Monday, April 9, 2018

Waiting for the Verdict in the Noor Salan Trial.

The prosecution and defense had finished their closing statements in the Noor Salman trial before lunch. Judge Paul G. Byron send the jury to deliberate when everyone got back from lunch. I wrote an article at my apartment figuring it was safe to be away from the court house for a while. All afternoon the jury discussed the case and the media waited in the designated media room. Since the courtrooms were closed up, I had to wait in the media room as well. This was my first time in the room since I  hadn't really needed to use it during the trial. When I had wanted to write an article, I simply walked back to my downtown apartment. Now however I couldn't leave. The jury could reach a verdict at any time. Several times the jury asked to see more evidence. When that would happen, the media would rush to the courtroom and Judge Byron would provide what her could to the jury. When I returned from my apartment, I got through the security for one of these evidence requests, I was just about to sit down and it was over. I hadn't gotten my belt or shoes back on yet from the security check. The jury went back to deliberate.

Walking to the media room I ran into a reporter from CNN who wanted to buy some of my courtroom sketches for broadcast.  On the very first day of the trail, at 7:30 a.m., I stood at the entrance of the courthouse with Dan, a CNN reporter waiting for the doors to open. We discussed the case and I told him of my trials and tribulations of not being able to get into courtroom 4B. I suspect he put in a good word for me. My work apparently is to expensive to be used by Orlando news stations, but CNN knew they were getting what they paid for. These would be my only sales during the course of this month long trial. Otherwise, I was a volunteer citizen reporter with a sketchbook.

Sequestered away in the media room, we all wondered if the jury would be able  to reach a verdict on this first afternoon of deliberations. With over 64 bits of evidence and testimony to consider, that seemed unlikely to me. Reporters leaned into their laptops typing their copy for the day. I stood and drew them at work for the first time. Some reporters were in the hallway recording audio for broadcast. An intern was helping a radio reporter by reading some of the report into a microphone. He didn't finish every task on point, but she was grateful for the help. Some reporters had been here since the beginning, following every nuance of the trial. Other reporters had been sent her at the last minute to be on hand to report the verdict only. I identified with certain reporters from Channel 9 News who felt a sense of ownership of the case, feeling it was best reported by locals who were most effected by the tragedy itself. Being in the media overflow courtroom with then each day I got to hear their opinions about how the trial was progressing.

Five o'clock approached and we all thought the jury might pull in a last minute verdict. It was past most reporters deadlines for the day's report on the evening news. We were told that the jury might want to stay and order in food to deliberate late into the evening. If a reporter left to get dinner, they wouldn't be able to get back into the court house for security reasons. Most security officers would go home for the night.  I was told that if the jury had decided to stay late, then a verdict was very close, but if Judge Byron insisted they they continue to deliberate then they were not close. I am not sure which was the case. While some reporters were scrambling to make take out orders, a court officer  entered the media room again and said that the jury had changed it's mind. They were going home for the day. The jury deliberation would continue starting at 9 a.m. the next morning.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: