I almost made it.
For two days (yesterday and last Thursday) I was seated in the jury box for a murder trial in Newark, New Jersey. Most people want to get out of their civic duty. I get that. We all have work and life to tend to. But the only time I sat on a jury was around 20 years ago and it was for a DUI. We acquitted, but I immediately told the defendant he was lucky to get off because we thought he was guilty, but the prosecutor just didn't have enough.
Before coming to CNBC, I spent the first 17 years of my career in local TV news. Murders and murder trials were a staple. I still remember the first murder trial I covered and the name of the accused: Craig Steven Smith. I don't think I will ever forget it. It was in Great Falls, Montana. And it was big news in a small town. The guy was charged with killing his fiance with the broken glass from a 7Up bottle, stuffing her body in the trunk of a car and then dumping it in the Missouri River. Marc Racicot, who later went on to become the Governor of Montana and the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, was the special prosecutor. He won the case.
My desire to get on the Newark jury had nothing to do with avoiding work. Gosh knows I've got plenty to keep me busy and interested here. Rather, I've always wanted to be on the other side. I wanted to experience the mundane, the minutiae and the high drama of a murder case from inside the jury box. I thought I had made it through the painstaking and, frankly, boring process of voir dire (that's legalese for jury selection.) The prosecutor told the judge he was satisfied with the jury. But one by one the defense lawyer kept picking off potential jurors. And finally my number came up. "Your honor, please thank juror number 13, Mr. Huckman." Damn.
The jury pool administrator immediately excused me and so I was free to Google. A search of the defendant's name turned up this U.S. Marshal's press release. He's the second fugitive named. This is a big case.
I had some clues from my experience covering murder trials. There were always two sheriff's deputies in the courtroom and they were never far from the accused. The defendant was wearing a button-down dress shirt that was a few sizes too big, so I assumed he was still in jail and dressed by his lawyer for court. A boilerplate question during voir dire was, "Do you watch 'America's Most Wanted' or 'Manhunters'?" Plus, the judge told us the crime occurred in December 2007. It usually doesn't take that long for a murder case to go to trial, so I assumed this guy must've been on the run or something for awhile.
Anyway, it's all a moot point now. I think I would've made a good juror. And I can't help but wonder what the defense lawyer might have had a problem with. Was it something I said? Did I wince too much when another prospective juror said he'd been hit over the head with binoculars at a sporting event? Did I look too many times at the prosecutor and avoid lingering glances at the defendant? The judge tells you not to take being booted personally, but I can't help it. I'm anxious to hear the verdict likely sometime late next week.
Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman