Photo: National Archief via Flickr
Armed with a shiny new press pass, I arrived on the 26th floor of the U.S District Courthouse at about 8:20 am on Wednesday, Starbucks cup in hand and prepared do battle, if need be, for one of the limited seats in the courtroom.There was a small crew of reporters already assembled in the corner, chatting.
Bloomberg’s Ann Woolner was seated on a wooden bench, reading a newspaper.
“They’re letting 18 in,” she said to me. Phew.
I sat down, whipped out my Kindle, and began electronically flicking through the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
“How did you get that in,” Wooler asked, looking covetously at my electronic bounty.
See, we have to check pretty much anything that gives out a signal, at courthouse security, as soon as we enter the building.
Anyway, I assumed that, distracted by the strange drawl coming out of my mouth, the security guards had taken leniency on me and permitted my Kindle through due to some sort of Australian-accent-mixed-with-not-enough-coffee daze.
Moments later, Dealbook’s Peter Lattman scurried in, also with a Starbucks coffee cup in hand, and voiced the same Kindle-based shock-cum-exasperation. For a few hours, I genuinely believed that the Kindle passover had happened because I was truly blessed and perhaps, the security guard’s favourite courthouse guest. That is until I returned for the afternoon session and discovered that in fact, anyone and everyone can bring in an e-reader. On the plus side, I was momentarily the envy of two respected, seasoned and well-known journalists, and one should never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Anyway, on to the highlights:
- @PeterLattman recounting what was ostensibly the quote of the day, from the mouth of one of my favourite security guards: “I remember the days when a man used to check two guns… now they check two phones.”
- @PeterLattman prefers Starbucks oatmeal, to McDonalds oatmeal: Agreed.
- Learning how to cover a criminal trial: Lesson learned on day 2 — you’re forbidden to conduct an interview inside the courtroom; reporters were reprimanded for it the day before, and were told to “take it outside” by Judge Holwell.
- There’s a hierarchy of reporters in the courthouse. One non-courthouse reporter explained: “See that group over there — they’re in-house; they have offices in the building. They’re kind of like the cool kids here, it’s their turf. So we have to defer to them.” Bloomberg and Reuters have courthouse reporters… And a couple of others. Anyway, it was very clear that this posse has certain advantages — and rightly so, since it’s their permanent home, and we’re just intruding for a while — because they were marched straight into the smaller courtroom for the afternoon session, while the rest of us waited pitifully outside just hoping upon hope that the tall man who decides whether we stay or go, wouldn’t send us to the overflow room.
- Trial threads: Raj’s lawyer was in a red tie today. U.S Attorney Preet Bharara’s tie was a tricolor striped affair comprised of red, blue and I’m going to say… oyster-white. He was wearning a pin-stripe suit and shiny black leather shoes. And there was a considerable amount of jurors in purple or purple derivative coloured sweaters. I mean, it was odd. And more odd because the tapestry hanging behind the judge was also a purple opus. Apparently there used to be window where the tapestry was hanging, but it was too bright, so they blocked it.
- Old media: The court is still using a yellow paper pad to take attendance for the jurors. So they literally sent a yellow pad around to 100 potential jurors this morning, so they could write their names down and get paid. Surely, there has to be a better, more efficient way to do this. It’s 2011.
- Overheard in the ladies room: Lady 1: “I wouldn’t mind staying.” Lady 2″ “Me either.” Lady 1: “But I have some appointments in March.” Lady 2: “Me too; I have parent teacher interviews next week.” Lady 2 made it onto the jury. Related sidenote: the amount of potential jurors who work or worked for the Department of Education, was astounding.
- Judge Holwell used doughnuts to lure jurors to the courtroom early: At the end of the opening remarks session, Judge Holwell made an appeal to jurors to arrive on time tomorrow (unlike today, when things got started about 45 minutes after they were due to) because they can’t start unless everyone is here. Then he bribed them; there would be coffee and doughnuts waiting in the morning, and you don’t want to miss out!
- Judge Holwell had a chuckle when a potential juror said her favourite TV show was Judge Judy. So did everyone else. #thingsthataren’tusuallyfunnybecomehilariousduringtrial
- Two potential jurors said one of their favourite shows was Two And A Half Men, and obvs, everyone loved it.