Food for thought: What happens when attorneys, witnesses, jurors co-mingle

I guess I thought it would be a bigger deal if attorneys, witnesses and jurors in the same case went to eat in the same place.

But I was wrong.

The situation struck me as odd a couple of weeks ago when I was standing in line for an hours-old pizza slice in the cafeteria at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. In line with me, as well as for the other stations, were the attorneys, jurors, plaintiffs and witnesses for the trial involving the O’Donnell Park tragedy.

Now, I am in no way advocating that anyone acted improperly. I didn’t see any attorneys talking to jurors, who were all identified with a sticker. Everybody kept to themselves or to their small group.

It just made me wonder, though, if that had lead to any situations that could be deemed improper.

I learned that if they happen, they are minor and fairly rare.

Several attorneys I talked to say judges, in general, do a good job of telling the jurors to not talk to anybody involved in the case. And David Schultz, a University of Wisconsin law professor and member of the state’s Judicial Council, said he doesn’t hear of many problems either.

Now, I’ve worked in smaller courthouses. Some do better than others at the job of keeping jurors away from the rest of the people involved in a case.

And as a reporter, I learned it’s probably best not to go to the same restaurants the jury goes to eat, and it’s best not to make a phone call to my editor right next to the juror taking a smoke break.

The whole cafeteria thing just threw me off. But apparently the jurors are better about it than I thought they would be.

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