A Trial Junkie - Off-Ramp for April 21, 2012

Mom, activist, & LA trial junkie Linda Jay hopes to get her own justice in the courtroom

Trial Junkie Linda Jay

Ashley Bailey/KPCC

Linda Jay of South Central Los Angeles loves sitting in on court trials. The first high-profile trial she witnessed was one of L.A.'s biggest. This summer, she hopes to get her own justice in the courtroom.

Trial Junkie Linda Jay

Ashley Bailey/KPCC

Linda Jay of South Central Los Angeles calls herself a "trial junkie." She's attended five high-profile court cases in the past 20 years. This summer, she's attending a trial more personal to her, where she hopes to get her own justice.


High-profile court cases can suck a lot of us in - heck, there's even a whole television channel devoted to broadcasting trials. We're drawn to lawyers' fiery words, jurors' sympathetic faces and the judge's strong voice echoing over them all, deciding a person's fate.

One woman goes as far as to call herself a "trial junkie." She doesn't just watch trials on T.V., she goes to see them in person.

Linda Jay is 55 and she lives in South Central Los Angeles. She’s been going to high-profile court trials for 20 years.

“I’m a mother and just, your everyday housewife - or, I shouldn’t say that. Wait, I’m gonna take that back - every day person," she said.

Jay has lived most of her life in L.A. She was a court clerk, and loved the “judge shows” on T.V.

“I like Judge Mathis. I like Judge Maybelline. I like Judge Judy - all of ‘em," she said. "Basically, I’m hooked on anything having to do with the justice system.”

It didn’t take long before Jay’s enthusiasm for all things justice led to her first court trial as a spectator.

It was the case of the state of California versus Lawrence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Stacey Koon - four Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of motorist Rodney King.

Jay said she followed the L.A.P.D. officers’ trial for months on T.V. and wanted to see it in person.

“I was just trying to see, were they going to give Rodney King justice this time because so many times in the neighborhood, back in the 90’s, we had police brutality. People were telling the community leaders and the politicians that we have injustice going on in our community, but nobody was listening," she said. "This was one time we had a tape to prove it. With the Rodney King tape, we felt we would be vindicated.”

Jay said she packed up her mom, sister and daughter to drive up to the courthouse in Simi Valley. Weeks of testimony were about to wind down.

“As soon as we got to the courthouse, we saw reporters run out there, coming to their cars, saying ‘we got a verdict, we got a verdict, the verdict is in, we’ve got a verdict!’ My heart starting pumping, adrenaline rushing and I said ‘I want to be in that courtroom, just to see what was going to go down,'" she said.

The jury ultimately found the four officers - Powell, Wind, Briseno and Koon - not guilty. Those verdicts weren’t just hard for Jay to swallow. They were the fuel that sparked the L.A. riots.

“Right after that verdict was read, when I walked out of that courtroom, I was so despaired, I felt so discouraged – dismayed -about the whole system that I didn’t want no one talking to me," Jay said. "I felt like me, being a black lady with young children, what do I have to tell my children?”

Jay said she didn’t let her experience at the L.A.P.D. officers’ trial stop her from attending more in the future.

“Just because one jury made a mistake or did not rule on a verdict that I believed in, I didn’t hold it against the whole justice system - even though that was a really infamous time and it was well known and the world got to see that verdict, I still like trials it doesn’t stop me from wanting to go to trials," she said.

Jay didn’t attend another trial for a few years. But when she did, she picked another biggie. It was the murder case of O.J. Simpson in 1995. A jury found him "not guilty" of murder.

You can see Jay in old T.V. broadcast reports of the trial. She wore a sparkly gold and black top hat and shook up and down in the back row.

Next up, she sat in on Snoop Dogg’s murder trial in 1996, and then Michael Jackson’s molestation trial in 2005.

Jay said she stood in a screaming crowd outside the courthouse where a woman released doves every time a "not guilty" verdict was read.

The last time Jay attended a trial was last year’s trial of Conrad Murray, the doctor found responsible for Michael Jackson’s death.

“He has absolutely no sense of remorse. Absolutely no sense of fault and is -and remains - dangerous," said Judge Michael Pastor after the jury read their verdict.

Jay says she remembers Pastor's words vividly.

“When the judge was kinda chastising Conrad Murray, 'you was negligent' and this and all. I enjoyed being there, listening to him, looking at him - not through a television - just looking at him pretty much give him the third degree and I could just look around the courtroom and see the looks on people’s faces, and that, to me, that was exciting," she said.

Jay said she probably won’t be going to any more high profile cases any time soon because she has to attend the trial of the man accused of killing her daughter, Brittany.

“She was murdered in 2007 - gang violence, my 16-year-old. And they just found the murderer, four or five months ago," she said. "So that’s coming up and that’s going to take a lot of me, but I’m gonna be there.”

The trial’s set for this summer and Jay hopes a jury will help her get her own piece of justice.


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