CARSON CITY — For Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Gibbons, the waiting was the hardest part of serving as a juror in a capital city criminal case.
His many years of serving as a Clark County district judge and then as a member of the Supreme Court gave him a pretty good idea of what was going on in the courtroom while jurors cooled their heels in a waiting room, but that didn’t make it any easier.
But Gibbons, who along with his other jurors reached verdicts quickly in the case involving a man who brandished a gun at an Olive Garden restaurant on July 21, 2013, said he will never forget his opportunity to see the process from a completely different perspective.
“It’s a great experience,” he said. “It’s very different.”
Gibbons might be the first Supreme Court justice to serve on a jury. A court search found no evidence of a member of the court ever serving on a jury, although some justices have received notices to appear.
Gibbons had to wait like all the other jurors when they were told to report at 9 a.m. Thursday. Jurors did not actually enter the courtroom for another two hours.
“Everybody was wondering what’s taking so long,” he said.
Gibbons said he figured the delay was due to either the defendant, Douglas County resident David Paul Lane, entering a guilty plea or the defense opting against presenting a defense, which then required the attorneys and District Judge James Wilson to settle on the jury instructions. The second option turned out to be the right one.
Lane’s public defenders did not present a defense. Lane did not testify.
“But I couldn’t share my thoughts with the jurors at all,” Gibbons said. “I kept that to myself when they were concerned about the delay.”
In his court questionnaire, Gibbons said that his only comment was to work on managing court time to minimize delays for jurors.
“I did tell Judge Wilson that I agreed with every single one of his rulings on objections during the trial,” he said.
Gibbons said he would have pre-empted anyone with formal legal training from serving on the jury if he were defending Lane.
“They are totally qualified, but I think it is better to have 12 people who don’t have any previous bias in those areas,” he said. It was tough at times remembering that he was a juror, Gibbons said.
“At one point in the trial, the judge sustained an objection and the witness kept speaking, and I started to (reach out) and say, ‘Stop,’ and I said, ‘Wait, I’m on the jury; I can’t do that,’ and I pulled my hand back. It was just a natural reaction.”
Not surprisingly, Gibbons was made foreman of the jury, but he told his fellow jurors that he would not comment until everyone else had a chance to offer their thoughts on the case.
Ultimately the jury found Lane guilty of one charge of assault with a deadly weapon along with the single count of carrying a concealed weapon. He was found not guilty on two other assault charges, and the jury deadlocked on the fourth assault count. Gibbons showed up for the jury selection on Monday, doing his civic duty like everyone else. But he was shocked when, later that day, he was seated as a juror.
Gibbons said he will donate his meager jury duty pay back to the state.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.