Fenty Held Captive for a Day, Wading in a D.C. Jury Pool

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

At 2:30 p.m. yesterday, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty got a call on the BlackBerry he reserves for emergencies. It was Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. There had been a shooting.

At least one person was wounded, Lanier said, possibly at an adult trade school. The gunman was being sought, and police were on the scene. Fenty (D) hung up. Then he sat down.

There was nothing he could do, nowhere he could go. He was trapped. On jury duty.

For the ensuing hour, Fenty, wearing a navy suit and yellow Washington Nationals tie, sat in a padded metal chair in the dingy jury lounge at Superior Court with about 100 other city residents. A movie played on two small televisions. People read books and newspapers.

Fenty kept in touch with Lanier: A suspect was caught. A carjacking had ensued during an attempted escape. Bladensburg Road was blocked off. TV cameras arrived at the scene of the shooting.

"I wonder how this is being reported," Fenty said to an aide, Veronica Washington. She shrugged.

"Doesn't being the boss of the city's law enforcement automatically disqualify him from serving?" yelled a woman sitting nearby.

Apparently not. Fenty, who has a law degree from Howard University, said he received the jury duty summons three months ago and never considered pulling strings to avoid it. He arrived at 9:30 a.m., surprising the rest of the jury pool.

"We were in the jury room, and so many people were in there, and they said, 'Fenty,' and he said, 'Here,' and everyone was like, huh?' " said Suzanne Thurston, 39, of Adams Morgan. "He was friendly and said hello to everyone."

The mayor ran into a couple of familiar faces in the jury pool: Vince Morris, spokesman for former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), and James Byles, who owns an advertising sales company and competes in triathlons with Fenty.

For the morning session, the mayor was assigned to the jury pool for a drug case in front of Judge James E. Boasberg. Fenty was not selected. He was dismissed for lunch about noon and was told to report back at 2 p.m.

Temporarily free, the mayor went to work. He swung by a Federal City Council luncheon, where he delivered remarks about progress in the city. Then he rushed to police headquarters, next to the courthouse, where he and Lanier announced a drug bust.

Then it was back to the jury lounge, where, after receiving Lanier's call about the shooting, Fenty became a diversion for the potential jurors. Rick Erdtmann, 63, of Southwest praised him for running marathons. Mark Davis, a construction worker from Northeast, approached to complain that he was having trouble getting hired.

"Send us your résumé," Fenty told him. "We'll take care of it."

But Davis was stumped. "We usually don't do résumés for construction jobs. We just show up at the site," he said after returning to his seat. "And he told me to e-mail him, but I don't do e-mail. I just do construction."

At 3:30, a court clerk announced that a final jury pool would be called. A cheer arose from the crowd. After about a dozen names were announced, the mayor was off the hook.

As he made his way to the door, a woman invited him to visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Another invited him to yoga in Columbia Heights. "Get them schools fixed!" a man said.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company