DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – They sit elbow to elbow, four men and 10 women, tasked with a job few would find enviable.
We don’t know what their world was like before they were dropped into the black leather seats of a jury box, on the 15th floor of Dallas’ federal courthouse, and told to either put down, or set free, John Wiley Price, a county commissioner and one of the most powerful black civil rights leaders in North Texas history.
It’s a safe bet, however, that before trial started three weeks ago, they weren’t poring over the intricate details of government contracting, wading into a maze of financial transactions totaling millions of dollars, or trying to keep track of phone data that the FBI says draws a map of political corruption.
This jury of our peers – four blacks, one Hispanic, one Indian and the rest white – has been told they may be here for as long as four months.
And then they will decide whether Commissioner Price, as the government contends, sold his influence to the highest corporate bidders, working in concert with his friend, lobbyist Kathy Nealy, and his executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, to direct lucrative county contracts to their “clients,” all while pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars, a stash hidden from the Internal Revenue Service.
We don’t know their names. We don’t know what they do for a living, or whether they are retired, which would seem to be the best scenario for someone who has to put everything on hold – their family, their fun, their rest – for four months.
And we don’t know if they are good at math, as they take notes during testimony describing alleged financial crimes at the highest order.
They seldom look over at Price, always dressed immaculately, possibly in one of what the FBI says was a closet-full of custom-made suits from Hong Kong, which they said they found when they went into his home with search warrants.
On this day, in their third week, no one in the jury box looks happy.
A black gentleman, wearing a black-and-silver Oakland jacket, diligently takes notes, while two of his colleagues in deciding justice rub their foreheads.
Yawns are prevalent.
But like every day, they are alert, always showing determination to complete the most important of their civic duties.