Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Defacing Public Property

Before I share this post, I should mention the two birthdays we're celebrating this week: Achilles' and my mom's! Yesterday was Achilles' 7th "birthday," or more accurately, the 6th anniversary of his adoption. He celebrated with a pig ear and a new water bowl. Fancy! And today is my mom's birthday, too. Happy birthday, Mom! Hope you're having a great day!

I just had to share that a few weeks ago (the night of Fashions Night Out, actually) I crossed another item off my bucket list - I wrote in wet cement! This is something I've wanted to do for some time, as goofy as that is. When I was in college, I remember sitting near Little Hall, waiting for class to start and noticing that there was wet cement right next to me. I considered writing something in it, but chickened out. And then I regretted it forever, because how much fun would it be to go back to the University of Florida campus and see my writings in cement from college days? SO FUN. Opportunity missed!

They recently built a new condo building across the street from us, and finally filled in the sidewalk in front of it. I kept an eye on the cement process from our living room, knowing that this was my big chance to cross this item off. I was so excited, not unlike Michael Scott in this clip from The Office:

VIDEO: Michael Scott is pretty pumped about a wet cement opportunity.

So I stalked my prey.

Then, the timing worked out perfectly that one night. We left for Fashion's Night Out around 6:00, shortly after the construction workers had filled that portion of the sidewalk and left for the day. I seized the opportunity and grabbed a bobby pin out of my purse to do my writing. The cement was already drying, so I had to really scratch into it (it wasn't just easy gliding through the cement as I expected), but I got the job done. Victory!

M hearts E, there in the sidewalk for all the world to see!

Alright, so it's not super easy to see, but I'm proud of my work anyway!

Okay, so maybe this wasn't one of the most exciting things on my bucket list, but hey, it was on there. And as I have said, don't put anything on your bucket list that you're not actually prepared to cross off. I just wonder how long our initials will live in the NYC cement? I hope it will be a very long time!

P.S. Is it bad to share your adventures in defacing public property on your mom's birthday? Sorry, Mom!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Broadway Flea Market

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Is it just me, or does it feel like the weeks are just flying by these days? I can't believe it will be October already by the end of this week. When did that happen? 2010 will be over before we know it.

Eric and I had a nice weekend. Saturday we did some shopping - we got some new work clothes for Eric and I got some stuff I needed for my cousin's bridal shower that I am hosting next month (in October, which is going to be here this week, did I mention?). We then watched the Gator game at home with some sushi and cocktails (Crown Royal and ginger ale, my absolute favorite). The Gators beat Kentucky 48-14, including six touchdowns by freshman Trey Burton. Six! By one guy! I'm no expert, but I think scoring six touchdowns in one game means you are probably not bad at football. Go Gators!

Yesterday Eric and I went out to Shubert Alley for the Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fight AIDS. It was quite the production! They had tables and tables of Broadway memorabilia for sale, all donated and sold to raise money for the cause. We're talking autographed posters, old Playbills, DVDs, t-shirts, costumes, dance shoes, etc., etc. There was so much stuff! They also had a Celebrity Table where various Broadway stars (including Billy Joe Armstrong, Kristin Chenoweth, Sean Hayes, Bebe Neuwirth, Mandy Gonzalez, Anthony Rapp and many more) were available to sign autographs and take photos with fans for a donation to the cause (minimum $20 for autographs or $40 for a photo, $50 for both). They also had a Grand Auction where they were auctioning off things like walk-on roles in Broadway musicals, backstage tours with the stars, opening night tickets, a chance to conduct the orchestra of Phantom of the Opera, and all sorts of autographed memorabilia. Oh, if only we could afford to bid on walk-on roles or the conducting opportunities! How incredible would that be? Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Unfortunately, we have to pay rent, so that was not a possibility. So, we just wandered through the crowds and took in all the activity. It really was a very cool event.

Signs at the "entrance" to the Flea Market

Crowds wandering through the Flea Market

People lining up for the Celebrity Table

Stuff available for auction

Kristin Chenoweth (probably our most often-sighted celebrity in NYC) stopping by the Wicked booth

Autographed posters on display

After leaving the Broadway Flea Market we ran some errands, picked up hot dogs from Gray's Papaya and caught an afternoon show of The Town, which we enjoyed. Then it was home for delicious dinner, a nice bottle of wine, and some relaxation. It was a nice weekend!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Return of Dexter

Tonight, one of my most favorite shows EVER returns for its fifth season. Dexter is back! At long last!

Woohoo! Season 5!

Thursday night, Eric and I got to see an early showing of tonight's season premiere. Showtime was offering early screenings in a number of different cities, and naturally, New York was included. And naturally, I had to be there.

However, I must say that in comparison to last year's events for the season premiere (including free Dexter cocktails and goody-bags containing Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD at Lord & Taylor) and the finale (including cast appearances, buffet, and full open bar at the Sheraton in Times Square), last night's event was quite a let-down. They went out of Manhattan for this one, and held it at the Sheraton in Brooklyn. I don't really go to Brooklyn (except for Grimaldi's Pizza, of course), so clearly it shows how much I love this show that I ventured to a whole other borough just to see it. And let me tell you - it was sketchy. Not a nice neighborhood. I was not a fan.

But, we made it to the hotel. The screening was held in the bar area, which was much less crowded than the finale party I went to. There was very limited seating but Eric and I found a couple seats in a good area, and staked our claim. I bought a drink from the bar (no open bar, Dexter cocktails or buffet here! Just regular old $9 glasses of house wine and overpriced bar food) and we waited for the show to start, as we were about 45 minutes early.

 See Dexter being totally creepy behind me?

 Waiting for the show to start

However, about 10 minutes before the show was to start, we were informed you had to have tickets to sit where we were. There was no signage, nor had I ever heard a thing about VIP tickets, so we were pretty annoyed that we had been allowed to spend our time "saving" those seats only to be told to move, when all other available seats in the place were taken. Rude.

So, we stood in the back behind those seats for the show. The other thing that I have to mention about this bar is that I am pretty sure the floor has NEVER BEEN MOPPED. Ever. I have never, ever in my life walked on something so sticky, and that includes all the times in my life that I have stepped in gum. I mean, at one point, I tried to lift my foot, and my foot lifted out of my shoe which was STILL STUCK TO THE FLOOR. I am not making that up for the sake of description - that literally, honestly and truly happened. Disgusting.

But, the show itself was great, of course! I won't give away anything so you all can watch it tonight, but I will just say it was much less dramatic for the finale. I think it really just set things up for this season though, so I am super excited. I seriously love this show.


After the show they held a raffle for some Dexter prizes (mugs, keychains, action figures, Season 4 DVD sets). We were close to the winning numbers a couple times, but no such luck. Bummer. So, back on the subway to Manhattan at last.

For all you Dexter fans out there - enjoy the show tonight! And if you are not a Dexter fan, you are a crazy person. You're missing out!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rays v. Yankees

Wednesday night, Eric and I went up to Yankee stadium to cheer on the Tampa Bay Rays. We bought tickets to this game through someone in Eric's office months ago, so we have really been looking forward to it! Unfortunately, a two-hour rain delay thwarted our plans a bit, but we did have a good time while we could.

Probably the highlight of the night was the water taxi, something I've been wanting to do all summer. Delta has been sponsoring free water taxis to all home Yankees and Mets games this year, and I thought this sounded delightful. So, I convinced Eric that it really was worthwhile to take the subway down to Wall Street to catch this taxi for the 45-minute boat ride to Yankee Stadium instead of just hopping on the Express train by Eric's office and only going 4 or 5 stops directly to the stadium. I mean, I've ridden the subway before. It's not that exciting. But a water taxi - wow! It's a taxi, but on water!

Our water taxi!

And it did not disappoint. Eric and I met at Pier 11 at about 5:15 pm and boarded the free water taxi. It was really a fun atmosphere: lots of young people, everyone in good spirits, unbeatable scenery, a bar to purchase a beer for the ride, etc. Good times. Of course, we were the only Rays fans on the boat and the crew was quick to joke that SOMEBODY would be going overboard on our trip - Eric, of course, for his Rays jersey! Ha!

On the water taxi, with the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan behind us

Passing the Brooklyn Bridge

The guy they wanted to throw overboard

Passing the famous Pepsi-Cola sign in Queens

Passing the big History Channel sign

Enjoying my boat ride!

The best part of the taxi, though, was the sunset. We really departed from Pier 11 at the perfect time to get some breathtaking views of the setting sun over lower Manhattan. It was just gorgeous, and Eric  got some really great pictures. What a beautiful, beautiful city.

 Gorgeous sunset over lower Manhattan

Midtown at sunset (Empire State Building and Chrysler Building)


We arrived at Yankee Stadium in under an hour and made our way in, passing the remains of the old stadium on our way.

The new Yankee Stadium in the distance, and construction where the old stadium used to be in the foreground

Making our way to Yankee Stadium

We found our seats in the bleachers and settled in for the start of the game. They began by honoring Alex Rodriguez for 600 career home runs and 300 stolen bases, then the game got underway. The Rays quickly took the lead in the first inning, so yay for a good start!

The field

Eric in our seats with the scoreboard behind him

Go Rays!

We stayed in our seats until the bottom of the second inning, when we decided to go find some food. We spent some time debating about what to eat, and then got in line for garlic fries and cheesesteaks by the top of the third. We watched Carl Crawford steal a base via TVs over the concession stands while we waited. When we were just about to place our orders, suddenly the muggy air got very cool and we heard the crowd start to make noise. We looked back at the field and it was a DOWNPOUR. I mean, it was really crazy - sideways rain, wind, lightning, thunder, the works. The grounds crew was all over it, and the tarp went out FAST. Also moving fast? All the fans rushing up out of the rain. Holy crowds, batman.

Rushing to get the tarp over the field

We had planned to take our garlic fries and cheesesteak back up to our seats, picking up a hot dog and drink on the way, but with the crazy crowded stands once the rain started, that was just not going to happen. So, we found a sheltered stairwell and ate our cheesesteak and fries there while we waited out the weather.

Mmm, garlic fries

I should mention one other thing about this game: there were virtually NO RAYS FANS there. I mean, sure you expect there to be a ton of Yankees fans, this is New York after all. Duh. But usually you get at least a few of the opposing team, no? I mean, there were Rays fans in Cleveland. But in Yankee Stadium, we counted a total of three other people wearing Rays gear. THREE. Madness! We stopped and spoke to two of them while we waited out the rain. I will say, at least most of the Yankees fans weren't obnoxious about Eric in his Rays jersey. There were one or two occasional "F*** the Rays!" outbursts (wow, class AND wit!), but it really was not as bad as I expected. So that's good, I guess?

So, we were waiting for the rain. And waiting. And waiting. I finally checked the radar on my Blackberry (thanks, Weather Channel app!) and when the entire screen was filled with green/yellow blobby mess, we decided to just call it a night. We figured it would be some time before they were able to resume play, and we just didn't want to be there that late. So, we made our way home. It was still raining when we got home, so we felt we made a good choice. We even were treated to some incredible zig-zaggy lighting over the skyline as we watched from our living room!

I wish I could take credit for this gorgeous photo, but Twitter user isardasorensen took it during Wednesday night's storm. Isn't it amazing?

The Rays did end up winning 7-2, after over a two-hour delay. We wish we could have seen it, but what can you do? We had fun nonetheless! Go Rays!

P.S. I'll be putting a few more pictures from the game (including more gorgeous sunset pics) on my photo share site today, if you're interested!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Juror No. 3: The Verdict

(To catch up on the first two posts in this series, check out these links: jury selection and trial)

When I left off yesterday, the jury had just received our instructions and retired to the jury room for deliberations. Here comes the fun part! This will be a long one, but in my opinion, it's the most interesting. Jury dynamics! Argument! Strong opinions! Debate! What's not to like?

We selected our foreperson by default. The judge told us in her instructions that normally Juror 1 is the foreperson by default unless we elect differently. We decided to just stick with Juror 1, a man in his 50s who worked in PR/advertising. 

The verdict form contained nine questions in total, so we started going through it in order. We only needed five of the six jurors to agree to any given question, and all in agreement had to sign their names below each question. The first question was: "Was the Defendant negligent?" We quickly all agreed that yes, they were. The missing plank was clearly a hazard that the zoo should have been aware of and repaired. We all signed our names under Question 1.

The second question was: "Was the Defendant's negligence a substantial factor in causing the accident?" Again, we quickly answered yes, because the Plaintiff clearly tripped over the missing plank. We all signed in agreement.

The third question was: "Was the Plaintiff negligent?" This was where we got hung up. There were three jurors - Juror 1 (our foreperson), Juror 3 (myself) and Juror 5 (a girl in her late-20s who worked in some sort of bank management position) - who felt that yes, he was negligent. He clearly testified that when he went to retrieve his daughter, he did not watch where he was going. He was focused on his daughter and did not look anywhere else as he walked - not up, not down, not left, not right. While his reason for distraction was sympathetic, we (the pro-Defense jurors) all felt that you cannot expect to walk 30 feet in any crowded, unfamiliar area (especially in New York) without tripping over something or someone. Regardless of the reason for distraction (be it going after a kid, checking your Blackberry, reading a map, or even just looking at the pretty birds in the trees), if you are distracted while walking, you can't expect not to put yourself at risk. Simply put, you must watch where you are walking!

However, there were two jurors - Juror 4 (a man in his late 30s, and a father to young kids) and Juror 6 (a 21-year-old Hispanic girl who worked as a receptionist for a real estate company) who felt adamantly that the Plaintiff was not negligent. They felt that he should be entitled to walk 30 feet through the Bronx Zoo without having to watch his step without tripping on anything. The last juror - Juror 2 (a 50-year-old former construction worker) - was undecided and kept flip-flopping between the two positions.

We were stuck on this point for the rest of the afternoon. We asked twice to have the definition of negligence read back to us, and we had to return to the courtroom to have the judge do so. We ended Thursday still stuck on this point. This really highlighted something from my work for me - on all the death penalty case juror questionnaires I work with, we always include the question "could you sign your name to a death penalty verdict?" I never really realized how big a deal signing your name to something is. As we debated this point in deliberations, I realized that I would not and could not sign my name to say that I agreed the Plaintiff was not negligent. I just couldn't do it. That really is a very big thing, and it really means something. It was very interesting to be in that position.

Friday we returned to continue our deliberations and again had the judge re-read the definition of negligence. We returned to the jury room and finally, one of the pro-Plaintiff jurors broke. Juror 6 agreed that she could see the Plaintiff being a tiny bit at fault for not watching where he was going, and we finally had the five signatures we needed to move on. Juror 4 held his ground and refused to sign in agreement on this question.

The next question was: "Was the Plaintiff's negligence a substantial factor in causing the accident?" We debated this question for a bit again. Once again, Jurors 1, 2, 5 and myself felt that yes, it was. He should have watched where he was going. Juror 4 was not involved in this question because he had not signed for the previous one, and Juror 6 did not want to say Plaintiff's negligence was a substantial factor. We soon realized we were getting held up on the definition of "substantial," and asked the judge to re-read it for us. Our problem was that "substantial" was not defined as we tend to think of it in everyday language (we usually think it means "considerable," "major" or "significant"). Rather, the Plaintiff's negligence could be considered "substantial" if it played any role in the accident, regardless of how large or small a role it played. After hearing the definition again, Juror 6 agreed with the majority and we had our five signatures.

The next question asked us to assign percentages of blame to the Plaintiff and Defendant. I was aiming for a 70-30% split (70% going to the zoo), but we settled on 90% for the zoo and 10% for the Plaintiff.

We then moved on to damages. We were asked to award damages for 1) past pain and suffering since the time of the accident; 2) future pain and suffering for the remainder of the Plaintiff's expected life; 3) past medical expenses since the accident; and 4) future medical expenses for the remainder of his expected life. We sort of hit a wall here, because how on earth do you assign monetary amounts for pain and suffering? We didn't even know where to begin.

I suggested that we start with future medical expenses, because that seemed easy to quantify. We knew generally what Plaintiff would need in the future, and the doctors had testified to what those procedures would cost (although there was a discrepancy in the Plaintiff's doctor's estimations - in his written report he said a total knee replacement would cost $25,000, but in court he testified it would cost $100,000. This was "explained away" by the PA as a "typographical error."). We settled on $125,000 to cover medical expenses for a duration of 31 years, just slightly lower than the $150,000 the PA had suggested in his closing statements. All six signed to the agreed-upon $125,000.

We then moved on to past medical expenses. We knew what the Plaintiff had done to this point, and through our own past experiences we tried to estimate what each procedure/visit/medication/etc. would cost. We settled on $45,000 for past medical expenses. All six signed.

We then moved on to past pain and suffering. We took into account all that Plaintiff had endured - the pain, the stress of not knowing what was going on with his knee, the countless doctors' visits and two surgeries, the recovery, the inability to do various activities with his family, the stress of the court proceedings, etc. We settled on $200,000 for this category, which again was much lower than the $375,000-$475,000 the PA suggested during closing statements. All six signed for this amount.

The last and most troublesome category was future pain and suffering. Again, Jurors, 1, 5 and I were like-minded and were leaning towards a much lower number than pro-Plaintiff Jurors 4 and 6. We felt that the stress of uncertainty had dissipated, and Plaintiff now knew what to expect and when as far as future care. He also was still able to work, still able to have a relationship with his kids, etc. Jurors 2, 4 and 6 felt strongly that he still faced much uncertainty and loss of enjoyment of life and he should be awarded a much higher amount. The lowest number thrown out was $300,000 (by me, and quickly rejected by Juror 6 with a "never!"), and the highest was upwards of $700,000. The PA had suggested we award $575,000-$675,000 for this category. We finally settled on $500,000, but Juror 5 and I spent a good while wrestling with that. We both considered refusing to sign but in the end, we agreed. We had our verdict.

Of course, we finally reached our verdict at 1:30, while the judge and attorneys were out at lunch. Our lunch was delivered to us from a local deli (as it was the day before) so we ate in the jury room and waited for the courtroom to reopen. At 2:15 we were finally able to go in and announce our verdict.

Juror 1 was asked to stand and the court clerk read each item on the verdict sheet, asking for our verdict and number of jurors in agreement for each item. Once the verdict had been read, the DA asked for a polling of the jury, so one by one we were asked individually if that was our verdict, and one by one we each stood and replied, "yes." And that was that.

We then went back to the jury room, where the judge came to speak to us. She thanked us for our service and answered any questions we had, and allowed some of her interns to ask us questions as well (we were told we did not have to answer if we did not want to). She then told us that the attorneys would probably want to speak to us as we exit, so if we did not want to talk to them, we should exit a different way. Five of the six of us went out the front door to speak with the attorneys. Only Juror 4 (the strongest pro-Plaintiff juror) left without speaking to anyone.

Juror 5 and I had sort of become friends during the whole process (since we are close in age and were very like-minded about the issues in this case), so we stuck together when we spoke to everyone outside. The first thing that happened when we left the courthouse was the Plaintiff came up to us with tears in his eyes, thanking us profusely for our verdict and showing us pictures of his family. On the one hand it made me feel really good about the verdict, because he was so grateful and really does seem like a nice guy. On the other hand, I felt badly because he was thanking the two jurors who were most in favor of the defense, so...yeah. I spent some time talking to him and then spoke to his attorney.

I have to say, I found the PA entirely unlikeable after speaking with him outside the courthouse. Frankly, it put a damper on my good feelings about the verdict because I found him so unlikeable that I almost regretted that he "won." (Thankfully my good feelings towards his client mitigated that a bit, but still.) He was rather boastful about his victory, and proud of himself for "ripping that doctor a new one" on Wednesday. He asked me specifically what I thought of his discrediting the doctor with the two reports he did for the same person, and I told him that I thought it showed the doctor was NOT biased and did not alter his findings based on who hired him. The PA's response was, "oh, so you bought into that excuse, did you?" I found that somewhat offensive. He also went on and on about how awful the judge was (I disagreed), and was inappropriately flirty with Juror 5. I am assuming that was just a joke gone too far, but that level of flirting (joking or not) while sporting a wedding band and friendship bracelet from your kid is downright scumbag-like in my book. Needless to say, it was probably better for his client that I didn't get to see his true personality until after the trial.

I then spoke to the DA for quite a while. He was much more humble, and thanked us for the careful consideration we gave to this case. He was not surprised that it did not end up in his favor, as it was a hard case to argue - his client clearly should have repaired that missing plank, and he couldn't exactly attack the Plaintiff for not watching where he was going because he was focused on his kid. So really, it was hard to make a good case for his client, but he did the best he could. I told him I liked his style (he was much more calm and poker-faced than the PA) and gave him other feedback where I could. He was very nice and appreciative. He also told us that although our total damages amount was higher than his client had been offering before the trial, it was also lower than the Plaintiff had initially been seeking. So, I felt good that we had awarded a "middle ground" number, sort of a compromise.

And that was it! Juror 5 and I were the last two left, as we stayed the longest talking to the parties. She and I talked a little more to each other then parted ways. Our jury was officially disbanded.

Farewell, courthouse! I snapped this photo with my Blackberry as I headed back to the subway when it was all over.

What a fantastic experience it all was! I am so happy to have been a part of it, and I hope to have the opportunity to serve on another jury again someday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Juror No. 3: The Trial

And so my jury duty saga continues (in case you missed it, I posted Part 1 yesterday)...

Last Monday, I arrived at the courthouse at 9:30 sharp to begin the trial. We were seated in the main jury room with the rest of the jurors called for that day until all of the jurors for our case arrived. Then a court officer (who introduced himself to us as Sherman) came to get us and take us to our jury room. Let me tell you, I got so excited when we walked into that deliberation room! It looked very Twelve Angry Men to me (and frankly, was probably built in the same time period), complete with the long table, wooden chairs, radiator, open window, and tiny seemingly-ancient bathroom off to the side (it didn't even have a mirror!). It was all very exciting!

Twelve Angry Men - classic!

Sherman gave us a little bit of an orientation and assigned us our juror numbers. I officially became Juror No. 3. Then we waited to be called to the courtroom. 

Once they were ready for us in the courtroom, Sherman came up to the jury room to get us (the jury room was up two flights of stairs from the courtroom, so we got our exercise during our jury service as we walked up and down those stairs!), then lined us up in order by juror number. He then knocked on the courtroom door as he opened it and called out "All rise!" as we filed into the jury box. I'm not going to lie, it gave me goosebumps. How cool to be on this side of the process! As Juror No. 3, I was seated in the front row of the jury box, right in the center.

The judge got things started by giving us a long list of instructions and explanations so we knew what was expected of us at trial. They were so long, we took a short break afterwards before the attorneys began opening statements. The Plaintiff's attorney (I'll refer to him as PA for simplicity's sake) went first, followed by the defense attorney (DA).

The gist of the case was this: The Plaintiff, a 45-year-old sales manager from New Jersey, was at the Bronx Zoo one afternoon in 2008 with his wife and two daughters. They were standing in line for the monorail when he realized his youngest daughter (seven years old at the time) was not in line with them. He looked around for her and called out to her. She responded, and he located her about 30 feet away. He left his wife and oldest daughter in line while he went to retrieve her. On his way to her, he tripped over a wooden tree skirt that was missing a plank and fell to his hands and knees. He badly injured his knee and has since had two knee surgeries, injections, physical therapy, etc.

The first witness we heard from after opening statements was the Director of Operations at the zoo. He testified about maintenance procedures at the zoo, and we saw photographs of the offending tree skirt. Although it did not look as bad as I expected based on the PA's opening statements (and I see much more treacherous tree skirts every day all over the city), it was clearly broken and had been for some time. It was definitely something the zoo should have known about and repaired, and the witness said as much in his testimony. I found him to be credible and believed that the zoo did not know about the missing plank before the time of the accident, although they should have. I don't believe they deliberately chose not to repair it; they just didn't realize it was in need of repair.

After this gentleman's testimony, we broke for lunch. As I walked through the plaza across the street towards my lunch destination (admittedly not watching where I was going because I was checking my Blackberry), I nearly tripped over a giant tree trunk in the middle of the walkway, with a big gaping tree well around it. Oh, irony.

After lunch, the plaintiff himself came to the stand. He testified about what happened that day at the zoo, and what he has been going through since. He described how his injury has impacted his life (not only all the surgeries/medical stuff, but also that it hurts to put on his socks, he can't ski with his kids anymore, can't coach their sports teams, etc.). He struck me as very genuine and a nice family man that cares about his kids. I did not get the impression he was just seizing the opportunity to make a quick buck, but that he was genuinely distressed about what happened to him. He seemed like a nice guy.

After his testimony we adjourned for the day and were told to return at 2:00 the next afternoon for the next witness.

Tuesday afternoon the PA called the plaintiff's doctor as their next witness. He testified extensively about the anatomy of the knee (dude, I know so much about knees now!) and Plaintiff's injuries. The PA used a knee model and a number of graphic visual aids to explain things, and I felt the doctor was good at putting things into layman's terms for us. He also testified that the Plaintiff will most likely need one knee replacement in the future, and possibly will even need a second one further down the road when the first wears out (they apparently only last 10-15 years). The doctor's primary downfall was that he only recently started seeing the Plaintiff, although the Plaintiff had been seen by another doctor in the same practice from the time of the accident. Because of that, this doctor was mostly just reading from another doctor's notes, rather than testifying to his own observations through the course of Plaintiff's treatment. 

On cross-examination, the DA brought to our attention that the Plaintiff had pre-existing wear/damage to his knee prior to the zoo accident. He also highlighted that the doctor's notes indicated fairly steady improvement from visit to visit. After the DA's cross-examination, the PA did re-direct and the DA then did re-cross, but I felt the points had been made already. We adjourned for the day at that point.

We returned to the courtroom at 2:00 the next afternoon. At that point, the PA rested his case and the DA called his only witness, another doctor who had performed a one-time independent examination of the Plaintiff. The doctor gave his testimony, which basically said that at the time he examined the Plaintiff, he did not seem to be in much pain and showed no clear signs of arthritis (contrary to what the Plaintiff's doctor had said). When the PA cross-examined him, however, things got very interesting and very heated. 

The doctor refused to answer many questions based on how the PA crafted them. (Having studied procedures for being an expert witness at length in graduate school, I understood the doctor's concern for being forced into a definitive answer that was not fully accurate, but he still came off as very defensive). The PA also brought up one instance for another case in which the doctor performed an evaluation for a man on behalf of the defense, and as a result of an office error, 10 months later evaluated the same man for the plaintiff. Clearly that represents an ethical conflict, but the doctor's physical findings were consistent in the two exams, and only his prognosis in his narrative report differed (the defense had not requested a prognosis but the plaintiff had, so he complied accordingly). The PA worked hard to use this to discredit the doctor, but to me it just showed that his physical findings were not at all swayed by which side hired him. I found the doctor very defensive and unlikeable anyway, but the two reports did not make a difference to me. It got very heated and very intense - very much like you would see on a courtroom drama! It was so interesting to watch.

The doctor's testimony finished up that day as well, and we returned at 10:00 Thursday morning for closing statements. Following closing statements the judge gave us lengthy instructions for deliberations (including one I felt was aimed specifically at me - that we were not to rely on any "personal professional knowledge" as we deliberated). She went through the entire verdict form and gave us the applicable definitions for the various terms on the form. We then retired to the jury room to begin our deliberations. The alternate jurors were released.

Come back tomorrow to read about our deliberations and find out our final verdict!

(After-the-fact edit: find the verdict post here)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Juror No. 3: Jury Selection

Last week, I spent my days here:

NYC -  New York County Supreme Courthouse 

I was serving as a juror for the New York Supreme Court. And it was awesome.

Because of my work in jury consulting, I have been dying to even be called for jury duty, let alone actually serve on a jury. I realize that I have never really spoken in detail here about what I do for a living. Much of my specific work is confidential, so rather than worry about figuring out what I can say and what I can't, I just don't say anything. But I can tell you generally what I do, and in doing so you may be able to see why I was so excited to be selected as a juror!

I work as a research associate for jury consulting firms (currently on a subcontractor basis). We are hired by attorneys (or sometimes court-appointed) to assist in jury selection. Some of what I do involves pre-trial research, such as focus groups and mock trials. I help organize them, assemble the materials for the project, help run some of the groups, and do much of the post-project data entry and analysis. I also help draft juror questionnaires for trial, and do data entry and analysis of completed questionnaires. I help write voir dire questions (that's when jurors are called in and questioned by attorneys or the judge during the selection process). I research jury selection procedures for different jurisdictions and the population demographics of that jurisdiction. I observe jury selection and help the attorneys with whatever they need. So on and so forth.

Through my experiences running focus groups and mock trials, I have watched many groups of mock jurors listen to a case presentation and then deliberate as a real jury would. I have just been dying to have my own opportunity to do that! And last week, I did. 

Now, please understand that this was really an incredible experience for me. It was so amazing to be involved in the process from the other side of the jury box - to see the dynamics of an actual deliberating jury, to be charged with weighing the evidence and arguing and debating to reach a verdict, and to make a decision that would impact people's lives. So, my recap of the whole process is going to be lengthy (consider yourselves warned!). To try to keep things organized (and as short as possible), I have decided to divide my recap of my experience into three parts. Today, I will just be talking about how I came to be selected as a juror. Tomorrow, I will discuss the actual trial. And Thursday, I will recap our jury deliberations and our final verdict. So please, follow along if you're interested! And if you're not, well, just come back on Friday.

Here we go!

I was called for jury duty for the Tuesday and Wednesday immediately following Labor Day. I arrived at the New York Supreme Courthouse early Tuesday morning and took my seat in the huge jury room with all my other fellow jurors. We went through a bit of an orientation (watched a video, received instructions from the jury clerk, etc.) and filled out a very brief juror questionnaire (name, address, occupation, etc.). Then were told just to wait. I did not have to wait long before they selected 31 people to fill the first jury panel of the day. They randomly called 31 names, and mine was the third name called. The 31 impaneled jurors were sent to Jury Selection Room A.

We were seated in the order that we were called. The jury clerk and a judge came in to tell us what to expect and introduced the attorneys. We then took a short break while the attorneys reviewed our questionnaires.

When we returned to the room we learned that this case was a civil trip-and-fall case against the Wildlife Conservation Society (more specifically, the Bronx Zoo). Then the questioning began. They started with just the first 16 jurors in the room. The remaining 16 were instructed to just listen and wait to be questioned later.

The plaintiff's attorney questioned us first, primarily asking about our opinions of the Bronx Zoo and how we felt about awarding damages against the zoo. After a quick break the defense attorney questioned us as well. When it was my turn for questioning, he first asked about my lawyer husband, which I anticipated. He also asked what I do, and seemed to visibly recoil when I mentioned jury consulting, so I did not expect to be chosen. However, I assured him that my job is to find the most unbiased jury possible for my client, and if I felt I could not afford the parties in this case that same right, I would make that known. He seemed satisfied with that answer.

We took another break for lunch while the attorneys discussed their options. I called Eric and told him I was questioned but doubted I would be selected, based on the defense attorney's reaction to my work in jury consulting. However, I remained hopeful!

And to my surprise, I was selected. Only five were chosen from the first 16 questioned, so the remaining set of 16 prospective jurors had to stay to be questioned as well. Those of us who were selected were released for the day and told to call a certain number over the weekend to get our reporting time for Monday, when the trial was scheduled to start. By the end of the day, there were eight jurors chosen in total: six jurors and two alternate jurors. 

And so we all went home for the rest of the week/weekend, ready to hear the case on Monday morning! Stay tuned for that tomorrow!

(After-the-fact edit: click here to read about the trial, and here to read about the deliberations and verdict.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Had A Session With Freud

Eric and I had a pretty quiet weekend this past weekend, especially compared to last week! We mostly relaxed at home (including picking up BBQ and watching the Gators win over Tennessee from our couch) and didn't do too much of anything. Eric had to work on Sunday and I did some baking, we watched football, watched movies, etc. Lazy and nice.

The one thing we did venture out to do this weekend was see Freud's Last Session at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at the West Side YMCA (got all that?). I mentioned last week that we had tried to see this play last Thursday, as part of the off-Broadway "20 At 20" Promotion, which enables you to get $20 tickets to selected shows 20 minutes before showtime. We were unsuccessful last Thursday, and the promotion ended yesterday, so we knew we had to make it happen this weekend.

We got to the theater shortly after 1:00 p.m. to wait in line for 20 At 20 tickets for the 2:00 matinee show. We were the fourth and fifth people in line, and we were smart to have been so early because they only had seven tickets available for that show! Lucky us! So, we got in, purchased our tickets, and found our seats in the little theater.

The show was excellent. We really enjoyed it. The cast consists of only two actors, portraying C.S. Lewis and Dr. Freud. The play is set in Freud's office in 1939. Freud's career is coming to a close as he is dying of oral cancer at the age of 83 years, while 41-year-old Professor Lewis's career is just beginning. As of 1939, Lewis had not yet written many of the works he is most known for, including The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, or Mere Christianity. He had only recently converted from atheism to Christianity at the age of 33 years.

The play chronicles a hypothetical meeting between these two great minds, each espousing such different beliefs relating to faith and God. However, they do discuss other things, including Lewis's memories of the war, Freud's love of cigars (and the obligatory ensuing oral fixation jokes), father issues, Freud's escape from Austria, sex (it is Freud, after all), relationships, the ethics of physician-assisted suicide (how Freud eventually met his demise) and so on. It was surprisingly funny and very thought-provoking. It presented a look at these two men's opposing viewpoints without an agenda and with humor and wit. Of course, the psychologist in me loved to hear Freud's points of view, and as a Christian I enjoyed hearing Lewis's arguments. It was really a great play.

Martin Rayner as Dr. Freud and Mark H. Dold as C.S. Lewis

VIDEO: If you're interested, I found this selection of clips from Freud's Last Session online. These are the same actors we saw.

After the show, they hand out these snazzy buttons!

I don't know if this show ever does/will travel, but I highly recommend checking it out if it ever comes to a theater near you. I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to see it here!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gators and Broadway

We certainly had enough fun last Friday night to last us all weekend, but that was only the beginning of our fun weekend! We had more great things going on both Saturday and Sunday, as well.

Saturday, of course, was spent as all Saturdays this time of year are: watching the Gators. This past weekend's game was against USF, which we had been looking forward to for the sole purpose of quieting down all the "rivalry talk" from so many of our USF acquaintances. All the Gators fans I knew were looking at this game as simply another "warm-up" game to start the season, but USF fans were forced to learn that the hard way. Unfortunately, the Gators are only mediocre this year, so the first half of the game wasn't much to speak of. The second half, however, was much more what we expected, and the Gators ended up victorious with a final score of 38-14. Go Gators!

We watched the game from Gin Mill on the Upper West Side, one of the Gotham Gators' six NYC-area viewing locations (note for the future: they have a location in Hoboken, too!). We reserved a table in advance and were seated on a platform above the bar area, which was pretty nice. We made some light conversation with the group next to us, ate some wings and burgers, drank a good bit of beer and even enjoyed some orange and blue "Gator bomb" shots, courtesy of our waitress. It's just so fun to watch the games in that environment, with so many like-minded people, doing the cheers and singing the fight song (and of course, "We Are The Boys" at the end of the third quarter!). Good times.

At Gin Mill, sporting my new Gators dress my friend Amanda bought me last year!

Crowds at Gin Mill

Go Gators!

Beat USF!

On Sunday, we went out to Times Square for this year's Broadway on Broadway concert to kick off the new fall Broadway season. You may recall that I went to this concert last year with my mom and Aunt Debbie. We had such a great time, that I knew I wanted to go again this year! And it was quite fun, indeed. It lasted about two hours, was hosted by Kelsey Grammer and featured performances from many of Broadway's current hits.

Kelsey Grammer hosting Broadway on Broadway

Mandy Gonzalez singing "The Wizard and I" from Wicked

At one point in the program, they stopped to shoot an advertisement for one of the sponsors, Hue Leggings. They taught the crowd a dance and gave them hats to use for the routine. When the advertisement started, the drag queens from La Cage Aux Folles passed through the crowd, then the advertisement dancers came out. At the end, the crowd was given the cue to join in, and the whole thing ended with hats being tossed in the air. Their goal was to put it on YouTube as a flash mob sort of thing, but the first time through the crowd did such a bad job that they had us do it again! Ha! This was our view of the whole thing (the second time around):

VIDEO: Hue Leggings Promotion, from our point of view

And here's the finished product they posted on YouTube:

VIDEO: Hue Leggings Flash Mob

This year's concert ended the same way last year's did: with confetti falling on Times Square! Although the finale song was different this year, and the confetti wasn't as colorful, it still was a good time!

Here comes the confetti!

The woman in front of us had this puppet in her backpack, and she pulled him out for the confetti. Clearly.

Kissing under the confetti!

If you want to see some video of the concert, check out this highlight reel I put together:

VIDEO: Selections from Broadway on Broadway 2010, including: The Lion King; Billy Elliot; In The Heights (featuring Jordin Sparks); Memphis; Fela!; Elf; La Cage Aux Folles; Chicago; Phantom of the Opera; Wicked; Promises, Promises; Rock of Ages; American Idiot; West Side Story; Rain; and the Grand Finale

I realize the above video is long, but it has LOTS of good stuff in it! There's about 30-40 seconds of nearly all the songs we heard (although I did miss a few). If you want to see any longer clips, I did get more of the following (click the musical name to see the video for each): In The Heights (featuring Jordin Sparks); Wicked; Rain; West Side Story; Rock of Ages; La Cage Aux Folles; and the "Empire State of Mind" Finale.

And that was our fun weekend! We had planned to try to get tickets to Freud's Last Session again after Broadway on Broadway, but the weather was pretty lousy (cold, windy and doing that sort-of-raining-so-you-kind-of-need-an-umbrella-but-not-really kind of thing), so we just went on home and prepared for the week. What a great three days!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fashion's Night Out 2010

Eric and I spent the night out on the town Friday night, in a way that only New York can offer. We had another set of $10 Broadway play tickets, to see Brief Encounter at Studio 54. We bought these tickets months ago, without realizing that Friday night was Fashion's Night Out in New York.

But first, let me backtrack briefly. Our fashionable weekend actually began Thursday night, when we tried to take advantage of off-Broadway's current "20 At 20" promotion ($20 tickets 20 minutes before the show) to see Freud's Last Session. Unfortunately, we were just a few moments too late, and when we got to the front of the line they only had one ticket left. Bummer! But, we ended up having a great evening out anyway - we walked over to Lincoln Center and spent some time sitting by the fountain, and in other parts of the plaza. Fashion Week is taking place at Lincoln Center right now, so there was lots going on and it was fun to be amidst the action. Plus, I consider Lincoln Center at night to be one of the most beautiful places in New York, so it's never a bad time to spend an evening there.

I wish I could say we took this photo, but I found it online. Still, isn't Lincoln Center gorgeous?

Sitting by the fountain at Lincoln Center. The building behind me to the right is the Fashion Week setup.

Eric took a really fancy photo of me!

I tried to recreate Eric's fancy photography, but I'm just not quite as good.

So, Friday night was our play night, but when we started hearing about Fashion's Night out, we began to wish we had the night free to attend some of the festivities. Basically, Fashion's Night Out is a big event at all the fancy stores in SoHo and on Fifth Avenue. All these stores throw parties to lure people in - they give discounts on merchandise, provide free food and drinks, have DJs and celebrity appearances, and the designers often come out to their stores to join in the fun. As Eric and I heard more and more about what was going on at various stores, we started to wish our show tickets were for another night! But, we made plans to head out to Fifth Avenue before the play to take in a little bit of the fun before show time.

We got our first taste of what was to come as we walked past the Manolo Blahnik boutique, where crowds were already gathering in front of the store window to try to catch a glimpse of Manolo himself. We didn't stick around long enough to see him, but I did spend some time drooling over The Shoes that every Sex and the City fan knows so well:

Ahh...a shoe so beautiful, I nearly wept.

We continued on to the Armani Boutique on Fifth Avenue, where it was rumored that supermodel Bar Refaeli would be appearing. When we arrived things were still pretty quiet, but we perused the store (and admired dresses that would cost me half a month's rent) and sipped free champagne and snacked on free caviar. Hello, glamorous life. Perhaps if I had those Manolos on my feet, I could have died 100% happy right then and there.

Champagne and caviar in Armani

I tried to get Eric to buy this outfit, but I just couldn't make the sale.

We inquired about Bar's appearance and were told she wouldn't be appearing until 8:00 (show time! Oh no!), so we headed out in search of more fun. We had planned to hit up Bergdorf Goodman to watch a Canine Couture Fashion Show (see photos here), but the line to get in to Bergdorf was INSANE. So, we passed and headed over to Prada, where Dakota Fanning was hanging out and there was more free champagne and a DJ. Again, we admired the merchandise (and Eric felt some fur throw thing that was literally the softest thing that has ever existed) and sipped our champagne for a bit.

Dakota Fanning in Prada

Crowds in Prada

Eric touching the softest thing ever

Standing on the grass (yes, grass) in Prada, enjoying some champagne

Our next stop was Tiffany's, where they were debuting their new Tiffany Yellow Diamond Collection. They had a yellow carpet set up outside, Audrey Hepburn lookalikes galore, free lemonade, a free candy buffet, and a photobooth where you could have your picture taken and then shown on a big screen on the main floor of the store.

Doing my best red carpet pose on the Tiffany's yellow carpet

Eric with a couple Audreys

Enjoying some candy from the Tiffany's candy buffet

One of our photos from the photobooth

While we were there, we did the unthinkable - we decided to skip the Broadway play. GASP! SHOCK! HORROR! I cannot believe I ever agreed to such a decision, but we were having such a fun time on Fifth Avenue that we just didn't want to cut it short. I still feel guilty about it, even though we had a great night otherwise. I hope my theater-loving family does not disown me.

So, we continued on. Our timing was great to head back to Armani to try to catch Bar Refaeli, so that's where we went. There was a line, but it moved quickly and before we knew it, we met one of the most beautiful women in the world. Eric was overjoyed, of course. Apparently that whole "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model" thing is appealing to men. Who knew? Personally, I was thrilled because she is dating Leonardo DiCaprio, who I was MAJORLY IN LOVE with in high school. I still wouldn't be sad if he wanted to take me out, either, so you know...this was the closest I have ever been to him and that was super exciting. Bar had Twittered that he would be joining her at Armani, but we didn't see him. I would have died if we did!

Eric and Bar

Bar suggested we do a "sexy pose." You know what's intimidating? Trying to do a "sexy pose" with one of the sexiest women in the world. I mean, she does sexy poses for a living. She wins.

Making kissy faces - it's almost like I'm puckering up with Leo, don't you think?

As soon as we had our pictures with Bar, we hurried over to the Michael Kors boutique on Madison Avenue for another event we had really wanted to see: Idina Menzel giving a free concert! Unfortunately, we were too late to get inside. There were just far too many people for the tiny boutique, so we watched/listened from outside the store. We were able to see and hear a little bit, so it was okay. (Michael Kors himself also sang with her a bit, too!) The best part, however, was when Idina and her oh-so-beautiful husband Taye Diggs left after the concert! They walked right past us, and had to stop and stand in the crowd for quite some time as they waited for their car. We got so close to them, and they were so nice to the fans - they were smiling and waving and signing autographs. It was really crowded, so I was impressed at how calm and friendly they were. Nice people!

Crowds gathered outside the Michael Kors boutique to hear Idina sing

Idina singing

Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel after the concert

Beautiful man.

After that, we just went back over to Fifth Avenue and wandered around a bit more. It was just fun to walk from store to store, checking out all they had to offer. Plus, the people were awesome, too - everyone was so done up! There was lots of awesome fashion to be seen.

A couple other notable things we saw:

In Louis Vuitton, there were some dancers on the stairs in the store, and a live window display featuring a man licking a Louis Vuitton bag. (I mean, how do you get that job? "Okay sir, we have your can we see you lick the merchandise?") After he licked the bag for a while, another person came out and did a little dance. Very weird.

Dancers in the Louis Vuitton store

Guy in the Louis Vuitton window, licking a bag

VIDEO: Louis Vuitton craziness for Fashion's Night Out

There were also live window displays at Escada.

Live models in the window

At Diesel, they had a live window display featuring Kenny, Laurel, Paula and Johanna of Real World/Road Rules Challenge fame.

Kenny and Laurel


Our last stop was Rockefeller Center for a quick pose on the red carpet, and a brief look at the band performing beneath Prometheus.

On the red carpet at Rockefeller Center

Band in Rockefeller Center

By then we were pretty exhausted, so we called it a night and went on home.

This ended up being such a fun event! I think we will definitely go again next year, but probably with a more well-thought-out plan. There was just so much to do and see, there is no way you could see it all and I'm sure we missed a lot of awesome things. Next year we'll do more research beforehand to find out what all is going on and where, so we can make a "Must Do" list. But even with our unorganized approach this year, we had a great time! What a fun New York event!