During the 10 weeks of the Marion Barry trial, when the heat of the debates inside the courthouse rivaled the mercury outside, when the hype and the hoopla kept the city on tenterhooks, Lewis Hardeman was thinking of buying a dog.
"I was very very lonely and I didn't even have a dog to walk," said Hardeman, the 64-year-old husband of Johnnie Mae Hardeman, one of the 12 jurors who was sequestered from June 18 to last Friday to avoid the prejudicial effects of publicity about the case.
Under the constant scrutiny of deputy U.S. marshals, the jurors were whisked off from the courthouse to the hotel, where they slept in rooms without radio or TV, read newspapers with trial-related articles clipped out and talked to their families on carefully monitored phones.
All this came to an end on Friday when the verdicts were announced and the jurors were reunited with their families. In interviews during the weekend, most of the relatives, such as Sharon Snow, wife of juror Hilson Snow, were reluctant to discuss what they had gone through. "I don't want to talk about it," she said. "The family missed him and we had to go through a lot of stress and we are happy to have him back."
Not surprisingly, Hardeman, a retired office assistant for Stern's Office Furniture, was relieved that his wife was back. A self-confessed "bad cook," Hardeman said that the "most important thing" about the verdict was that "I got a good meal after 10 weeks."
Married for 39 years, the Hardemans have no children and it was difficult, Hardeman said, to cope with the loneliness and the isolation that haunted him for the entire period. Though he didn't buy a dog, he managed. He spent his days reading newspapers and watching television.
When his wife was chosen to be on the jury after a protracted screening, Hardeman said that his prior experience as a juror told him that it would be just another case. But the events and the drama that followed "were something I had never anticipated," especially the length of the trial.
"Once in a while she would call," Hardeman said, but the calls were short and the conversations guarded. "The marshals would bring her home on some Saturdays and we spent about half an hour," said Hardeman, who admitted that it was very uncomfortable talking to his wife with the marshals standing nearby.
When asked if the long-drawn formalities of the trial had been worth the verdict -- one finding of guilt, one of innocence and a mistrial on the other charges -- Hardeman said, "Yes, it was one of the cases where you just don't know what to do. It is very hard to make a decision in such cases and I am glad that I didn't have to be on the jury."
Hardeman said he was surprised at the media's behavior on Friday. "I was out," he recalled, "and when I came back, they were already at my house, taking pictures." He was amused when "somebody actually came up to me and said he had seen me on television."
The tension and the stress of the trial had taken their toll, he said, and his wife "is trying to get herself together." The Hardemans plan to take a vacation but haven't decided the details. "We are just relaxing now," he said.