From My Post Road Window / Nicholas Troilo
Coming to judgement
Published 1:03 am, Thursday, May 6, 2010
We arrived one by one. By 8:45 a.m. we were eight. We followed instructions -- signed the attendance sheet; presented our parking vouchers; found the coffee and the head. We made small talk. We speculated. Then Bernadette, the courtroom deputy entered the secured jury room.
Bernadette arranged us in juror number order and gave a few, brief instructions. The courtroom was ready. The plaintiffs were ready. The defendants were ready. Judge Janet C. Hall was ready. We entered.
Judge Hall welcomed us with her characteristic smile and instructed her deputy to swear us as jurors for the civil suit of James Bailey ET. Al v. AMF Leisure in the US District Court, District of Connecticut. We eight raised our right hands, listened to the oath, and with a simple "I do" agreed --¦ so help you (us) God" to consider without prejudice the evidence we were about to hear. We, now, were ready.
For the first time the seriousness of the oath hit me. I realized that the judge's responsibilities were simple. Judge Hall's job was to guide the behavior of the attorneys. Our responsibility, my responsibility, was more complex. We (I) were to render judgment. Were two men, one now in his early 40s, another of the same age but recently deceased, sexually assaulted in their pre-teen and teenage years by the manager (now also deceased) of an AMF bowling alley? That was the first judgment to be made. The second: determine if management was knowledgeable of the abuse and, if so, was the management of AMF negligent in its supervision of its staff.
The plaintiff's attorney made his opening statement. The defendant's attorney followed. Prior to their statements Judge Hall informed us that these statements were simple matters of opinion -- a view of the case as seen by the parties -- and were not evidence that we should consider.
Then the horror that was to last for three days and a fourth morning began. The plaintiffs called the first witness -- the allegedly, abused James (Jim) Bailey. Mr. Bailey began his story.
His mother divorced shortly after his birth. He was her second child. Following the divorce she moved Mr. Bailey and his older bother, Joe, to a new location in the Connecticut River Valley. She soon remarried. A third son was born. She divorced again, remarried again, divorced again. She took a job at the snack bar in the local bowling alley. The three boys spent their after school hours at the lanes, joined bowling leagues, played the pin ball machines and arcade games. They did odd jobs around the bowling alley for pocket change and occasional treats from the manager.
The manger, Arthur Joly, befriended the family. The Baileys spent holidays at the Joly's home. The boys traveled to bowling league events with Mr. Joly. They occasionally slept at his home. When the boys were young adults they went on island vacation trips with Mr. Joly and junkets to Atlantic City. We soon got the picture -- a disinterested mother, no father, boys unsupervised in formative years groomed for a suspect relationship.
When Jim Bailey was 11 years old, he testified that Joly began to fondle him. At this moment, Bailey's attorney stepped it up. We jurors were, I was, duty-bound to listen as Bailey's attorney made us hear details of the sexual activity between the adult male and the pre-teen boy, then between the adult male and the now teenage boy, and then between the adult male and now the teenage boy turned adult.
The attorney's tactic was obvious -- horrify the jury. We heard how these acts would occur four to five times a week as the teenage boy grew into adulthood. We heard where the sexual acts occurred, the positions of the participants. We heard of how they shared a bed.
Near the end of the trial day, during cross examination, the defense attorney asked about this developing relationship between Bailey and Jolie. Bailey's attorney objected to the term "relationship." The judge allowed the objection. It was fair to say that the two men frequently engaged in sexual acts in public places but, we the jurors, were not presented with evidence that a consensual "relationship" existed between the two men.
From the corner of my eye I saw Jim Bailey's mother. She was a slim woman with disheveled, wild hair and a look that reflected a rough life. And while my mind tried to scrub itself clean of the images that had been described to us during the day, I drifted into thought about this woman and her sons. And my mind questioned, "How does a mother not know?" Her son and her boss, at her place of work, sexually engaged, four or five times a week, for eight years -- she had to know. Someone had to know.
That's when my judgment began to sway. I'd sue the mother for damages I began to think. But the mother, of course, had no assets. AMF had the assets. And in civil cases, you always go after the party with the deepest pockets.
During the following days as more and more heinous acts of man-to-man sexual activity were laid before us, this case began to sound only just a little bit about righting a wrong and repairing damage. More and more it seemed about chasing the money. That night and each night after testimony days I lay awake in prayer working to delete the day's images from my brain. I'd wake. I'd pray. I'd sleep. I'd wake again.
I dreaded the testimony of the each new day. And I dreaded the idea of judging solely on the evidence heard. But I had taken an oath to render "... based upon the evidence ... a true and just verdict ..." I would have to decide what was true and then what was just. That's what a trail is set to do -- come to a judgment. It isn't easy to do.
Editor's note: This is the second in a series of columns documenting Nicholas Troilo's recent experience with jury duty.