Jimmy Dimora trial: What about the jurors?

2:30 PM, Jan 23, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

AKRON -- They are the 12 people who will decide Jimmy Dimora's fate but we can only know very little about them.

Day in and day out, 12 jurors and five alternates -- the sixth alternate replaced a juror just a day into the trial -- are required to sit in judgment of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner and county Democratic Party charman Jimmy Dimora before they retire to render their verdict.

The trial is expected to take three months at least, meaning Easter will likely come and go before Dimora learns his fate.

Dimora, 56, of Independence, is accused of accepting bribes, steering county contracts to friends, racketeering and running a criminal operation out of his county administration office and faces decades behind bars if found guilty of even a few of the 36 or so charges against him.

Dimora has maintained his innocence from the beginning, once even saying, "I am not an angel but I am no crook."

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi and her staff must be there, as do the attorneys for both sides. The media is present to document the trial and the U.S. Marshals and court security keep a watchful eye over everyone.

But, as an aside, who isn't here? The taxpayers of Cuyahoga County whose money Dimora allegedly played fast and loose with, prosecutors contend.

U.S. District Court officials closed the overflow public viewing room for the corruption trial of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora Jan. 18 after only a total of three people had made use of the room since the trial began Jan. 12.

On the first day, U.S. Marshals say one man, who said he lived in Dimora's home suburb of Independence, said he was there to hear the opening statements.

Two other men made use of the room on two separate days but it's been empty otherwise. There's enough room in the actual courtroom for the public to get a seat, a far cry from the packed house that was expected.

Of course, that's likely to change when star witness Frank Russo, the former county auditor and the other main target in the FBI's corruption probe, takes the stand to testify against his closest ally and longtime friend.

Russo, 62, of Bratenahl, has already pleaded guilty to 21 charges and faces 21 years and 10 months in prison but has been cooperating with prosecutors by testifying in hopes of getting his sentence reduced.

Dimora's wife, Lori, has been there every day, as have attorneys representing the witnesses.

So what about the jury, the seven men and five women sitting there day after day for months?

First of all, none are from Cuyahoga County, as the U.S. District Court in Akron draws its jury pool from seven other counties -- Carroll, Holmes, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne.

The court does not allow the media to photograph or try to identify jurors. The media cannot try and get license plate numbers of jurors' vehicles and courtroom sketch artists are barred from drawing jurors except as silhouettes.

But during jury selection and the final seating of the jury, some information about at least four of the jurors was public. One is a former small town police officer, one female juror just opened a restaurant somewhere, one is a graphics specialist and a fourth is a chemist.

Jurors receive a $40 attendance fee per day and 51 cents per mile for travel to the courthouse and return home, plus reimbursement of turnpike tolls and parking expenses.

Checks are usually mailed to jurors within two weeks of the completion of their service. That could be months for these jurors, but court officials declined to comment on whether these jurors will get intermittent checks for their mounting out-of-pocket expenses.

The rules say that jurors who receive more than $600 in attendance fees will be sent an IRS form 1099 at the end of the year and that $600 level will be reached the first week in February.

Jurors are usually asked to report between 8-8:30 a.m. weekdays and, so far, have been dismissed between 5-6 p.m. those days.

Jurors serving a full day get a morning break, lunch break and an afternoon break. They are fed by the court on all those breaks, since it would take too long for them to go out for lunch and they eat in the jury assembly room.

Want to eat like a Dimora juror?

Anyone can, as the catering is done by the Culinary Chameleon Cafe & Catering, located in the lower level of the federal courthouse.

And you don't have to be doing business inside the federal courthouse to visit the cafe, open from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays. You can walk in off the street and, as long as you are willing to go through the metal detectors, you can stop down at the cafe.

If you check out its menu online, they can prepare your catering order and bring it outside to the curb for you to pick up or deliver it for a small fee,

Chefs/owners Mike and Adria Buzek prepare a different morning break and afternoon break cart for the jurors each day. One afternoon, the break snack was tiny red velvet cupcakes, chips, and bottles of water and soda. Another day it was hummus dip with pita chips.

Mike Buzek said he gets lunch menu slips from the jurors by 9:30 a.m. daily and has it ready by 11:45 a.m. He said they are prepared to accommodate any special dietary requirements jurors may have.

But before you think being a juror is easy, know that they cannot wear jeans, sandals, sneakers or T-shirts to court and they cannot talk to each other or their families about the case.

They cannot watch the TV news that might refer to the case, can't listen to the radio either, nor read newspapers or go on the Internet, in case they might see a story, blog or video about the trial.

Each time they leave the courtroom, even if it's just a short break, Lioi repeats that information to them. So while it may the experience of a lifetime, there are rules even when they are not in court.

WKYC-TV

Most Watched Videos