Friday, March 15, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Erik Lacitis

In This Courtroom, No Space For A `Star Trek' Juror

I was looking at a photo of the "Star Trek" juror - the woman who wore a Starfleet uniform every day to the Whitewater trial now being heard in Little Rock - and it seems as though she pays lots of attention to detail:

The maroon-and-black colors; the angle cut of the clothing just like Captain Kirk's; the little electronic gizmos on the belt. She could have been an extra on one of the episodes.

If I were the judge, I'd have given Barbara Adams another chance.

I've been on many juries in past years, even though journalists supposedly always get kicked off them. Take it from me: In deliberations, a juror who can remember details from the trial is a valuable asset.

Yesterday, after only a nine-day season as an alternate juror, Adams was dismissed by the judge in the Whitewater trial.

The judge had told the jurors not to talk to the media. Adams went ahead and talked to a TV tabloid show. She had wanted to explain why she loved "Star Trek." It was an alternative to "mindless television," she said, and promoted such ideals as tolerance, peace and faith in humankind.

Let's weigh Adams' qualifications as a juror. She pays attention to detail and believes in peace, love and understanding, all positive qualities.

On the other hand, Adams showed up in court wearing the outfit of a TV character. She also gave one interview - not about the case, but about her outfit. Adams certainly deserved a stern reprimand from the captain. But outright dismissal?

Some jury selection consultants get very nervous about anybody who looks eccentric. Kathleen Kauffman is head of Starr Litigation Services, of West Des Moines, Iowa.

"We've done thousands of jury selections. People who wear a `Star Trek' costume are a big question mark, a wild card. We advise clients to get rid of wild cards," she said.

Then you have Greg Canova, chief of the criminal division in the state Attorney General's Office. He has lectured on jury selection. A "Star Trek" juror wouldn't worry him much.

It used to be, he said, that jurors came to court dressed quite formally: a suit and tie, or a nice sports shirt.

"The culture has changed," he said. Canova remembers a death-penalty case in the mid-1970s. A male juror wore an earring.

"In that period, it was very unusual. I never asked about the earring, but the defense attorney did. The man said he had read something about earrings and decided to try it. He turned out to be a wonderfully stable, common-sense-oriented human being," Canova said.

These days, an earringed male juror wouldn't particularly stand out. We've moved on to a complete "Star Trek" outfit to catch attention.

"It would lead to a number of questions, like, `What does it mean to you to dress like a Trekkie on jury duty day?' " Canova said.

And, again, who could possibly argue against the costume standing for peace, love and understanding?

That's why I'd have given Barbara Adams a second chance.

What would matter to me more is that Barbara Adams paid attention to detail. She was an alternate juror in a complicated fraud and conspiracy trial that's in the news only because the name "Bill Clinton" keeps popping up in testimony.

When I've gone on jury duty, I've been with jurors who had trouble remembering the charges, and, once, the number of defendants involved.

Adams could have helped sort out conflicting testimony and convoluted business records.

So she's a little weird.

Hey, take a look at the people sitting around you at the office. Normal and average? We left that galaxy a long time ago.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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