My 15 Minutes, All Because of Scooter
We were in the eighth day of deliberations, a full seven weeks into the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and Delia was peering into a dark hole.
"If this trial is all about memory, why haven't we heard from any memory experts?" she asked. "I'd like to know what's possible to forget."
We entertained more than a few such questions during our deliberations, some more relevant than others. Was Valerie Plame really an undercover CIA operative? ("Whether she was or whether she was not covert is not relevant to the issues you have to decide in this case," Judge Reggie B. Walton told us.) Why didn't the two final CIA witnesses take the stand (not to mention Libby and Vice President Cheney)? And were the news media actually paying attention to how jurors dressed (papal white smoke for a verdict coming if we wore jeans, black and no verdict if we wore dress pants) and the office supplies we ordered?
The large metal drawers in the jury room, filled with testimony and exhibits, held no answers. And we weren't allowed access to dictionaries, computers or news accounts to advance the search. So we could only plow forward, conscious that we were the least-informed people in the courtroom.
When it was over and the media swarm began, the first indication that the world outside our lounge had changed came with a question: "How would you feel if Scooter Libby was pardoned?" Pardoned? He was just convicted 20 minutes ago.
I spoke to the media because no one else on the jury would. Reporters wanted to know why. I couldn't answer for all the jurors. A few said they were just too overwhelmed. One told me, "I've seen how reporters can get things twisted." I hesitated to repeat that, not wanting to cast aspersions. But I'd soon learn that the casting of aspersions had started soon after the trial began.
We were smart enough to know that this trial was receiving more than a small dose of attention. And if we forgot, Walton reminded us twice a day. After U.S. marshals dropped us off at ever different Metro stations each night, there was nothing to stop us from reading news reports, other than our own integrity. And quick reflexes. One night, four of us were standing on a red line train when a seated passenger opened the front section of The Washington Post. The first of us to see the photo of Libby jumped in front of the others Superman-style.
My wife, Pam, was my gatekeeper. Occasionally she'd say, "I'm saving a story you're going to love to read after this is over." One of those articles dealt with the role of bloggers in this trial. Five to 10 of them were given credentials, and various blogs printed transcripts of every witness.
Another story she suggested I read was by former prosecutor Victoria Toensing in The Post's Outlook section. It criticized Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the media and a host of administration officials. Apparently a firestorm erupted over whether this article could contaminate jurors who read it. I find it interesting, reading it now, but don't believe it would have affected my decisions. She had a clear agenda, but no decisive new facts.
When I finished talking to the media that first morning after our verdict, I knew that would not be the end of the story. But I wasn't prepared for the heat of the attention, especially from television shows. One woman from CNN was standing on my steps when I got home. "You're the only juror who's talking and the country wants to know more about the work of the jury."
Let's be honest, I was ready to be seduced.
On "Larry King Live" that night, I learned something else I hadn't known. During the trial, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer testified that he tried to give John Dickerson, then of Time magazine, the Plame scoop but that Dickerson wasn't interested. In the green room before the show, Dickerson, who hadn't been called to testify, introduced himself. "Ari never told me that," he said. "What he said was, 'You ought to check out who sent Joe Wilson to Niger.' " That probably wouldn't have made any difference in the trial, but it was good to know.