Well, Excuuuuuuuuuse Me
The Symington trial, as seen through the eyes of Mary Jane Cotey
Editor's note: New Times has obtained a diary kept by Mary Jane Cotey, the juror excused during Governor J. Fife Symington III's criminal trial. Cotey was excused August 19 after the judge determined she was unwilling or unable to deliberate. We believe her insider account of the trial is illuminating and practically beyond belief.
Tuesday, May 13
Dear Diary: Well, I went down to the federal building today and, guess what, I might get to be in the jury for Governor Symington's trial. I didn't even know he was in trouble. It was really good to see him again--he reminds me of my favorite actor, Van Johnson. But when I waved to him, he just sat there like a statue in a wax museum. Between you, me and the lamppost, Diary, I think he's in a lot of trouble. Everyone in the so-called jury pool seems to have made up their minds already. I had a BLT for lunch.
Wednesday, May 14
Dear Diary: Today I learned how to spell "quahog." To think I've been spelling it wrong all these years. A very prejudiced man took my seat after lunch. But it doesn't affect my brain, really. I had a corndog for lunch.
Thursday, May 14
Dear Diary: Finally, all that blah-blah-blah juror inquisition is over with. I don't see why we have to answer all those questions. I didn't even bother reading my forms; I just checked "no" to everything.
I can't believe they picked me for the jury. I guess I'm the token former Republican precinct committeewoman. But I'm objective, like my objective choice in 1994 to work for the governor's campaign. I got to go to the inauguration ball at the Princess. Broke my hip doing the jitterbug, though. They put a pin in it and that's why I always set off the metal detector in the courthouse lobby. Thank God there's another smoker on the jury.
As soon as I got home this afternoon, I found I had a new neighbor: a nice young man named Chuck has taken the apartment next door. He stopped by and talked about the trial, and he offered to check up on me regularly. Not many people have manners like that these days. Lunch? Actually, I don't recall, but I burped once and thought, "tuna fish."
Friday, May 14
Dear Diary: Here we go. I took my juror oath. I was right when I said the governor is in trouble. That young man from the prosecution seems to have his mind all made up about Fife. He's such a fancy boy, that Shingler or whatever. He talked all morning, accusing Fife of the most dastardly deeds. I can't believe he works for the US of A.
Fife's lawyer, John Doubt, talked a lot about some other things. He kept saying that the so-called crimes on Fife's financial statements were simply "Arizona missions." I had no idea the church was wrapped up in this. But you know Catholics.
I wonder if Doubt realizes you can see right up his nose. He has so much nose hair! I think I'll pass him a note. I'll also tell him that Jenny Craig is just a phone call away. He's what we used to call portly. Meatloaf.
Tuesday, May 20
Dear Diary: I read in my Tribune today that Mr. Doubt is really Mr. Dowd. Oopsy-daisy. Fife's secretary Joyce Reebok talked today. People like her always try to blame their boss. And what's wrong with having two sets of financial papers? Maybe it's not recommended, but they don't have to make a federal case out of it. (Ha, ha.)
All those crazy numbers and charts! You'd have to be some sort of bookkeeper to keep track! They have these TV sets but nothing's ever on but exhibits. Juror 79 tells me it's to help keep track of documents. Documents schmocuments.
They have these forms to fill out now so we can say what we want for lunch. I ordered Polish sausage and got a chimichanga. Maybe the cafeteria staff is Polish.
Wednesday, May 21
Dear Diary: I just couldn't take all that yakking today. I drifted off. I don't think the sketches they show on Channel 15 really do Fife's secretary any great service. They make her look heavy. Of course, she does wear too much makeup, and you know what they say about women who wear a lot of makeup around their bosses. It always leads to trouble for the boss. My smoking partner, Juror 96, doesn't seem to like me. We ride down the elevator to the basement to light up, and he hardly says a word. Stuffed peppers.
Thursday, May 22
Dear Diary: I took my TV remote to court today to see if I could catch up on "The Edge of Night." No luck. It seems Big Brother has control of the tellies. Just more documents with more numbers about Arizona missions.
I'm getting so I can pick out all the journalists. They have badges and notebooks and bad attitudes, especially that wildman who writes for News Times, Dogerty. He looks like he's full of liberal hate. Someone screwed up my lunch order again. I wanted lasagna and I got a patty melt. What should I expect from these federal bureaucrats?
Friday, May 23
Dear Diary: Fancy boy was making such a tizzy over Fife wanting to help Mrs. Reebok with her legal bills. Really, a man just cannot be a gentleman anymore in this practically correct world. And, of course, if the secretary had done her job a little better, would he be in any legal trouble? I don't want to cast aspirins, but I don't think so.
At least, that's what I told Chuck when he came over this evening for tea and cookies. I said, "Chuck, if the governor can't take care of his employees, who can he take care of?" Chuck said I was restoring his faith in our justice system. Toasted cheese sandwich.
Tuesday, May 28
Dear Diary: Fancy boy is just picking on Joyce. He says she's a liar! It's pure trash. Joyce is a secretary!
Dowd's got his knickers in a knot. Joyce said SHE was responsible for the Arizona missions. It's all so confusing. She's not a nun. Anyway, none of this is Fife's fault! If I were a wealthy man and paying for all these people in the office, I would sign anything they put in front of me. My lunch wasn't what I ordered, AGAIN!
Thursday, May 29
Dear Diary: There's too much going on for me to pay attention. I'm trying to filter all this stuff. Reading the newspaper isn't even helping anymore. Dowd got a bee in his bonnet. Turkey dumplings.
Friday, May 30
Dear Diary: Paper, paper, paper! God, the time it must have taken to get this paper together! Juror 69 told me I'm supposed to file it in my notebook. This much paper--that's how fires start.
We're like a family here, but Fife looks sad and his smile I know is fake. His partner Boyce talked today. He went broke. And it was his fault that Fife almost lost the election. Hah, Fife ate up Eddie Basha like a loaf of crusty bread. But I like Eddie OK. Bargain boosters! Salmon patties.
Tuesday, June 3
Dear Diary: An exciting day. Missy Oddo figured it all out! It was Coopers & Lybrand's fault!
Egg salad today. But I ordered chicken ranchero salad. Juror 206 is acting like it's MY fault. Whippersnapper.
P.S. I did a dumb thing this weekend. I got my feet all tangled and as I was going down I thought don't hit the spine or the hip so I landed on my hand. So I broke my arm instead. The doctor at the emergency room gave me a big bottle of Percocet pills, which are recommended highly by Cindy McCain. While he was fixing my arm, I told the doctor all about the trial and how Fife is getting railroaded. He said I probably shouldn't talk about it. Chuck took me to Good Sam, and that's what he is, a good Samaritan--although I think he's probably Irish.
Wednesday, June 4
Dear Diary: I don't remember anything from today, other than I really, really like the Percocet. I saw my chivalrous new neighbor Chuck in the audience. I waved to him and he shook his head real quick-like and scowled. I'm sure he didn't want to distract me from my important work. One of the nice clerks is helping me to fill out my lunch order. I'm sure I got what I wanted, but I can't remember what it was. You take Percocet with food, you know.
Thursday, June 5
Dear Diary: Oh sure, as though Mr. Symington is going to lie to Mr. Hirsch, the millionaire. That Mr. Paul Meyer, the lawyer for Hirsch, is cruel. He looked right at Fife and said, "The governor's share of the Esplanade was worth ZERO!" It's ironic he said that, since the Japanese financed the Esplanade. Fife turned so red I thought he would combust. Dowd says Mr. Hirsch is greedy. You see that a lot. Dairy products.
Friday, June 6
Dear Diary: Dowd was wound up tighter than an 8-day clock. Mr. Cockerham, one of those office people Fife hired, complained about something. Fife did some number-crunching and Coopers & Lybrand didn't have anything to do with it so I think it was probably good work. I made some Percocet brownies for all the jurors and the bailiff, and we all had a swell time. Chicken pot pie.
Tuesday, June 10
Dear Diary: I just couldn't take it anymore. Another day of numbers. Numbers, numbers, numbers. I may just scream if I hear one more NUMBER! Mystery meat of some kind.
After we recessed today, I went and saw Ana, that nice woman who has been helping the jury, and I told her that on Thursday I have to go to the doctor so he can rebreak my arm. Guess I didn't break it good enough the first time. I wonder if they'll make me fall down again. I'm sure they'll make me talk to the judge and no matter what he says, I'm going to take a few days off. You know what they say about the wheels of justice.
Wednesday, June 11
Dear Diary: I was right. That Judge Strand hauled me into his office and sat me right down in a chair. I insisted I had to go this Thursday. But I didn't want him to think I wanted off the jury. I just need a break (ha ha). It's been five weeks already of that whiny Shingler and poor Fife has hardly gotten to say a word yet. I told the judge I can take a lot of pain because it builds character, but I didn't mean this kind of pain! Quiche.
Thursday, June 12
Dear Diary: Aaaaaahhhoooooowwwww.
Friday, June 13
Dear Diary: I'm back. The court clerk called me at home yesterday when I was trying to sneak out to the pool with my newspaper. I thought it was that nice lady from upstairs calling, so I said I was feeling much better.
But just when they started to go over those terrible numbers again Dowd asked if the lawyers could all talk to the judge alone. I thought they might be talking about ME, because I was humming "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" for a while. Calamari and Tic Tacs.
Tuesday, June 17
Dear Diary: I hardly heard a word they said. I am so glad I'm not a professional juror. I don't know why they don't want jurors to read the papers or watch TV. I've been doing it all along and it's not prejudicing me at all. That Mark Flatten from the Tribune is a genius. I say "Amen" to everything he writes and I'm more convinced with each passing day that Fife did not kill JonBenet. Shepherd's pie.
Wednesday, June 18
Dear Diary: Not much to report today. I really wasn't paying attention because that nice Mr. Cockerham is still talking about numbers. I think it's a terrible injustice to make older people serve on these long juries. Stir fry.
Chuck came by this evening with his tall friend. I think his name is Jay. They both said they're not that interested in the trial, but they seemed to know quite a lot about it. That dapper dandy Jay laid his hands on my arm and said a prayer, but it didn't help much.
Thursday, June 19
Dear Diary: Cockerham finally confessed! He says it's his fault that Fife is in trouble because Fife was so busy with the big picture, which I assume was hanging in his office. You know, Fife majored in Dutch art history at Harvard. Cockerham just never got around to telling him that he might be doing something wrong. Caught a ride home with George Leckie. That man can't drive a lick. Reuben.
Friday, June 20
Dear Diary: The other jurors were so excited today because some young man made a big deal out of how poor Fife didn't tell his bank how much money he really had. Or didn't have. Or something like that. When are they going to get on to something more interesting, like the DNA? Moo goo gai pan.
Tuesday, June 24
Dear Diary: A woman who works for something called FIB was upset because Fife didn't tell her everything she wanted to know about everything even though she never asked him about anything in particular. Shingler seemed thrilled and there was much buzzing from the public seats. Dowd looked bored. Fife's wife looked up and smiled at me. I don't trust the FIB lady. She reminds me of the lady who takes the lunch orders. Egg salad.
Wednesday, June 25
Dear Diary: I can't understand why Shingler keeps saying nasty things about Fife when that shifty New York banker admitted hiring a private investigator to tail the governor because he thought Fife was hiding money. So he's hiding some money? Since when is that a crime? It's not his money, anyway. It's his wife's or mother's or some sort of trust-fund deal. I think I'll write to Ed Meese and have him fire Shingler. Garden burger.
Chuck brought over some old issues of the Arizona Republic along with some peanut brittle this evening. He read me a 1991 article before bedtime about Fife saying he was going to hunt down Gestapo agents working for something called the Arty Sea. Fife's such a brave man. Reminds me of Van Johnson.
Thursday, June 26
Dear Diary: Today was horrible. I forgot my smokes and Juror 79 brushed me off when I tried to bum a Camel. Things only got worse when fancy boy Shingler called another accountant to the stand, some lady named Cooper Wrigley. She's all high and mighty and says Fife's network suddenly changed after he was elected governor. Of course it changed. Why wouldn't it? Did I say "network"? I meant net worth. He's the governor. This is all so ridiculous! Ordered lentil soup, got chili.
Friday, June 27
Dear Diary: Dowd says Fife's Arizona missions were innocent mistakes that his navigator failed to catch before everything crashed. I figured this whole thing could be easily explained. Fife had doodled some number on a sheet of paper they keep flashing up on the tube. This somehow caused so much confusion that a big firm with eight employees needed millions of dollars to find a new pathway to slimmer government. Percocets.
Tuesday, July 1
Dear Diary: So much fingerpointing. Cooper Wrigley claimed Fife put wrong numbers into her calculator, which screwed up the size of Fife's biggest Arizona mission under construction at 24th Street and Camelback. Roast beef sandwich and fries.
Wednesday, July 2
Dear Diary: Hot damn! That Thomas Washburne is quite a dashing old codger. He seems to know a lot about Fife's mother--I wonder what was really going on there? He told Fife that his wife needed a project SLIM. He's right. Diet coke.
Thursday, July 3
Dear Diary: I couldn't agree with Dowd more. On the news tonight he called that dummy banker a stooge for Shingler. I did think he looked like Moe. I'm so excited about tomorrow. Chuck told me on the ride home today he had special Independence Day plans for me. Bean burros and jalapenos.
Friday, July 4
Dear Diary: What a wild day! Chuck took me for a ride on his estate plane to Lake Powell. He's such a nice guy. His friend Jay and a bunch of people from a place called Sumitomo met us there and we all sang patriotic songs into the night. All the guys on the plane wore funny earplugs and carried guns in their socks. Chuck says they are protecting me from media jackals. Ribs.
Tuesday, July 8
Dear Diary: Ms. Proctor talked in her sleek little business suit with her cute little bangs covering her eyes, which are probably shifty. She even carried a calculator in that custom handbag. And knew how to use it. Ms. Proctor, just because you're young, beautiful and intelligent doesn't mean I don't see through your lyin' like a rug. I've been around the pike. Chuck warned me about you. Catfish.
Wednesday, July 9
Dear Diary: She's back. Tums.
Thursday, July 10
Dear Diary: Mr. Eaton from the union tension funds was on the stand talking about how his company gave Fife money because they thought he was rich. Isn't that just the way it always works? The only people who can get $10 million Mercado loans are the ones who don't need it. Of course, because of Fife's Arizona missions, he really wasn't as rich as Eaton thought. Caveat Emptor, pinko boy. Kipper snacks.
I saw on the news tonight that Dowd walloped that Dogerty reporter and busted his tape recorder. Maybe tomorrow Dowd will get Shingler down and sit on him. If I ever get in trouble with the law, Mr. Dowd will be my lawyer.
Friday, July 11
Dear Diary: That Mr. Eaton claimed Fife used his political muscle to threaten the union tension funds if they foreclosed on the Mercado. What good is political muscle if you're not going to flex it? The unions are just getting back at Fife because his great-grandfather, Henry Frick, was a big steel baron. Fife's got his genes, if not his pigmentation. Pancakes.
Tuesday, July 15
Dear Diary: Today, this bank guy told us why he never called the cops about Fife after the deal at the Mercado fell through. Talk about a stupid man. They expect us to believe that Fife committed some kind of crime and this stick-in-the-mud bank man just kept his trap shut? Taco.
Wednesday, July 16
Dear Diary: That Wong woman was back on. She obviously had a thing for Fife at one time. She started crying like a little baby when she read Fife's letter to her about being the best friend anyone could ever have. Does that sound like a criminal to you? Fettuccini alfredo.
Thursday, July 17
Dear Diary: The government finished its case today. FINALLY! The club sandwich was soggy.
Friday, July 18
Dear Diary: Today was the most interesting day of the trial so far. The defense finally got to call some of their people. The guy who testified today, Todd, told us that Fife was doing everything he could to fill up the Mercado, but the bankers wouldn't let him. Makes sense. I went to the Mercado today for lunch. It was closed. Got a hotdog from a street vendor.
Tuesday, July 22
Dear Diary: I can't remember anything about court except that fancy boy Shingler's zipper was down all day and nobody told him. Three martinis.
Chuck came by again. He says Fife is going to talk tomorrow, and made a joke, "If Fife shows grit, you must acquit."
Wednesday, July 23
Dear Diary: I nearly swooned when Fife swore on the Bible. I think it was the same Bible he used at his inauguration. I remember when he was running for governor against that weird Phoenix attorney--Godheart or something like that. Anyway, Fife talked about his business and that he would run government like he runs his business. Salisbury steak.
Thursday, July 24
Dear Diary: I stayed awake for the WHOLE session today. Fife kept looking at me when he was testifying. I kept thinking about Barry Young on KFYI. I picture myself, Barry and Fife talking at the studio after the trial and Fife's all happy and shining like a Teutonic knight. Barry asks me if I think Fife is cute. I giggle like a schoolgirl and say yes. He says I'm blushing. I say I'm an old lady. Fife puts his arm around me and says, "No, Mary Jane. You're just a lady." A bag of corn nuts.
Friday, July 25
Dear Diary: The government got cross with Fife today. It was funny when he spilled his water and got flustered. The people in the audience were hooting at some of his answers. Philistines! I did notice that Fife might have some problems with his memory. Maybe I'll refer him to doctor what's-his-face who's always worrying about my memory. Fife kept telling Shingler to refresh his memory. I think he's got the early signs. Macaroni and cheese.
Tuesday, August 5
Dear Diary: It's Tuesday again, and that dear Judge Strand has dismissed a count against Fife. You know, when I wrote a gossip column in Chicago, I met a count once. The judge said people in the audience shouldn't laugh at Fife anymore. Chow mein, I think.
Wednesday, August 6
Dear Diary: Closing arguments. That George Cardona was talking for the prosecution all the livelong day. He didn't talk that much during the testimony. I guess he was saving his voice. He has a nice voice, but he was prattling on that Fife's Arizona missions weren't missions at all, but were fraud. He said Fife's a liar. I know he's not. Otherwise, how could he have won the governorship? I accidentally took a nap, and dreamed I was necking with Paul Harvey. Now that man has a voice! Tater Tot casserole.
Thursday, August 7
Dear Diary: John Dowd gave his closing argument today. He reminded me of Reverend Watson back in Chicago. That man could preach the horns off a goat, but he also had a problem with the sauce. Anyway, I got tingles several times today, but once was when my Depends sprung a leak. I probably shouldn't have had that Sanka. Fife was sniveling toward the end, which made me a little misty, too. The other jurors were whispering, "Wimp, weenie, wussyboy," and other snide things about Fife, but I think it's nice that men can cry nowadays. I don't care what the government says, I know Fife didn't blow up that federal building in Kansas. Chicken fried steak.
Friday, August 8
Dear Diary: OK, we're almost done. Mr. fancy boy Shingler gave his closing argument. He said Fife and Dowd are trying "to blame the dead guy." Who died? This isn't a murder trial. He claimed that Fife wanted to sell his real estate. Well, pshaw. That's not a crime. Liver and onions.
Monday, August 11
Dear Diary: I had several long talks with Chuck over the weekend. He said to follow my heart (I didn't tell him I've got a pacemaker). I told him they'd have to throw me off the jury before I'd see Fife in prison.
Anyway, we got to deliberating this morning and the jury foreman says, right from the get-go, "This guy is a scumbag and he's guilty on every count." Then he started chanting "Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!" and pounding on the table, and then everyone but me started chanting it and pounding on the table. Then I started shouting "Not! Not! Not!" right before they all said "Guilty!" because he's not guilty. He can't be. I mean, most of these people voted for him. Go figure.
We gave each other foot massages all afternoon. Cobb salad.
Tuesday, August 12
Dear Diary: Today we took some votes and after every vote I said I change my mind. Everyone got really mad at me. Then I suggested that instead of filling out paperwork, we all go out in the jury box and sit down and then they'd ask for all the people who vote guilty to stand up. And we'd all fake like we were going to stand up and pop up and down a few times like they do on that game show "To Tell the Truth." They all hated that idea.
So I tried to explain that all Fife was doing on his financial statement was outlining his Arizona missions. And Juror 44 gets right in my face and says, "You dunderhead! They're talking about ERRORS AND OMISSIONS." I got really flustered and said there's no way Fife killed the Lindbergh baby. KFC.
Wednesday, August 13
Dear Diary: To release some of the tension, we all decided to go to lunch today at the Matador. I remember when the Matador opened. It's a Mexican restaurant. I had chili relleno. Toot, toot! Send in the firetruck!
Then when we went back to the jury room we all formed a circle and one by one each juror got into the middle blindfolded and stood stiff like a board and fell around the circle and everyone on the ring caught them with their arms and wouldn't let them fall. The jury foreman said he'd learned it at church camp, and that it's sensitivity training that will make us trust one another. I didn't go in the middle because of my arm and because I heard two nasty jurors say, "Yeah, we'll catch you, Mary Jane. Yeah, that's the ticket." These people are evil. After that we played liar's poker for the rest of the afternoon. I didn't get it.
Thursday, August 14
Dear Diary: I've figured out what the problem is, and it's real scary. I added up all the numbers of the other jurors AND THEY ADD UP TO 666! That means everyone else on this jury is the anti-Christ and that Fife is probably the Messiah! I guess that would also mean Dowd is the angel Gabriel and Judge Strand is Snuffleupagus. Of course, the Messiah wouldn't have done all the hemming and hawing Fife did on the stand. He just would have shot Shingler with a bolt of lightning and turned the rest of the jury into swine or something. All day long when anyone looked at me, I just held a crucifix up at them. Bread and wine.
Friday, August 15
Dear Diary: We took some votes on a few counts this morning and I got all mixed up. They kept asking me, "Mary Jane, what did we just vote on?" And I held my tongue, which is real slippery. At the end of another vote, they asked again, and I said in a real tiny voice, "Transit tax?" Everyone started making barnyard sounds. I stood up and said I'd made up my mind on all the counts, NOT GUILTY, so we might as well just acquit Fife and go get some PowerBall tickets, 'cause I wasn't budging. And so they wrote a note to Judge Strand. They read it to me, but I was having a nicotine fit and didn't really get it, except for the part where they said I was an "obstruction." Judge Strand wrote something back about how I had to follow jury obstructions. And I said, "Obstruct this!" Eggplant parmesan.
Monday, August 18
Dear Diary: Over the weekend, Chuck and a new friend came and his chum turned out to be a hypnotist. I said I'd always wanted to try it and so he put me under. He said I wouldn't be able to remember what he'd told me. But my mind works in mysterious ways, so I do remember it clear as a bell. He kept saying, "Fife is innocent, and you are rational" over and over in a spooky voice. And I was sad that my friend Chuck nudged him and said, "Make her act like a chicken, c'mon, just once."
During deliberations today, I was calm and rational most of the time, but once when I meant to say Fife is innocent I broke out clucking instead. I also couldn't eat my Chicken McNuggets. I'm starting to think Chuck is a cad.
Tuesday, August 19
Dear Diary: Well, it was D-Day for yours truly. I was dumped. The rest of these satanic jurors wrote another note to Judge Strand and said I wasn't participating in deliberations and seem confused. Well, how would you feel being surrounded by a bunch of commie devil worshippers who are sacrificing small animals in the jury room and drinking their blood? Really--they did it all through the trial. I'd repressed the memories, but they're all becoming clear now.
I got called into Judge Strand's chambers and all the lawyers were in there, too. And they asked me if I knew about the note, and I told them they'd all better repent. Someone said something about me talking in non sequiturs and I said I could speak a little Spanish. Then all the rest of the jurors went in one at a time and probably took possession of Judge Strand because he said he was dismissing me from the jury. I expected him to spit green pea soup at any moment. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
I got a ride home, and guess who was waiting for me there with Chuck--that nice Flatten boy from the Tribune. He asked me about what was going on in the jury room, and I spilled my guts. It was so therapeutic. Mark stayed a long time, and after a while he said he was hungry and thirsty. I didn't have much in the house but he drank a six-pack of Old Milwaukee and ate a brick of Velveeta and then said he had to go. He forgot his notebook.
Wednesday, August 20
All the journalists want to talk to me. Chuck moved out.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.
- Violent Monsoon Microburst That Exploded Over the Valley Caught on Social Media
- Legal Marijuana in Arizona Would Generate $72M Yearly in Tax Revenue, New Report Says
- John McCain Claims to Be Unaware of Arizona's Anti-Islam Movement and That Planned...