the reigning Thanksgiving Theorem had jurors wanting to be done before Wednesday so they could shop and otherwise start preparing Thursday's big dinner - the jury once again baffled the amateur soothsayers.
But they can't hide their intent forever, so I'm going with what little clues emerge in the most unlikely of places: Hair today, a verdict tomorrow?